A Note on Some Background Material

I have made reference to my rather eclectic religious background as some of my source material for Christian doctrinal discussion. Since the WorldWide Church of God was a fringe sect in the 1980s and 1990s, its teachings were more than a little off the beaten track with respect to mainstream Christianity. Obviously I have long since stopped believing in any of it, mainstream, fringe, or otherwise.

However, I find that the old material I used to devour provides me with some very illuminating analogies that I can draw upon when discussing the Edge of Apocalypse book.

To give you an idea of how “fringe” it used to be, they used to circulate an odd theory of “British Israel“, which was quietly soft-pedalled and removed.

Also:

  • Saturday was deemed to be the Christian Sabbath.
  • The WWCOG rejected the concept of an immortal soul. Instead, immortality would be granted to all who were saved in Christ at the Resurrection – even the dead.
  • As a consequence, or perhaps for doctrinal consistency, the concept of a Hell that burns people forever was denied. People who did not repent of their sins would simply cease to exist, period.
  • They laid heavy emphasis on the idea of the seven-day week mapping onto a total period of seven thousand years. This is why I sometimes make reference to lines like “for six thousand years man was left to go his own way”, because they hammered on this theme so much.
  • Their discussion of the End Times rested on some fairly literal interpretation – such as the idea of the 200 million horsemen being actual armies of 200 million human beings.
  • The rapture was pooh-poohed quite strongly; while this is not the sole province of the WWCOG it is worth noting that they went to some extent to debunk this theory being put forth by other End Times scholars and writers.

If you’d like to see for yourself, check out this archival website.

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EoA: Love Bombing

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 96-100 (Chapter Nineteen)

We’ll revisit with Cal Jordan in a sec.

I want to talk about why I’ve titled this piece “Love Bombing“. For those who don’t know the origin of the phrase, it was used purposely by cults, particularly the Moonies, to manipulate members into staying where they were if they expressed insecurities or uncertainty about remaining with the group.

It’s an intense and manipulative tactic.

The ongoing and repeated statements of “love”, the physical closeness of hugging, the deliberate attempt to reintegrate a waverer into the core group — this is “love bombing”, and represents a perversion of actual, honest love. Love that truly exists between people is not false. It’s not fake. It’s not used as a tactical maneuver or as a guilt tripping device.

The irony is that we’ll see the juxtaposition of false love from love-bombing, and a truer, or at least more honest, form of love in the same chapter.

I’ve rarely ever been actually creeped out by a book, but this one chapter did it for me.

Unless I specify otherwise all italics and/or bold are from the original text of the book.

Let’s begin:

‘So, you told him…Dad, I mean?’

‘I did. Cal, he’s your father. He has a right to know. You confided in me as your mother, and I’m glad you did. But your dad and I don’t keep secrets from each other.’

‘So, whatever I tell you, you’re gonna turn right around and tell Dad. Is that it?’

‘Honey, God looks at your father and I as one. And you should too. That’s just the way it is.’

If ever people want to know why I tend to take a dim view of religion, it’s because of things like this: people using their religious beliefs as justification to behave badly. Abigail breaks a confidence and justifies it on the basis of her religion. It’s truly egregious in my view. Had Cal confided in her about doing drugs,Β  I would argue that OK, his physical safety would warrant breaking that confidence, particularly if his health were suffering.

But Cal was in no physical danger by confiding in his mother; in point of fact, it was precisely because he experienced a personal crisis of confidence that he felt he needed to call his mom and get her reassurance and support.

Incidentally, the phrase “God looks at your father and I as one” underlines the rest of this chapter, for Abigail makes statements and professions on both Josh’s and her behalf without really distinguishing them.

Cal Jordan was leaving the Demoss Learning Center at Liberty University with his backpack slung over one shoulder and with his Allfone plugged into his ear. In the distance he noticed Karen Hester with her friend Julie, crossing the campus. Karen spotted him and waved.

I’ve got to say that at this point the only good parts have been when Cal and Karen are interacting with each other. They feel far realer to me than Josh, the Senators, or the politicians. I think it’s because for all Cal’s authorially mandated flaws, they’re not flaws that are purposely used to make him look like a venal fuckwit, unlike Senator Straworth and Josh Jordan’s prima-donna-ing in the closed hearing.

Incidentally, if anyone knows if that Demoss place is real and has been there, lemme know, eh? πŸ™‚

We then see Cal revealing his perceived inadequacies and the ongoing aftereffects of what he saw in New York. I really can’t blame the kid, and I’m only surprised he didn’t check himself in with a psychologist or psychiatrist – which reminds me, shouldn’t the psych offices be just jammed to the rafters with people who’re experiencing trauma? I understand the need to focus on Cal as a character here, but the book doesn’t mention this likely detail.

‘Because you’re in pain,’ Abigail Jordan replied firmly on the other end of the line. ‘That’s always a big deal. If it hadn’t been for the missile attack, we still wouldn’t know you’d stayed in New York, would we? Besides, if it was such a minor thing, why’d you tell me?’

‘I couldn’t keep it in anymore. Missiles were flying. People were getting trampled. New York City was on every channel. And my father was the one right in the middle of the whole thing. My father. Not somebody else’s. Mine! He’s the big hero, but I couldn’t even help a woman three feet away. I was frozen, scared to death. That’s what I have to deal with.’

The “because you’re in pain” line is a response to Cal grousing about why it’s now a big deal to Abigail.

As someone once said, “the Daddy issues”. And they’re here in force. Cal’s feelings of helplessness and inadequacy are made worse because his dad, rising up almost as though he wereΒ the larger-than-life protector of New York, was the point man for activating a system to send back the missiles that would have at best, hit Cal with a high whole-body dose and made him radiation-sick (and at worst, vaporized him).

What’s interesting here is that in this next snippet, Abigail is almost 180 degrees from the POV she took around Joshua, when she tried to make him get a sense of perspective and due proportion about what was at stake with Cal – and she was very correct. Lying is a pretty minor thing compared to him being alive and having avoided a stampeding crowd. Josh could have lost his son there and all he could do was be butthurt over Cal’s little white lie.

“‘But just put yourself in your dad’s shoes. He thinks you’re safely out of the city during a horrible disaster, and then he finds out that you weren’t, because you’d lied to us about where you were and what you were doing.’

‘So this whole thing is just because I didn’t give you guys the straight scoop? That instead of leaving the night before for school like I told you, I went up to New York City to be with Karen instead. Okay, so I didn’t tell you the truth. Look, I know Dad doesn’t like Karen. And I knew he’d blow a gasket about the two of us spending an overnight in New York–even if we weren’t sleeping in the same room. I just can’t believe how this is becoming such a big deal–‘”

And now, Abigail’s also beating her son over the head about a little white lie. As I said before, I get this “united front” business about parenting, but in doing so it unintentionally creates a battlefield mentality about how to conduct parent-child relations. Instead of treating that relationship as a cooperative one, in which parents help children and children learn to positively help the family, it becomes adversarial, where parents assume a child will naturally be disobedient and must be “kept in line” because Parents (especially the Daddy) Know Best about what to do. I’m reminded of the time when I kept trying to explain why I didn’t want to see a movie at time X and my dad kept not listening. Then, when we got there and we saw we were 40 minutes late because he’d misremembered the time and I’d remembered it right, he accused me of wanting a good laugh over it, completely ignoring when I had tried, and kept getting cut off, to explain why I didn’t want to go.

Such are the kinds of consequences of assuming that children don’t naturally mean well and want to disobey.

Note the phrase “Dad doesn’t like Karen” – Cal zeros in on one of the biggest reasons why his relationship with his parents is strained. He’s not stupid or naive. He knows exactly the major point of contention. Also quite believable is his need for some breathing space, psychologically, by ducking off to see Karen and probably spending the night in separate beds in a youth hostel or the like.

Then Abigail conducts what might legally be “badgering the witness”:

“‘Cal, you know I expect you to be truthful. Because you’re my son–‘

‘Sure, yeah, okay–‘

‘But even more important than that. You’re a Christian. You made the same decision to put your faith in Jesus Christ that I have.’

‘Of course–‘

‘And because you’re a Christian, then truth ought to be a priority–‘

‘Fine…’

‘Isn’t that right?’

‘Yeah…'”

And this is another example of what sticks in my craw: people like Abigail using another person’s professed religious faith as a cudgel to beat them over the head with when they do something wrong.

Yes, Cal lied.

Yes, that’s a sin somewhere in the Bible, and even if one is not religious it’s still an indecent thing to do.

But Abigail’s religion also teaches that all people are sinners and interpretations stemming from that include that even those who are saved in Christ are still subject to Earthly temptations away from the God-centered way of life.

Because all people are sinners, all fall short of the mark established by Jesus Christ.

So for Abigail, who is probably committing a sin of her own right in this chapter, to use Cal’s nominal faith against him is a very odious and low-down trick in my book. And she’s extremely pushy about it, too.

“By this time, Karen was just a few feet away. Cal put his finger to his lips to keep her from saying anything. Her response was to put one hand on her hip and flash a pretend display of anger, almost making Cal laugh.”

I must admit, this actually did make me laugh. πŸ˜€

This sort of natural reaction elicited from me in chapters centering around Cal and Karen is why I just can’t say enough nice things about that guy. πŸ™‚

Reading on, his mother just won’t quit hammering on that nail that’s so dead flat with the wood any more hammering will start squashing the wood:

“‘And your dad considers telling the truth a big deal,’ his mother continued.

‘No kidding,’ Cal shot back.

‘So, then your lying to your parents was a big deal after all.’

Cal mouthed the words my mom to Karen.

‘Yes or no?’ Abigail repeated a little more forcefully than before. ‘Yes or no, Cal, your lying to us was a big deal after all…’

‘Mom, don’t do the lawyer thing with me. It drives me crazy–‘”

When even the character in the book starts stating the obvious, Abigail, it’s time to switch gears, madam.

And this is the oh-my-god-this-is-seriously-creepy part coming up. The first time I read this my face actually went like this:

D:

You’ll see why I titled this analysis piece “love bombing”, because Abigail, probably sensing Cal would hang up on her if she kept going on badgering him, switches tactics.

“‘Cal, I want you to listen carefully to me. He loves you. Your dad loves you so much.’

Abigail’s voice caught a little. Cal could hear that. He could hear the tenderness. It was the thing he loved most about his mom. And yet he hated it when it happened. When her love and passion got to the breaking point and the tears would start filling her eyes. Now he was starting to get teary-eyed himself. Cal quickly turned away from Karen so she couldn’t see.

‘You are so important to him,’ Abigail said. She was pacing her words, forming them in her mouth with an exquisite kind of care. Her voice was slow and soft. ‘He’d lay down his life for you…’

(The bold is mine, italics in the original text)

I CANNOT EMPHASIZE ENOUGH HOW ABSOLUTELY FREAKISHLY CREEPY THAT IS.

It’s Abigail going to the bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of stooping to false declarations of love – of bombing with love – to get her way in an argument. I can’t believe she truly loves her son as she proclaims, because if she did, she wouldn’t have dared purposely – deliberately – to do this – “pacing her words”, “forming them […] with an exquisite kind of care”.

Even the authors seem to realize how creepy it is, because Cal “hate[s] it when it happen[s]”.

When your own character is beating the walls of the box you’ve crammed him into to tell the world that he doesn’t like being played with this manipulative bullshit, there’s something to be said for stepping back and asking why you’re portraying his mother as a kind and gentle person.

After this, Cal and his mother fall silent for a bit, then resume:

“‘It’s just that…’ Cal was trying to sound sure of himself. After a few more seconds he continued. ‘It’s just that he’s always on my back–about everything, all day, every day, twenty-four-seven–‘

‘Cal, you’re going to have to love him the way he is,’ Abigail added. ‘I do. He’s a wonderful man. He wants nothing less than the absolute best for you. That makes him demanding, I know. But cut him some grace, Cal. That’s something you ought to know about…'”

And even after she practically went nuclear to score her point, she’s right back at it with more jabs about his religion.

The family dynamics, I swear… some psych student could probably get a thesis out of studying this stuff. Or a lit student. ‘Cause the dysfunctional crap is all there for anyone to see.

Now, I want to discuss this next paragraph. I mentioned before how there’s the love bombing – the deliberate profession of love as a means to an end; we’ve seen that in spades above.

We’ll now see a much more honest expression of love. I’m going to juxtapose two parts of the chapter together for the purpose:

“Cal quickly turned away from Karen so she couldn’t see.
[…]
Karen had moved around Cal so she was facing him again. But this time no comic routine, no attempts to make him laugh. She could see what was in his eyes.”

In those two sentences is a far more honest expression of the love between two people than anything else in this chapter. Karen’s silent support is infinitely more caring and supportive than anything Cal’s mom has told him so far. Karen cares, and she doesn’t need to use word-patter* to show it. There’s no forceful pressure, even. I certainly feel no creepiness here.

Finally, Abigail rings off, and we’re focussed on Cal and Karen chatting. One thing I’d like to note is that she doesn’t linger on Cal’s emotional state earlier. It seems reasonable to me that if she knows Cal well, he’ll open up about it on his own terms and in his own time and pushing about it won’t help.

“‘Your mom?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Sounded serious.’

‘Same song. Different melody.’

‘Oooh,’ she said breaking into a bright smile. ‘Nice metaphor. I thought I was supposed to be the music major and you were the art major.'”

What is it about these guys that they can write an overbearing father and a mother that breaks confidences and love-bombs her child, and at the same time write the most believably corny stuff in a relationship between two young people?

I mean, I actually chuckled at that one-liner from Karen. πŸ˜€

I’m gonna quote a fair bit of stuff here because there’s some more tantalizing back story and because the dynamics feel like a nice antidote to that creeptastic stuff above:

“He smiled and shrugged, then asked her if she wanted to catch a cup of coffee before the next class. Karen agreed and tugged at his arm as they walked together.

‘So, anything you want to share?’

‘Not really. Constant issues with my father.’

‘About New York?’

‘Right.’

‘You in trouble?’

‘Nothing I can’t handle.’

‘Now you do sound like your father.’

‘How do you know? You only met him once–‘

‘Twice. Remember the football game? Up in the stands? We all sat together.’

‘The point is–,’ Cal started to say.

‘The point is,’ she said finishing the thought, ‘that maybe you are more like your father than you’d like to admit.'”

So Josh met Karen twice, once at a football game and once… somewhere else. Wonder if it was a Thanksgiving dinner like one commenter suggested. It definitely sounds like the football game put a big piece of the puzzle together for Karen, because she especially mentions it.

The fan-fiction is begging to be written, I swear. πŸ˜€

Coming up now is some more nice dialog:

“‘So what, now you’ve switched from being a music major to a psych major?’ he joked. Then he added, ‘Hey, I hope they’ve still got some of those sugar donuts left. I’d love to have a couple of those with my coffee.’

‘Nice move, Mr. Jordan. Trying to blow me off. Changing the subject.’

As they walked together to the student cafe, Karen could see Cal was thinking hard.”

I liked that nice counterpoint of Cal’s to Karen’s earlier change-of-majors joke. The jokes are especially oddly appropriate given that Cal just switched from Engineering to Art.

Cal’s thoughts lead to a rather odd ending for this chapter:

“Finally he let it out. ‘So, I’ve got a question for you. A serious one.’

‘Okay,’ she said. ‘What?’

He paused for a moment and stopped. She stopped with him and tilted her head a little, studying him closely. Then Cal asked her.

‘Exactly who would you be willing to die for?'”

I’ve gotta say, I’m scratching my head at that one. Unless LaHaye and Parshall intend Cal to now segue into a discussion ofΒ  religious faith, which seems to be the context lurking behind that last question, since it’s often used to set up the “Jesus-died-for-us” punch line of Christian proselytizing.

The only other thing I can think of is, having read the book, it’s a rather strange bit of foreshadowing.

Whew. With that, a big sigh of relief – it really is a fairly emotional chapter to get through because of the issues involved here surrounding manipulative behavior.

Chapter Twenty will be a bit of a hop and a skip around the world.


* word-patter: I read this in a book somewhere and I cannot find it by Googling. As near as I recall, it was used to describe superficial language intended to create a lowering of psychological resistance in the person being targetted.

EoA: Behind the Scenes in Davos

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 91-95 (Chapter Eighteen)

We’ve now moved to Davos, Switzerland, and we meet with a mover and shaker:

“Two entire floors of the Hotel Belvedere had been rented by Caesar Demas to accommodate the large staff that operated his private foundation. For his own comfort, though, the billionaire had secured a sprawling villa in the nearby mountains. He was a man who loved quiet whenever possible. And on the day before the start of his organization’s fifth annual World Peace Summit, he had a lot of thinking to do.”

Caesar, eh? Pretty unsubtle name for a king, or for that matter, a kingmaker. He may not be a king in name, but the economic elite that meet in Davos qualify as a de facto oligarchy in certain ways, since their basic worldview centers around the notion of the primacy of capitalism as an economic system.

However, insofar as this person relates to the story being told by LaHaye and Parshall we must assume he has something to do with the RTS-RGS system.

So who’s this head honcho type fellow meeting with?

“He had not yet finished his tea when Alexi, Demas’s longtime administrative chief, entered the security foyer of the villa’s private quarters, along with the visitor from the U.S. State Department, and pressed the buzzer signaling their arrival.”

They begin chatting about world affairs after some preliminaries:

“‘I was very happy to hear that Secretary of State Danburg will be addressing our peace conference. Has he arrived?’

‘He has. We traveled together. The accommodations are greatly appreciated. Secretary Danburg should be settled into his suite shortly after our security people complete their sweep.’

‘I was hoping to be able to get a sense of his remarks.’

‘We knew you would,’ Burke replied with a smile and handed Demas an envelope. ‘Here’s a draft of his speech. I had the privilege of working on it with him. We’re asking that it remain embargoed until thirty minutes prior to his remarks tomorrow afternoon.’

‘Of course,’ Demas said courteously. He understood the rules. He opened the envelope and began to scan the draft. After a minute, Demas looked up.”

The man, Burke, is the US State Department guy. The book doesn’t indicate how high up he is in the hierarchy, but I imagine it’s reasonable to assume he’s an assistant to the Secretary of State and has been authorized to make this kind of contact with an economic power broker.

And now for a real pet peeve: the constant mixing-up of “scan” and “skim” I see in books everywhere. To scan is to read in some detail and at some length. To skim is to read swiftly to get an overall impression.

In general one is not so rude as to scan a speech or paperwork and make someone else wait. One would skim it to get an eye for any major issues and then later on scan it.

Now that I’m done venting my spleen, I will now continue scanning the book to analyze it for you folks.

They go on to discuss things like ‘universal deterrence’, and we get a big speech from Burke that’s almost certainly intended as button-pushing for the audience over their imagined version of what the United Nations is like:

“‘Yes, in the interests of peace,’ Burke replied. ‘Mr. Demas, the administration also wants you to know that we recognize the fact that you’ve been a good friend to the Corland administration. When the rest of the world was denouncing our use of the RTS weapon system, I know you consulted with U.N. Secretary General Beragund on our behalf. The secretary general’s conciliatory remarks regarding the United States were deeply appreciated by President Corland. I am certain you played a primary role in making that happen.’

‘America is a key player in our hopes for global peace. Anything I can do to help, just ask. And yet…'”

And here’s the dun-dun-DUN moment as Demas trails off. He’s zeroing in on getting the US to trade off on the RTS-RGS for money, but Burke isn’t going to put that on the table as an open suggestion.

“For the next few moments there was dead silence. Burke’s expression showed a lack of surprise. He knew where this was going. But he had to avoid jumping in too quickly. He was certainly not about to reveal any details about President Corland’s willingness to negotiate an international credit-for-weapons trade.

Caesar Demas was a master at getting to the core of an issue, while maintaining a perfect poker-face demeanor. There wasn’t an ounce of emotion on his face. Nothing to reveal just how important the RTS weapons system was to Demas’s ultimate mission.

Finally Mr. Burke responded. ‘There may be the potential for dialogue on that subject, yes.Β  […]'”

And they go on to mention in the usual diplomatic bafflegab about how it wouldn’t do yet to have these back-channel high-level talks go public, and so on. But of course, the chapter needs to bring things back to Mr. Jordan, since he’s the guy being asked to start divulging stuff. Now, to step back a moment and consider the overall thrust of the early part of this book, what we’re seeing here is the motif, which I mocked in Elmer Fudd style of “those wascawwy wiberaws!” (I said “powiticians” last time, but for all practical purposes LaHaye and Parshall are taking aim at the Dems here), of perfidious liberal US political officials selling out the country to those nartsy furriners.

This is what LaHaye and Parshall touch on, indirectly, as shown below:

“‘At the same time,’ Demas added with a note of hesitation, ‘I am aware that the designer of the RTS system, a former Air Force pilot, is engaged in a dispute with Congress. A brazen act, if you ask me…refusing to divulge his design to his own government. Are you sure that the specifications for his weapon system will be available to share with other nations at some point?’

‘That’s just a minor issue. Joshua Jordan will be forced to comply. You needn’t worry about that.'”

The implication is indirect, but you can see it: the US Government is going after Josh Jordan to get the RTS-RGS specs so they can make good on their plan of passing it around in order to get money and oil. And of course no Real True Patriot(TM) would stand for that, nosirreebob. (Never mind that the entire basis for this book is not rooted in real-world military contracting, even if military spending itself is a cesspit of corporations ripping off the taxpayer with Congressional aiding and abetting thereof; there’s a reason why the Pentagon has had “problem disbursements” since the 1980s and they can’t slam a lid on the problem of “problem disbursements”. But at least the actual specifications for nonclassified military projects are, no doubt, available in mind-numbingly boring detail to anyone who wants the engineering drawings, etc, and even the classified stuff is likely similarly well-documented.)

And now for a sudden reveal at the end of the chapter: Demas has more than one game going on, and it’s a pretty good guess as to just whose services he’s been engaging.

“As soon as Burke was gone, Demas immediately placed a call to an ocean shipping office in the industrial harbor of Rotterdam.

A phone rang in the small import-export office tucked among the miles of shipping docks and mammoth industrial loading cranes that stretched along the Dutch coast.

Petri Feditzch, the office manager, answered the phone.

“It’s me,” Caesar Demas began.

Feditzch was a good soldier in Demas’s small army. He knew better than to interrupt. He waited for his boss to continue.”

Demas goes on to say that “our project has to be delayed temporarily”, and Feditzch, who, by the way, is former KGB, is to relay this to the unnamed person (the “messenger”) in question.

I highly doubt it’s much of a spoiler to guess that the person is Atta Zimler.

So, that’s that, and Chapter Nineteen brings us back to Cal Jordan*.


* I really want to write fan fiction about Cal and Karen. πŸ˜› Maybe on a slow week or something I’ll write something up. πŸ™‚

EoA: Q&A, Gallagher Style

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 85-90 (Chapter Seventeen)

And we meet back with Agent Gallagher. He’s cooling his heels waiting on the post-mortem of his interrogation of the radio shock jock “Ivan the Terrible”:

“Agent John Gallagher was alone, patiently waiting inside the media conference room of the FBI’s New York office, slouched in one of a half dozen black padded chairs that surrounded a large glass table. An imageless HD flat-screen filled one of the room’s walls, where agents would routinely gather to watch and dissect recorded witness interviews and review surveillance footage. Gallagher’s video interview with New York’s favorite shock-jock radio host, ‘Ivan the Terrible,’ was cued up and ready to go.”

Note the spiffy technology with HD flat-screen TVs. πŸ˜›

We learn, however, that his boss might not be so pleased:

“Zadernack was a rule-book fanatic. Straitlaced to the hilt. Gallagher’s investigative techniques, though effective, were admittedly eccentric at times. And if there was one thing that his boss, Miles Zadernack, couldn’t stomach, it was anything that strayed outside the pages”

We also have a sort of oddly populist nod to the intended audience. This next paragraph harks back to some allegations made a few years ago that 9/11 emergency workers were not warned of the likelihood of toxic chemical exposure – burning insulation, dust particles, that sort of thing. Again, I’m reminded of the people featured in Sicko who had poorly treated symptoms the government was not paying attention to.

“Gallagher took a couple of gulps from the carton of milk he’d brought with him. It was the only thing that could stop the crushing, burning sensation in his chest. The doctor called it gastric reflux. Job-related stress…but that was for the yuppie-types on Wall Street, not for him. Gallagher had his own personal diagnosis and figured the stuff he’d inhaled on 9/11 had finally caught up to him. So he didn’t bother filling the prescription. Downing some milk seemed to help. That was good enough.”

They always tell you not to drink milk when you have to deal with an upset stomach or things like that, but fact is, I’ve found it helps me, too, on those occasions. Milk is slightly alkaline and has a texture that seems to soothe the throat better than plain water.

We get some banter between him and his boss:

“‘Teretsky, the talk-radio guy, better known as Ivan the Terrible,’ Gallagher began. ‘I videoed my interview with him. Couldn’t believe he agreed without a fight. And no lawyer with him either. That was a shocker.’

‘I see the man enjoys litigation,’ Miles replied, glancing through Teretsky’s investigation file. ‘They must know him pretty well down at the clerk of the court’s office.’

‘Yeah, I hear they had to build a new wing just to store all the files from his lawsuits,’ Gallagher quipped.”

And the interrogation tape starts:

“On the screen, Ivan was sitting in his studio chair. Just before speaking he reached up and pushed the boom microphone out of the way so he could look straight into the eyes of his FBI interrogator.

Ivan was bald-headed with a full black beard and a slightly wild, roaming look in his eyes. Ivan adjusted his dark-rimmed glasses.

‘Okay, Mr. FBI man,’ Ivan began. ‘You called for this party. So let’s p-a-r-t-e-e…'”

I’m sorely tempted to roll my eyes at the painfulness of this cliche, but I’ll mightily restrain myself and move on. The preliminaries are established: Gallagher is questioning the man not as a suspect, but as a material witness, so no Miranda rights are invoked at this stage. Now for the meat of the sandwich:

Then Gallagher started into the details of that day. The time Ivan got to the studio that afternoon. The time he first learned about the missiles. And more importantly, how he found out about them.

‘A telephone call,’ Ivan said. ‘It was from some woman.’

‘Who?’

‘She said her first name…like I was supposed to know her or something, which I didn’t. Can’t recall her name now. I think I blanked it out of my head ‘cuz of what she said next.’

‘Which was?’

‘She started talking really intense at me, but not loud, sort of whispering like she didn’t want anyone else to hear, and she said, ‘Get out of New York now’…or if I couldn’t do that then I was supposed to head for the basement. That there were two North Korean missiles heading for Manhattan. Then she hung up.'”

So, someone, somewhere, panicked and tried to call the radio station. The plot thickens…

“‘You went on the air with the fact that New York was under nuclear attack based on a phone call from some woman you didn’t know?’

”Course not. What, do I look stupid to you? Naw, we then put a call in to a Pentagon contact. He sounded a tad nervous and refused to comment. We made one more phone call, to the woman at the local emergency preparedness office. I posed as an NYPD officer and acted like I knew what was going on…she spilled the beans in two seconds flat.'”

There’s probably a basis to charge Teretsky with impersonating a police officer, but it’d be a nuisance charge at best, I think, considering the revelations in this chapter.

We learn Teretsky got the call on a phone line known internally and not the line the public normally calls in on. So whoever called in was either in a panic and simply called the first number that came up on their computer search/Allfone master list/whatever, or they didn’t know the public access number. Or they knew someone at the radio station.

Gallagher, realizing something like this is probably up, starts asking for some info.

‘I’d like to see a list of all your guests for the last twelve months,’ Gallagher requested from the other side of the camera. ‘And all your tech people. Anybody with access to that number. Let’s start there.’

‘Are you nuts?’ Ivan blurted out. He was now sitting perfectly erect in his chair, as if he’d just received a low-voltage electrical charge.

‘That’s confidential information,’ Ivan said. ‘We got rights. My lawyer says we got a journalist’s privilege not to disclose information to people like you.'”

Over on the Heathen Critique (link in my Blogroll) and over on Fred’s Left Behind blog, one thing that has come up is the way LaHaye + coauthor tend to sometimes fall into a classic fan-fiction trap: making one character look egregiously stupid in order to push a plot or to make their preferred person look better by comparison.

LaHaye and Parshall are getting close with the way this Teretsky guy is portrayed. No lawyer would use the term “journalist’s privilege” – there’s no such thing. There is a First Amendment case-law basis which might be invoked, as I understand it, to protect Teretsky’s sources, but this would be a matter for some legal wrangling in the courts, not a one-on-one with an FBI agent.

Gallagher starts bringing out the big guns:

“‘Tell your lawyer to go back to law school, Ivan,’ Gallagher fired back. ‘The guest list is public information because you’ve already aired it. And probably put it up on your website. Besides, I could get it from the FCC or from your public file. Do you really want to play the legal game with me? I can have you served with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury. Then you can be forced to testify. Unless you want to claim your Fifth Amendment right, that is. So, do you want to claim your right to remain silent because you might incriminate yourself, Ivan? You feeling guilty about the deaths of those New Yorkers who were killed in the melee that happened because you opened your big mouth on the air without talking to us first?'”

At this point, Ivan Teretsky basically loses his shit. Gallagher’s boss, however, is not amused by the heavy-handed tactics, even though Gallagher got that master list of names and numbers he was after:

“‘Your approach is not protocol,’ Miles said matter-of-factly, but his eyes were closing nervously as he spoke. ‘You know the standard procedure. You go to the U.S. attorney’s office. They go to the DOJ and get permission for a subpoena to the telephone company for a listing of the telephone calls to Mr. Teretsky’s studio. Set a court date. The telephone company responds–‘

‘My way’s quicker.’

Miles pointed at the video screen. ‘I don’t like what I just saw,’ he warned. ‘I’ll have to decide whether I write you up because of this.'”

We then get some hints some bigwigs may want to shut this investigation down:

‘If this investigation continues,’ Miles threatened with a little less monotone than usual. Then he stood up. ‘Please secure that videotape in the evidence room,’ he demanded and turned to leave.

Gallagher was stunned. He had to chew on that for a minute while he remained in his chair. Finally he reached over and snatched up the papers off the table. He couldn’t believe what his boss was suggesting. That the FBI would actually drop an investigation into leaked information which compromised national security.

Come on, Miles, what’s going on here?

So at this stage, we’re starting to see the hook get baited with some shadowy behind-the-scenes conspiracy maneuvering, and we’re gonna bite. Because darn it all, I will get through the entirety of this book. πŸ˜›

And to be honest, this isn’t bad as far as your template detective-thriller goes – the lone man or woman against people he/she may or may not know who are trying to keep him or her from achieving justice for all. πŸ™‚

Next chapter we’ll move to Davos and meet some more people.

EoA: Jordan’s World

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 82-84 (Chapter Sixteen)

Abigail’s gone to church. Joshua sits alone, introspecting.

Surprisingly for his relative lack of clue and extra helping of self-centeredness, he does do quite aΒ  bit of thinking about his problems with his son. Even so, the basic mental process is fundamentally about how Cal fell short, not about how Josh fell short.

“Joshua was left alone in his own private place of turmoil. His thoughts turned to two of the most important people in his life.

His son had lied to his face. But there was more to it than that. Joshua remembered his feelings about his son when he had decided not to pursue military school. Then his decision to leave engineering and go into art. At every step, at every crossroad, Cal had ignored Joshua’s advice. Even Joshua’s cautions about his son’s girlfriend fell on deaf ears.”

(Ed. note: Bold is mine)

There is an excellent word that has made the rounds of fandom communities on sites like JournalFen’s fandom_wank and other such over the years: “butthurt”.

And that’s what Josh is being right now. He’s all butthurt because his son isn’t doing exactly as he’s being told. Because Daddy Knows Best – as noted by the bolded text. And Daddy Knowing Best means that his son should be just like him, rather than (pearl clutch!) taking after his mother (what a crime!).

After some more thinking over Cal legitimately dealing with some psychological aftershocks, Joshua turns to thinking of his wife:

“Then there was Abby. He loved her like crazy. But there was a kind of uncertainty between them ever since she’d started this spiritual journey of hers. Not that he resented her recent pursuit of a higher purpose. Not really. He tried to respect her choice to disappear into this new world of Bible reading, church going, and God talk. She seemed happy enough. But he had his own goals. And especially now that he’d been drawn into this national crisis over the North Korean attack and his RTS design. His plate had become full to the point of overflowing.”

The dynamic between Joshua and Abigail here is a bit reminiscent of Rayford and Irene Steele from Left Behind.Β  Even their basic personality traits are a little similar: Rayford “can’t make it compute”, and Josh…

“[is] a mission-specific guy. And God was not part of his mission. He had nothing against religion. In fact, in the quiet moments he often wondered about what Abby had found that had worked so well in her life. He even questioned what his real motives were in keeping God at a safe distance. Was it a perfectionistic pilot’s need for absolute control over his own life, his own ‘flight pattern’? Maybe too much need for control…”

Mission-specific guy. I like that. πŸ˜›

But there are interesting similarities between Joshua and Rayford – both airplane pilots, both portrayed as basically rational men who don’t easily fall into “being converted”. And notice again the motif – a motif I recognize from my own readings – of it being unGodly and full of hubris to fail to”‘give in to God”, instead of assuming one “can do it all oneself”; the implicit assumption is that “doing it all by oneself” is Satan-inspired*.

A common theme in the WWCOG lit I used to read was the idea that “for six thousand years, God has let man go his own way”. And for six thousand years, it was said, all people have aimed for perfection (i.e. what God is) and all have fallen short. This is obviously reminiscent of the more personalized theme that trying to “go one’s own way” instead of “in God’s way” is doomed to failure.

We circle back around to the Daddy Issues, as someone once termed them:

“So, was that the problem between him and Cal too? Trying to exert too much control over his son?

Just like my own dad? Deja vu?

Joshua’s dad was a career airman, a chief master sergeant in the Air Force. In his home nothing was out of place. Not a bed sheet. Not a dirty dish. Not a bicycle left on the lawn. Nothing. God was given a kind of hat-tip. But ultimately, in his house, you figured things out on your own. You took responsibility on your own. Your problems were your own, and you fixed them.”

Incidentally, Tanya Huff and Elizabeth Moon have both written military-themed science fiction novels, and one thing about Master Sergeants that definitely came up was how strict and orderly they could be in their commands. Not a thing out of place – complete spit and polish, the whole works. So LaHaye and Parshall’s portrayal of Joshua’s father seems to ring true here.

But that Master Sergeantry? Great for maintaining a military, bad for running a household. I’m just amazed Joshua didn’t run away from home at sixteen, or something. ‘Cause damn, yaknow?

Now, we learn what a great guy Gary Stu Joshua Jordan is.

“Of course, that kind of order and discipline later served Joshua well in his own career. Mental toughness was a must. Like when he flew five secret reconnaissance flights over Iran, taking pictures of their nuclear sites. On his fifth flyover he got a scrambled code from his air support that he’d ‘just been made.’ Iranian radar had apparently picked him up. The sky was about to get jammed with ground-to-air missiles–all aimed at him. But he wasn’t done. Joshua patiently kept his recon camera whirling so every last-minute detail of the nuclear plants could be documented, knowing he could be blasted from the air at any minute.”

Something about this really bothers me, somehow. I think it has to do with the fact that he didn’t immediately abort and try to evade or dodge or whatever, he just kept taking pictures… even if the plane, camera, and his own self were all going to get blasted into pink mist**.

“But the missiles didn’t come. Only months later did he learn why. An Israeli plant within the Iranian air defense sabotaged their radar at the last minute. The Israeli Mossad agent was found out and brutally executed by the Iranians. But Joshua and his mission were saved.”

And of course a dollop of “those narsty ebil Iranians” for the audience. We get it, LaHaye and Parshall; the Iranians aren’t nice. Nobody denies this.

Back to Josh’s introspecting again.

“Up there on his terrace ‘crow’s nest,’ as he called it, Joshua had no answers for the loose ends that seemed incapable of being tied neatly together. Personal things that seemed to defy a schematically engineered resolution. He was a decision maker. A problem solver. Lack of resolve was not something he was comfortable with. Least of all with his own son.”

LaHaye and Parshall seem determined to keep hammering on this “Joshua is a logical mission-specific get-er-done kind of guy***” theme. Also note the theme of being secluded, cut off from the rest of the world even though it’s a penthouse suite he lives in.

And now for Josh to play with his Allfone.

“He grabbed his small digital newsreader off the garden table and clicked on the InstantNews function. After scrolling through some sections, one headline grabbed his attention.

JORDAN DEFIES CONGRESS IN MISSILE PROBE

‘That was a closed hearing!’ Joshua yelled out into the air. ‘Who leaked it?’

[…]

The report concluded with a scorching personal indictment:

Sources hint that Joshua Jordan may be attempting to drive up the price of his RTS system while haggling with Congress over his design documents.”

Yes, who leaked it, indeed? And who put forth that scurrilous libel? Oooh! Those wascawwy powiticians! (yes, it does turn out to be those horrible venal politicians we first saw as caricatured variants of their real-life counterparts earlier in the book)

Sounds like Josh has an open-and-shut libel lawsuit ready to roll; he calls his lawyer and declares himself ready to rumble.

Next chapter we meet with FBI Agent John Gallagher.


* All the more ironic that my way of trying to be a Christian involved a huge helping of DIY in terms of reading WWCOG lit and my Bible. πŸ˜›
** Credit for the “blasted into pink mist” line goes to the novelization of Alien Nation (the movie); these words were spoken by the indomitably irascible Matthew Sykes.
*** So did his commanding officer ever tell him “Let ‘er go, Gallagher”? πŸ˜›

EoA: Abigail Tells All

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 78-82 (Chapter Sixteen)

As I hinted before, eventually Cal Jordan’s very human reaction to seeing a woman trampled to death in a panicky crowd, which he told his mother in confidence, is now being told to his father, breaking this implicit confidence.

But first, a few preliminaries.

“Joshua Jordan relaxed in his grey sweatpants and one of his old Air Force Academy T-shirts and stretched out on a comfortable chaise lounge. This was one of his favorite escapes. Private. Secluded. Even though it was in the middle of New York City. Out on his lavishly landscaped penthouse terrace, he could see for miles along the skyline and farther, out toward the harbor. Surrounded by a few small potted trees, manicured greenery, and various plants in bloom, up where the birds soared, with the city stretched out below him, he felt insulated…and simultaneously free. But he knew this moment wouldn’t last much longer.”

Of course he’d have a penthouse condo. Nothing less than the best, naturally. We also learn he has a mountain retreat in Colorado, to where he plans to go with Abby later on.

We see a bit of Joshua-Abigail interaction here as preliminaries to the Cal thing:

“As he took a sip of his morning coffee, he heard Abby’s steps on the tiled terrace. She was wearing a bright peach-colored dress and was fidgeting with a simple gold chain necklace.

‘Honey, would you hook this for me?’

She sat down next to him and pulled her hair aside to reveal the back of her neck.

His thick fingers fumbled for a while until he finally got the clasp closed on the thin wisp of a chain.

‘There, got it. Man, that’s a tough one.’ Then he leaned forward and kissed the back of her neck.

‘Do you remember how I got this?’ she asked with the flash of a big smile.

Joshua thought for a moment, then shook his head.

‘It was the first thing you ever gave me, when we started dating,’ she said.

‘Not very flashy,’ he replied with a grin. ‘I’m surprised you stuck with me!’

‘I don’t need flash,’ she said, patting his cheek. ‘I just need you.'”

A few more back-and-forth lines about their history (Josh remarks on a particular facial tic he recognized as Abby’s serious-legal-mode) and then the segue into Cal’s experience:

“Abigail sort of scrunched up her nose, subtly and quickly. Hardly discernable. But Joshua recognized it. That is when he knew that something was up.

‘You used to do that when you went into court to try a case,’ he said.

[ … ]

Abigail then breathed deeply and became silent.

Now he really knew something was bugging her.

‘All right, out with it. What’s up?’

‘It’s about Cal,’ she offered. The smile was gone. It had been replaced by a gentle, motherly kind of expression.

‘Has something happened to him?’

‘He’s okay. But something did happen recently. I thought you should know about it.’

‘What?’

‘It was the day of the missile crisis.'”

And with that we’re off. The book manages to slant a perfectly innocent adventure by Cal with his girlfriend into a moral failing because he saw a woman get trampled to death and didn’t want his dad to think he was weak. I swear, the damage these rigid gender roles do to father-son relationships…

Ok, let’s just start reading. It’s depressing.

“‘ […] But he was actually caught right in the middle of it. He’d just arrived at the train station. He was right next to a woman who…Josh, the poor woman got trampled to death. Right in front of our son.’

‘Wait…why was he still in New York? I thought he’d left early and gotten safely out of the city.’

‘Well, he hadn’t. He wanted to spend the day at an art lecture with Karen. Then he tried to leave that evening, which is when everything happened–‘

‘So Cal lied to us?’ Joshua was shaking his head with a look as if his son had dared to slap him across the face. He could never tolerate lying from his kids. Never. And he let them know it. Why would Cal disrespect him like that?”

Ok, stop right there.

Joshua Jordan cares more about what amounts to a little white lie about Cal’s train schedule than the fact that his son is alive. And even Abigail is trying to tell him this, even though it would have been better served to let Cal do his own damn talking when he damn well felt ready for it.

“‘Josh, dear, you’re missing the real story here.’

‘No, I’ll tell you the real story. The day before the North Korean attack, he wasn’t here with us. I assumed he’d already taken the train back to Liberty. So where was he? Did he spend the night with that girl?’

‘He just wanted to spend the day in New York before he went back to college. He was trying to make sense of his life.’ Abigail’s voice was strained and pleading. She was holding her hands out to her husband, cupping them, as if she were caressing something fragile, like a delicate piece of china.”

And now Joshy-boy’s more concerned that his son might be boinking Karen than the fact that he nearly got trampled to death in a crowd. Abigail essentially makes this point as well:

‘Let me finish before you judge, Josh,’ she finally stated. ‘The whole point is that he was here in New York when the attack was launched. He was alone, trapped. He saw a women killed by a rioting mob. He was almost trampled to death himself in that train station! And he was scared to death.’

[ … ]

‘Your son,’ Abigail continued, ‘was paralyzed with fear. But he couldn’t admit that to you. Ever. Because you’re the war hero. The guy who flew into war zones without blinking. You’re the man who saved New York City. How could he ever tell you that he was afraid? You haven’t exactly made it easy for Cal to bare his soul.'”

Ok, so that’s pretty damn good damage control on Abigail’s part for all that she spilled the beans in the first place without Cal’s consent in the matter. Cal’s a legal adult, or near as, and she’s effectively treating him like he’s still fourteen or something.

And even after all this, Josh Doesn’t Get It:

“‘So he lies, and I’m the bad guy–is that it?'”

*FACEPALMS*

Time and time again, Joshua Jordan shows that he just cannot prioritize. And that he’s basically self-centered.

We’ve already see than LaHaye and Parshall effectively promote this as acceptable by shining a spotlight on Joshua as though he were the only person present when the RTS-RGS was activated and made successful, even though it was the culmination of a research team’s effort in straightening out the nitty-gritty details day in and day out for a long time.

And in his own family, we’ve already been shown that LaHaye and Parshall believe that a man’s wife and children are not truly independent in their own right, but serve as trophies and appendages to indicate his success, because RTC tenets are grounded in sexually dimorphic, male- and father-centered gender/family roles.

Now, to be fair, Abigail replies, ‘I didn’t say that … but I do think you’re part of the problem. And you’re going to have to be part of the solution.’

But this is a rather poor after-the-fact blunting of the general thrust: Joshua Jordan’s behavior as a father is essentially acceptable. He’s not censured in the strongest possible tones for his misplaced priorities and his small-minded focus on an aspect of Cal’s behavior that pales in comparison to a situation that could have cost Cal his life.

The next part, which I’ll take up separately, has some introspection by Joshua. This chapter is unintentionally a very revealing portrait of LaHaye’s own issues with his father, as has been noted by commenters on Slacktivist and elsewhere, and we’ll see this in detail in the next section. But even this part already exposes some of that.

I want to make a personal appeal to all parents who are reading this, because Josh’s behavior is fundamentally counterproductive – please, don’t make it so hard for a child that he or she doesn’t feel they can rely on you. Families take a special role in cultures worldwide because of the deep genetic and personal connections they create, and to weaken this bond should only be done if there is no other reasonable alternative whatsoever.

Trust your children to do the right thing. Trust that they’ll choose their friends – in the main, anyway – wisely and judiciously. And trust them to their own privacy when they feel they need it.

Thank you for your time, and I’ll continue with chapter sixteen tonight or early tomorrow.

EoA: The White House in Bizarroland

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 73-77 (Chapter Fifteen)

Now we’re back to Washington, D.C.

I’m going to warn you: if you thought you’d seen enough of the bizarro world LaHaye and other RTCs (and indeed some political conservatives generally) inhabit with regard to how left-wing politics operates, you really ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Let’s start out by meeting the president, Virgil Corland. As students of Roman history will know, Virgil was a Roman poet and lyricist. Kind of an oddly appropriate name for a politician, who needs to be good with words as part of his or her job description. πŸ™‚

Although I couldn’t find anything useful on “Corland”, if one regards it as a corruption of “Cortland”, one finds that it is (Pearl clutch!) Old French in origin! Land sakes! (Actually I have also found that it can be Dutch, but given the way Americans bash the French sometimes…)

“Inside the White House, the violent images flashing across the panel of Internet television screens deeply troubled President Virgil Corland. He shook his head and wondered exactly how much PR damage was going to result from the coverage of heavily equipped riot police overpowering unarmed truckers in the heart of the nation’s capital.

Corland fidgeted uncomfortably in his swivel chair like a man with a bad back problem.

‘I don’t like what I’m seeing here, Hank. You’d think this was Somalia, not Washington.’

Chief of Staff Henry Strand was seated near the president on a white leather sofa, nodding in agreement. He too was concerned with the fiasco taking place down the street and over the airwaves, but he wasn’t about to let it show.”

Ok, already we’re beginning to get an unflattering portrait of this man. Notice how he cares more about the “PR damage” from a riot than the fact that there was one in the first place and that there will be people injured, perhaps dead, and feelings will be running high.

Incidentally, given Libertarian fantasizing, I find it amusing that LaHaye and Parshall explicitly contrast the USA and Somalia, even though the latter is held up as a daring Libertarian paradisaical experiment by people who wouldn’t go there for a million bucks. Oddly like how the Soviet Union used to be praised by people who didn’t know a damn thing about the nasty secrets they were hiding from the outside world.

Moving on. We get some back story via the television news:

“The president’s eye was then drawn to the third screen from the left where a young female reporter, standing with a mic along Constitution Avenue, was about to go live. With his remote, Corland selected that particular screen’s volume and pumped it up.

‘The protesting truckers,’ the reporter announced, ‘are angry with the administration’s recent decision to allow the four-month-old federal gas-rationing initiative to remain in place for the trucking industry. Last month, President Corland sent special envoys to OPEC and Russia to try and resolve the oil crisis that has been escalating since August of last year. The administration’s resolution to lift the rationing order for some industries and not others has been controversial, particularly with our continuing financial crisis. Most Americans realize that a crippled trucking industry will lead to even higher prices for goods. And with the president’s approval rating dwindling in recent weeks due to…'”

In principle, selective application of rationing could work; I seem to recall that during World War II, the OPA was given some discretion on allowing or disallowing price increases. John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about one time he ended up negotiating that a company could raise some prices if it agreed to lower others, and he signed off.

However, this required an environment far more conducive to national solidarity than in the 2000s and 2010s where years of catering to self-centeredness and selfishness in ways large and small have diminished the federal government’s capability to effectively administer prices and wages. A smaller version of this happened in the 1970s, when Nixon’s imminent wage and price controls meant people scrambled to fire workers, raise prices, or even raise wages, before the controls went in. I’ll be making reference back to the Nixon controls later, so keep an eye out.

So the bottom line is, economic problems are being responded to by trying to keep the price of fuel from exploding. I find it always a laughing matter when economists insist that if the government just let the price of oil and gas spike upwards without restraint, the magic of the market will immediately solve the economic dislocations that causes.

As Keynes once said, “In the long run we are all dead.” Certainly, letting the market “work things out” might fix stuff, but these things take years sometimes.

The better trade-off is to sometimes accept smaller economic dislocations in the form of rationing rather than a larger one in the form of such high prices that nobody can afford anything, resulting in the government choosing to print more money to temporarily solve the problem (which, as the most recent example of Zimbabwe has proven) leads down a road to a veritable Grand Canyon of problems.

Ok, now for the bizarro stuff. It’s amazing what these RTCs and their political kissing cousins believe.

“Corland huffed as he squeezed the mute button quite a bit harder than necessary. ‘Who is this woman? I don’t recognize her. She must be new.’

‘A recent hire,’ Strand responded. ‘I’ll have Finley talk to her boss this afternoon. As you know, Mr. President, it’s sometimes difficult to control these kinds of media events when they’re happening live. I wouldn’t get worked up too much over this. By seven p.m., after all the network anchors have signed off from their nightly newscasts, the majority of the American people will believe that you are the hero and that these foul-mouthed truckers are the bad guys. Because that’s what they’ll have been told to believe.'”

So not only do they believe ‘liberals’ still control the media, they also believe that ‘liberals’ think Americans are stupid and easily led around.

It’s kind of ironic how the kind of behavior and commentary you see above is probably far more likely to be realistically portrayed between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Tight control-of-message-in-the-media is a staple of right-wing governments, because for some reason, they just don’t seeem to quite believe in their fatuous rhetoric about people knowing their own minds better than the government. It’s happened in Alberta and BC where all government public relations stuff is now funnelled through “Public Affairs Bureaus” which keep all the government ministries on-message and on track.

In the US, one needs only remember people like Ari Fleischer, who would act patronizingly toward the members of the media. I seem to recall that the Bush Administration also practiced the habit of punishing or rewarding reporters depending on how they reported on the President.

Also, the very last line could far more easily be applied to the way many Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 – because that’s what George W. Bush told them to believe, because he repeated that lie so many times himself.

So psychological projection is occurring here. Fascinating. Just fascinating.

“Strand continued. ‘I don’t know how heated this thing is going to get, but we’ll make sure our PR people get us booked on the Sunday shows just in case. We can send our assistant secretary of commerce, Bud Meyerling, over to handle the TV stuff. He’s great on the talkinghead shows. Two weeks from now, no one will remember any of this. The streets will be clear.’

‘Hank, I hope you’re right. But you and I both know nobody watches those Sunday shows,’ Corland replied with a slight laugh. ‘Heck, they’re not even watching the nightly news anymore. Who knows? Maybe the conservatives are on to us.'”

I swear, are these guys even for real?

This is one of those I-don’t-even-get-it times when I just wonder what Earth LaHaye and Parshall actually live on. The stuff these fictional White House characters are saying sounds like it’s been taken straight from the mouths of the Bush Administration and just remixed a little.

Because I know my own political ideology’s basic nature and it’s one that’s fundamentally inimical to the idea of military-style command-and-control over media messaging. (To be honest, we could use a little more of it, but going too far can create situations where the government feels it perfectly fine to treat citizens like children)

Notice, again, that these folks are essentially caricatures of Democrats – much as I noted in a previous chapter regarding how LaHaye and Parshall have written this book.

Now for the next bit. Brace yourselves, folks, because you’ve gotta just shake your head and wonder what the hell LaHaye and Parshall were smoking to come up with this:

“Strand paused for a moment before reacting, unsure whether or not Corland was trying to be funny. “I’m sure some of them are, Mr. President.”

“So what’s the latest timetable for keeping this inflation business going?” Corland asked. “Remember, I’m the one who’s taking the brunt of the blame for it.”

“Sir, as you know, this economic crisis is actually helpful in moving our global agenda forward. We can get a lot more things pushed through when the American people are sidetracked with concerns over their finances. Obama’s guys proved that a few years ago. The conservatives out there would want our hides if they knew what we were doing, just like they wanted to with Barack. But it’s to everybody’s benefit that we go global, even if the pick-up truck crowd in the Bible Belt does’t recognize it.””

Ok, let’s deal with the inflation bit first.

This kind of bait-and-switch about the economy would be worthy of a guy like Richard Nixon, who purposely pushed for expansionary fiscal and monetary policies at the same time as he kept wage and price controls going for two years to get him through an election. It’s kind of like trying to keep a car moving at a steady speed, not by setting cruise control, but by dragging a huge one-ton rock behind a car and using its mass to keep your speed steady as you put the pedal to the metal.

I mean, remember, Richard Nixon pulled this kind of crap with the US economy. It fell to the likes of Gerald Ford (a positive liberal by today’s standards) and Jimmy Carter to try and undo that mess, because Nixon’s early-70s economic expansion, causing inflation, ran smack into the OPEC shutdown of oil supplies in 1973, triggering an inflationary recession in 1974-75.

But it’s not surprising that LaHaye and Parshall would attribute nefarious economic maneuverings to a Democrat. Republicans, after all, believe in the magic of the market and would neeeeever purposely make the US dollar lose value EVAR! Trufax. But those mean ol’ Big-Government Democrats will debase the currency and take your money out of your wallet by any means! TRUFAX.

Now read that last paragraph. I mean, really read it. It’s absolutely stunning in the magnitude of the callousness attributed to Barack Obama’s Administration.

A Bush-era, Bush-precipitated, Republican-abetted economic crisis that Barack Obama made his mission to solve (and even on the SGS alternate measure of GDP growth there’s been a sharp bounceback which can be attributed to ARRA spending rather than that TARP bailout orchestrated by BushCo), is being re-interpreted and re-framed as just another trick by Democrats to pass their nefarious agenda.

It’s jaw-droppingly amazing what these people seem to think really happens in the world around them. Words onΒ  a screen just can’t convey this well enough. Even this emoticon doesn’t:

O_O

As we keep reading it’s like seeing Richard Nixon all over again:

“‘Hank, you’re stalling. How long?’

‘Till the end of next year.’

‘What? That’s cutting it awful close!’ Corland retorted.

‘It still gives us ten months before the November elections to get the economy back on track, which, of course, will be a direct result of your policies. You’ll easily win reelection. In fact, I predict a landslide,’ Strand reassured.”

Then we move to where this whole chapter links up with Joshua Jordan and the RTS-RGS.

“‘Yes, sir. The Pentagon is sending over the vice chairman.’

‘What’s his position on the North Korean incident?’

‘The Joint Chiefs have been informed of the secretary’s suggestion that we share our Return-to-Sender weapons technology with several other nations. However, several people at the Pentagon are opposed to the idea,’ Strand reported. ‘Hopefully we can get around them.’

‘Well, the Return-to-Sender technology would be a great leveraging tool. It’d be nice to get some more oil flowing in our direction. And more credit. We can never have too much of that. So what’s their objection?’ Corland asked.

‘They still have national-security concerns about other nations having the technology. You know, the risk of it being leaked to rogue nations or terrorists. Unfortunately, these Pentagon guys are really dug-in on this. They’re even arguing that the congressional committee ought to ease off a bit on Joshua Jordan. They don’t want him pressured into giving up his documents.'”

Ok. WTF? Do LaHaye and Parshall really believe that Democratic politicians would be this stupid and venal? American exceptionalism (and even just plain old national-security common sense) would militate strongly against even conceiving of the idea of giving up American primacy in the realm of being Nuclear Number One in the world.

Again, it’s just amazing what their caricatures of political liberals looks like in broad daylight on the printed page. If nothing else this book is a great look at figuring out why Republicans act the way they do.

Also notice the implication that Democrats, not Republicans, are the borrow-and-be-spendthrifts who don’t care that they’re mismanaging the American economy. Did the last near-decade just not exist? I mean, seriously.

Now let’s meet Madam Vice President. This is what makes me swear to God that LaHaye and Parshall think Democrats would act like McCain and Palin (or Bush and Cheney). Because every bit of this next part is like they think the interpersonal and political dynamics here between Republican politicians is all just someone’s imagination and that TRUFAX Democrats act like this:

The door to the Oval Office swung open, and Vice President Jessica Tulrude* confidently strode in. The forty-six-year-old brunette ex-senator had helped Corland take the swing states in the last election–aided by the media’s palpable love for this outspoken feminist.

‘Mr. President…Henry,’ she began, smiling politely.

‘Jessica, let’s talk about this briefing.’

‘Thank you, Mr. President,’ Tulrude responded, charging ahead without waiting for a wider opening. ‘It’s critical that we back up Secretary Danburg. He wants to begin immediate negotiations with the EU, Russia, India, and, of course, China, who, after all, remains our biggest financial creditor, to try to do something in terms of a swap–their economic chips to us in return for the RTS technology.'”

(Ed. Note: The star after the Veep’s name is mine. see the end of the text.)

Note the coded shout-out by calling her a “femimist” – she’s obviously a man-hating ball-busting you-know-what. *rolls eyes*

The ironic thing is that it’s poliicies ofΒ  aiding and abetting the wealthy sectors of the US in exchange for political control by the right or center-right that have led to the very economic weakness that now, Democratic politicians are being fantasized as giving up vital national security in exchange for borrowed bits of paper. The delusion is strong with these ones, people.

Ok, more fantasizing about what those European peacenik socialists would do:

“‘Well,’ Tulrude offered, ‘the peace conference in Davos, Switzerland, is coming up soon. We haven’t responded to their invitation yet. We have a lot of nations outraged at us over this North Korean incident. The president of the European Union has called us ‘warlords’ because of our use of the RTS system.'”

Seriously, WTF? Satellite pics, weapons telemetry, radioisotope mass-spectrometry and gamma-ray spectra wouldn’t convince the whole world that the North Koreans did something so amazingly stupid it would take the intelligence of a rock to outsmart that?

LaHaye and Parshall really do seem to think that everybody outside the US just irrationally hates the US for no good reason, instead of realizing that bullying behavior is not attractive, but basic self-defence is justifiable.

Most people didn’t protest too hard when the USA invaded Afghanistan, considering that yeah, it was Osama Bin Laden and all, and booting the Taliban out is a way of saying “naughty, naughty” (even though that really stretches the self-defence doctrine).

“‘Is he still asking for proof that we didn’t provoke the North Korean navy into firing their nukes?’

‘Yes, as a matter of fact,’ Tulrude responded with eyebrows raised. ‘So this conference would provide an excellent platform for the administration to address the issue.'”

I swear, the way the authors are… they really don’t seem to get why the rest of the world might occasionally think the USA needs to back up what its government claims.

Then they go onto Joshua Jordan and discuss him, basically repeating what Senator Straworth was discussing.

“‘Yes, Mr. President…about the congressional hearings.’

‘Yes?’

‘It is an international embarrassment that this Joshua Jordan, a private defense contractor, is creating the impression that he’s holding the president and the U.S. Congress hostage by refusing to release information on his weapons technology.’

‘That’s valid,’ Corland agreed. ‘One single private citizen can’t be allowed to direct our national defense policy.'”

The Veep concludes by saying (dun-dun-DUN…!) “Don’t tolerate this man’s defiance. You must pin Joshua Jordan to the ground […] Pin him to the ground like you would any other criminal”.

Now, we’ll take a breather to digest this incredibly bizarro-worldview of the US’s political and economic issues. ‘Cause, just… damn, you know?

Stay tuned for Chapter Sixteen, upon which we revisit with Mr. Jordan.


* “Jessica” conveys a beach-babe kind of name; anyone who’s read Sweet Valley High knows of Jessica Wakefield, perfect size-six blonde. “Tulrude” – I can’t find it at all via Google, but the word ‘rude’ in her name is probably intended to convey a subtle sense that she’s not inclined to Be Very Nice.

EoA: Assassination

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 69-72 (Chapter Fourteen)

The unfortunate Yergi Banica meets Atta Zimler. It does not go well.

“At 9:35 a.m. there was a knock at the door of room 417. Zimler opened it to reveal the slightly rotund, bespectacled Romanian with the small satchel under his arm.
‘I am Yergi. You are…the Algerian?’

Zimler nodded and ushered him in. Pointing to a coffee table in the living room area, he persuaded the currier to set his package down.

The professor was clearly nervous. His eyes scanned the room, then his host.

‘Funny, y-you don’t really look Algerian…,’ he stammered.”

After a bit more of the preliminaries, they transact business, discussing the package:

“‘ […] The Russian agent whom I obtained it from vouched for its authenticity. I have quite a bit of information here for you, including the basic research and development agreement between Mr. Jordan and the Pentagon in reference to his work on the Return-to-Sender technology. Of course, no one has the actual schematics for the system…but this should provide you with an excellent starting point…’ Yergi was hoping this would all be over soon. ‘So, in regards to my payment–‘”

You can practically hear the dun-dun-DUN with this next part. πŸ™‚

“‘Did you bring your passport, as I requested?’ Zimler responded.

Despite the cool morning Bucharest breeze flowing into the room, the Romanian was nevertheless starting to feel the first signs of sweat beading on his forehead.

‘I need to verify you are who you say you are,’ Zimler continued.”

Suuuuuuure, Zimler. The foreshadowing is getting so thick you could cut it with a knife. At this point he’s basically toying with Banica.

“‘You haven’t been to America then?’

The already uncomfortable professor now added confusion to his growing list of anxieties.

‘No, why?’

‘I was hoping you could tell me a little something about any experiences you might have had there. I plan on going there myself someday.’ Zimler smiled, handed the passport back, and turned toward the balcony.”

At least for Canadians, I know Customs officials don’t always bother stamping passports because too many of us go over the US border on any given day. It’s just barely possible Banica didn’t need a visa to enter and the Customs official didn’t bother stamping his passport, but the basic point is that the info in his passport would have told Zimler without an inquiry, because it’s highly unlikely a non-North American from the former Eastern Bloc would have been able to get such trouble-free access into the US.

Aside: Banica’s a sleazebag in other areas, too. He’s not above trading favors with students, apparently:

“Yergi, of course, was already familiar with the view. In fact, he had taken Elena to the restaurant located on the same floor of this very hotel on their first date. He’d wanted to impress her, and it had obviously done the trick. What she didn’t know was that Yergi had a student who worked at the restaurant who had offered up a free meal in exchange for a passing grade.”

Considering a free meal at an expensive restaurant could run, let’s say, 50 Euros, that’s a pretty cheap price to pay for a guaranteed grade. That being said this implies he probably did other unsavory transactions with students in exchange for passing grades. Wonder what Elena would have thought of that.

But, that being said, even penny-ante sleazebags, falling for the oldest trick in the book, don’t deserve to get murdered:

“Then Zimler added something unexpected: ‘Oh, look over there, is that your car…being towed?’

Yergi scurried toward the open doors and glanced in the direction of the street on the north side of the square.”

*rolls eyes* C’mon, don’t fall for this…!

Alas, it’s too late. Zimler, behind Banica, offs him. I’ll spare the details of that but it’s sufficient to say, R.I.P. Yergi Banica, minor sleazebag with delusions of grandeur.

Taking things back up in the aftermath, we see that Zimler’s obviously done this sort of thing before.

“The assassin calmly rose to his feet, brushed off his wrinkled linen pants, straightened his silk shirt, wound the cord in a loop, and placed it back in his pocket. He then plucked the passport from the Romanian’s hand and grabbed the satchel from the table.

Again, making sure the hallways were clear, Zimler hooked the Do Not Disturb sign around the doorknob before closing the door firmly behind him with his latex-protected hand.”

And with that, he’s off to draw a bead on Mr. Joshua Jordan.

“Quickly returning to his own room, Zimler stripped off his shirt, pants, and shoes and shoved them into a plastic bag, which he then stuffed into his Louis Vuitton suitcase. He dressed in another set of clothes and headed downstairs to the lobby to check out.

‘Pleasant visit?’ the hotel clerk inquired in a thick Romanian accent.

‘Very,’ Zimler responded, smiling broadly.

The assassin calmly walked out of the hotel and down the street. In an alley three blocks away, behind the Calea Grivitei, he slipped the plastic bag from his suitcase and placed it in a trash dumpster just as a garbage truck turned onto the street for its weekly pickup.”

After, of course, disposing of the evidence of his crime. We’ll find out later that leaving a dead body with obvious signs of strangulation is still a bad idea, even if one has worn latex gloves and been reasonably careful to avoid leaving hair or skin cells at the scene of the crime.

Chapter fifteen brings us to the White House.

EoA: Espionage in Romania

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 63-68 (Chapter Thirteen)

Having moved to Bucharest, Romania, we meet Atta Zimler. We’ll be seeing more of him throughout the book, but let’s find out about this man:

“Wrapped in a luxuriant hotel robe, Zimler sipped his Turkish espresso and contemplated the upcoming day’s events. He wiped his mouth with his napkin as he ran through the checklist in his head.”

I find this rather amusing, given that Left Behind has been criticized for trying to fit literature to a “checklist” laid out by LaHaye’s theory of the Rapture and Revelation.

But moving on.. πŸ™‚

“He’d always been a careful man, organized, some might even say obsessively meticulous. He knew the outcome of each of his actions in advance, along with the potential reactions of those around him, and he planned for every possible scenario. He credited this preparation for his ongoing success in his chosen line of work–preparation, and a total lack of emotion. Had anyone else been in the room, they would not have been able to discern from his calm demeanor that he was in the process of formulating the minute details of the murder he would soon carry out.

Turning back to the room, he set his cup on the dining room table, removed his robe, and folded it neatly over the chair. Clad only in his undergarments, he lowered himself onto the Oriental rug and began his daily rapid-fire routine of fifty push-ups, fifty sit-ups, and as many leg raises as he felt were needed. By the end of the workout he was breathing heavily, though not exhausted in the least.

For years he had trained his body far beyond the capacity of most human beings. He had mastered karate, judo, and aikido. His strength was not obvious, not like those American bodybuilders and football players. But that was what served him. He was stronger than most athletes, yet on the street, he looked like everyone else. He had accepted that most people were either too stupid or too self-involved even to notice him.”

This all pretty much shouts “secret agent of some kind”. Given his name and nationality we may fairly assume he’s to be the terrorist in this book. At least one of the ghostwritten Ludlum books had the imaginativeness to feature a Serb terrorist.

If there was any doubt as to his connection to the RTS-RGS system, it’s pretty much wiped away in this dialog:

“The phone rang. A male voice on the other end was direct and emotionless.

‘Is this the Algerian?’

‘Who is calling?’ Zimler countered while simultaneously fastening the last button on his shirt.

‘I am calling on behalf of someone who has a serious problem.’

‘Oh?’

‘His mail keeps getting returned…’

‘Sounds like he has a bad mailman.’

‘Yes,’ the voice responded. ‘A very bad mailman. The mailman needs to be eliminated.’

‘Is that what you are really after?’ Zimler asked. ‘The mailman?’

‘Well…the bigger problem lies in the delivery system.'”

Gotta say, this is way ahead of “the flowers are in the trash” for a coded message*. The conversation goes on to establish that whoever’s paying him wants the technology ASAP. We now see some cloak and dagger stuff:

“Twenty five minutes later, the Algerian rode the hotel’s mirrored elevator down two flights to the fourth floor. He waited until the hallways were clear before making his way to room 417, which he knew was unoccupied. From his right pants pocket he pulled out a pair of latex gloves and put them on. From his left pocket he took out a magnetic programming device, similar in size to a standard deck of playing cards. Zimler then extracted a blank hotel room card key from the magnetic box and inserted it into the room’s door lock.”

He slips into the room and waits. And who might he be waiting for, you ask?

“Yergi Banica was clearly nervous–and it wasn’t simply because he was running a few minutes late. Having already parked his car on the north side of the Piata Revolutiei as instructed, he quickly made his way across the square toward the hotel. His mind was on euros–ten thousand of them to be exact. His job, teaching political science at the Romanian University of Craiova, paid little, barely enough for him to get by in his small apartment with his much younger new wife. Personally, he didn’t mind the close quarters, but he knew Elena aspired to better things.”

And how might he have gotten into this situation?

Well, anyone who’s read any spy thrillers at all, or for that matter, read any books by former KGB agents (e.g. Oleg Kalugin, Stanislav Levchenko, etc) knows of variants on this acronym: MICE.

Money, Ideology, Compromise, and Ego. Getting a sleeper agent (or a freelance agent, if you will) working for your intelligence agency usually involves one or more of the four things listed.

In this case, Mr. Banica wants money. I would suggest some ego involved too, as we’ll see below:

“A year earlier, Yergi had been approached by a Russian student in one of his political science classes. The student was friendly, bright, and engaged in his studies, but that was just a ruse. In reality, the young man wanted to know if the professor would be interested in earning a little extra money. All Yergi would have to do is slip him some details about the political persuasions of some of the more radical professors and wealthy students on campus. Yergi was old enough to have lived through the KGB and their successor, the secret Russian Federal Security Bureau. So he knew what they were asking of him; to be their informant. He really wouldn’t be hurting anyone, he rationalized, just passing along little innocent bits of information. Besides, the extra money would come in handy.”

If Banica is a Romanian, technically he “lived through the Securitate”, but he could have been Moldovan and moved over to Romania after 1989. They do speak the same language for all intents and purposes, so not unreasonable to assume, though hardly germane to the present discussion.

As an unintentional side effect, this new arrangement actually brought Yergi a newfound sense of confidence. Always trying to impress his wife’s younger friends, he’d let it slip a few times after several drinks that he was a man who knew things, a man with connections. He might have even jokingly referred to himself as a spy. Yes, he even privately entertained the idea he was an Eastern block [sic] equivalent of James Bond.”

Ok. That last paragraph right there? I’m wincing right now at this man’s stupidity. I’m no spy expert at all, but goodness gracious, why bring attention on yourself by being a braggart? Five’ll get you ten if the FSB ever heard about it they’d be shopping for a new information source posthaste.

And maybe eradicating the old one, just for insurance.

“Then he became more practical. The Algerian was offering twenty thousand euros for the information, half now, half upon delivery. It was more than enough money for him and Elena to move away and start a new life together somewhere else. So he turned to the young FSB agent he’d been working with and offered him a deal–to exchange half of his upfront payment for any information that could be found pertaining to the American, Joshua Jordan. But did the young FSB agent have access to that? He said he would see what he could turn up.

A week later Yergi received a copy of the FSB’s comprehensive dossier, which included pictures, biographies, personal data, and all manner of classified details on the American in question.

[…]

After all, the man had already paid ten thousand euros in advance, half of which was secure in Yergi’s small apartment near the university. And he was moments away from being handed another ten thousand. Yes, the transaction would go smoothly. He had exactly what the Algerian wanted.”

And we discover why this Mr. Banica fellow is here at all. But will the Algerian actually pay him off? We’ll see next chapter.


* Or “the fist is in the nostril”. πŸ˜›

EoA: Battle of Wills

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 58-62 (Chapter Twelve)

Now we move into the phase where Joshua, having established that he doesn’t trust the Congressional committee, now has his innings with Senator Straworth:

“‘Mr. Jordan,’ Senator Straworth smiled as he began grilling Joshua, ‘you just said you have a concern about your RTS technology getting into the wrong hands. Correct?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And who exactly do you think of as the ‘wrong hands’?’

‘I think the wrong hands are anyone outside of the United States.'”

Joshua goes on to establish that while he would advocate giving the technology to the US’s allies, he would not give them the fundamental design documents.

He then goes on to establish some of the logical consequences of deploying the RTS-RGS system:

“‘This isn’t just another weapons system we can sell to the highest bidder. This system–my system–can alter the nuclear balance for the better of our country, for the better of the world, but only if we maintain strict control over it. Imagine if every missile, any missile, fired at us could be turned back on itself. With my Return-to-Sender system, there is a probable certainty that any missile attack by a rogue nation would result in their own self-destruction. So the threat of a nuclear missile attack on our country or our allies drops to almost nothing.'”

Nitpick: “Probable certainty”? Sounds like an oxymoron to me. Kinda like “corporate ethics”. But anyway…

“‘Just as when we put nuclear weapons into Western Europe to deter the Soviet menace in the 1980s, we did not turn over our nuclear arsenal to the Europeans, even though they were our allies. That way we could assure the world the weapons wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.’

‘And I am here to assure you, Mr. Jordan,’ said Senator Straworth, ‘that we have the same concern today.’

‘That’s good to know.’ Joshua relaxed. This was easier than he thought.

‘But I think you have things turned around, Mr. Jordan.’

‘Oh?’

‘Yes,’ the senator said, his voice now building in intensity. ‘You see, protecting military secrets, with all due respect, is not the province of some private businessman like yourself. It is the province of the United States government. That’s our job. Not yours.'”

Now, watch this:

“‘I think you’re forgetting something,’ Joshua said.

‘And what’s that?’

‘I’m part of the United States government. Not because I work for the Pentagon, but because I’m an American citizen. I’m part of ‘we the people’ in the Preamble to the Constitution. In that respect, Senator, I guess you could say that you work for me…and for all of us.'”

OOH SNAP!

You really showed ‘im there, Joshy-boy.

Let’s review why the US Government exists: it is the duly constituted authority, which exists by consent of the governed in the domain of the United States of America. To the extent that Jordan is correct, it is that the Senator can be removed by a vote in an election and it is for this reason that he is responsible to the people.

However, since the authority to regulate the state of affairs under national aegis derives from the Constitutional validity of the US Government and its creations, Joshua Jordan is indeed subject to the oversight committee’s authority and they can validly request those documents.

The Senator goes on to make basically this point. It’s only because he’s already been tagged as the baddie who wants to make Joshua’s life miserable that we’re not supposed to root for him, or to at least acknowledge that he has a valid point.

“Straworth could now see that the gloves had come off.

‘That’s right, Mr. Jordan, that’s right. I do work for you. I was elected by Americans just like you and put into a position of authority to make the tough decisions that affect my country’s security. That is the job I’ve been given by the people of this country. That’s not the job you have been given, sir.'”

Now the boxing match, as it were, moves into the second round, with the fighters moving in up close and personal to exchange blows.

“The senator’s face was turning crimson, and he was just getting started. His voice boomed out. ‘There’s a certain hubris, sir, in your refusal to produce your documents on this project, an arrogance in your taking it upon yourself to decide when and how military secrets ought to be shared with the United States Congress. An attitude that, quite honestly, I find shocking, and dare I say it–unpatriotic–‘

Harry Smythe leaped forward to his microphone before Joshua could get to his. ‘Sir, there’s no need to impugn the patriotism of my client.’ The lawyer held his hand over Joshua’s mic to make sure his client didn’t start cursing.

Straworth continued, ‘It is precisely because of your previous record of patriotism and service to this country that I find it particularly puzzling why you won’t comply with a simple request from your government–‘”

I find it particularly hilarious that a Democratic senator is the one in this book to use the same rhetorical low blow as a zillion Republican politicians have used since time immemoral: attack the other person’s patriotism.

Of course, this is really LaHaye and Parshall projecting onto their opponents the tactics they themselves have used, or have seen to be used, with effectiveness by their political allies.

“Joshua had heard enough. He ripped his lawyer’s hand off his mic. ‘Because I don’t want to give a single piece of technology that could save our country to the very people who are trying to destroy it!’

Senator Straworth sat back, like a spider watching his prey fly straight into his web. He smiled, then leaned forward again. ‘Do you mean the United Nations and the signers of the Six-Party Missile-Defense Treaty?’ intoned Straworth.”

The discussion goes on to establish that merely because of the treaty, Russia and China are the US’s “allies”, never mind that treaties have been, and will almost certainly continue to be, concluded both among allies, neutrals, and even active belligerents.

The United States and the Soviet Union were not made allies to one another simply because they ratified the SALT treaty.

There are numerous other examples of such cases where the mere existence of a treaty did not constitute an alliance.

But in LaHaye’s and Parshall’s world, signing a treaty mutually pledging (as near as I can guess) to not use missile defence shields or to strictly regulate their use automatically makes all the signatories allies to one another.

“‘[Russia and China] are our allies, Mr. Jordan,’ said Straworth, now clearly enjoying himself.

‘That’s right,’ said Joshua, ‘but only because we need oil from one and owe trillions of dollars to the other.’

‘So we should just throw out all our alliances because of an injured sense of pride?’ the senator said, toying with him now. ‘So who can we trust in this world then?'”

And now, once again, we see what a diva Joshua can be like, and how unnecessarily provocative he can be even though he knows the Senator has it in for him (assuming we ignore the fact that Senator Straworth is simply the foil against which Joshua can show off how justified and righteous he is).

“‘That is the question, isn’t it, Senator?’ Now it was time for Joshua to fight back. ‘Who can we trust?’ He turned to his lawyer. ‘I can trust Harry here because I know he’s taken an oath; if he repeats anything I tell him in confidence, he could lose his law license, maybe even go to jail. I trust my wife because I know she loves me and would never betray me. I trust the Constitution because I know it has the greater good of our country at its heart.’

He paused for a second, thinking carefully before going on. ‘But the question is, who can I trust in this room … Truth is, I just can’t come up with a satisfactory answer to that question.'”

OOH, BUUUUUURN!

Straworth goes on to threaten a contempt citation, and then threatens a full subpoena of him and his relevant documentation on the RTS project.

Joshua rounds out the chapter with this sermon/foreshadowing/warning:

“‘I’ll tell you what I find to be an outrage and a crime,’ Jordan spoke calmly. ‘But, Senator, it has nothing to do with this committee. What it has to do with is the fact that out there, right now, in terrorist cells, in dark rooms, in rogue nations, and in the palaces of dictators and international drug lords, there are men who are willing to do absolutely anything to get their hands on my technology.’

Joshua had one more word on the subject. He spit it out like a bit of rotten apple.

Anything…'”

It’s a total non sequitur, but it sets the stage for some actually half-decent subplots in this book. But let’s get back to his statement. If it has nothing to do with the committee, why is he making reference to all these folks who want to get their mitts on classified technology?

The conclusion is that he’s subtly claiming that at least one member of that committee could be suborned to the ebil terrists, never mind that it’s very likely the FBI and CIA keep track of domestic and foreign contacts made to Congresscritters and Senators – in particular, the members on intelligence and military oversight committees.

Now, we will find that Chapter Thirteen takes us to a very familiar part of the world in LaHaye-ville. That’s right, folks – stay tuned for Ro-MANIA! (Sadly, however, Nicolae Mountain-of-many-names will not make an appearance)