Picturing the EoA Characters

While thinking about the cast of characters that is the Jordan family, I thought I’d start finding people who best fit my mental image of the characters. Feel free to comment with your own links to pictures. 🙂

First up is Harry Treadaway who I think does a good Cal. His appearance in City of Ember also could be considered Cal-like, though in the film I do believe he wore contacts so as to have brown eyes instead of blue.

Next up is Blake Lively for Deborah. The book has her having a feminized version of Josh’s “strong jaw” etc. I originally ran across her picture rather by accident but she seemed to fit. Another picture of her can be seen, and Google’s image gallery should show you a few as well.

Josh Jordan. Well, there’s George Clooney, or maybe even Keanu Reeves (KR is 46 years old!).

Abigail. This was one of the hardest to think about because not only do I need to find an image of a woman who has something of the same facial structure as Cal and Deborah, but who can feel like the emotionally manipulative mother we see in the “Love Bombing” analysis section. In terms of appearance, Diane Lane would seem to fit, or Courteney Cox, but neither seems to really carry the air of Abigail Jordan.

What are your thoughts? Who best conveys the mental images you have of the Jordan family, both in canon and in fanon? Who conveys Cal’s sensitivity, self-doubt and inner turmoil; Deborah’s odd ability to ignore that her brother isn’t with her at Colorado, but who can be “like a rock” for Cal when needed; Abigail’s mix of duplicitousness (think of how she defended Cal to Josh even as she broke a confidence, as well as her ability to verbally browbeat Cal) and wifely-submissiveness; and Joshua’s ability to see his family only as extensions of himself, as well as his unashamed prima-donna nature?

Let us all know. 🙂

EoA Fan Fiction: Aftermath

Here’s another set of vignettes in the saga of Cal Jordan’s life, this time entirely as seen through Deborah’s eyes.

~~~~~

Warnings: None.

– * –

The drive back from New York to the exclusive prep school in Connecticut was only marginally less uncomfortable than that late-night drive to the penthouse condo in New York City. Cal sat sullenly in the back seat with Deborah. Most of the way he was looking out the window with a melancholy expression.

Mom and Dad talked to each other in low voices, but didn’t bring Deborah or Cal into the conversation. For her part, Deborah wished she could get Cal alone and make sure he was okay. She chewed her thumbnail, kicking herself for not trying to tell Cal beforehand what she was going to do. It wasn’t fair to him and she had to make it right.

She checked her watch and looked out the window again. Was that the spire of the school’s church in the distance? She squinted. Yes, it was! That meant only ten more minutes of this agonizing drive.

After they all piled out of the car, Deborah hugged Mom and then lightly hugged Dad, finishing with a firm handshake, provoking a small grin from him.

Cal reluctantly hugged Mom, and then exchanged the briefest of glances and handshakes with Dad.

“Now, remember, son. We’re counting on you.” With those parting words, Dad escorted Mom back to the car.

Cal snorted and dragged his suitcase back to the residence hall, Deborah bringing up the rear. Outside the boy’s hall, Cal swallowed and locked eyes with Deborah. He half-heartedly smiled; her heart went out to him and she reached out, touching his arm briefly. “I’ll see you at the Quad tomorrow after classes. Promise.”

Cal nodded jerkily and rushed inside the boy’s hall. Deborah made her way back to the girl’s hall and breathed a sigh of relief when she finally let her bag fall to the floor in her room. Tricia, her roommate, looked up from her homework at her desk and said, “Rough weekend?”

Deborah laughed bitterly. “Does it show that much?”

“Debbie, you look like you had to go to a funeral.” Tricia’s hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, God. That was so rude of me. Did you really—?”

“No, no funeral,” said Deborah reassuringly. “Just… a family emergency.”

“But things are okay now, right?”

Deborah collapsed onto her bed and sprawled out, looking up at the ceiling. “I guess. Anyway, we’ve got classes tomorrow. I’m wiped out.”

Sleep came uneasily, and Deborah woke up the next morning wondering if the gnawing feeling at her insides was anything close to how Cal probably felt.

– * –

As promised, Deborah met Cal at the tree-lined Quadrangle. They sat on a bench, shaded by a tree, their backs to the afternoon sun. Cal clasped his hands and looked at the ground. She said, “Hey. Your day go okay?”

“I guess.”

Deborah leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. She said, “Oh, any trouble with whatshisname? Big sis’ll give him a piece of her mind.”

Cal’s face twitched. He mumbled, “Nah. Forget it, okay?”

“Your call. Algebra was a pain. Graphing polynomials and all that. How about your classes?”

Cal shrugged. “Fine, I guess. Look, I just want to get through it day by day right now.”

Gently, Deborah replied, “We don’t have to talk… not if you don’t want to. Is it okay if we just sit here for a while, then?”

Cal wordlessly pulled his English book out of his backpack and began reading it. Deborah rubbed her forehead, feeling suddenly tired. She desultorily began reading through her Chemistry book and making notes on the problem sets.

– * –

The early autumn days went by like this: sporadic conversation, followed by an hour or so of academic studies. Any questions Cal asked of her were strictly academically-related.

One day, though, the ice finally broke.

Normally Cal and Deborah sat a few feet away from each other on the bench, but today they had to both do review out of his science textbook because Deb’s biology teacher had warned students to bone up on the tenth-grade material for the upcoming quiz. So they were seated side by side, occasionally conferring over diagrams in the book. Deborah happened to look up and unbidden, her jaw dropped a fraction as Brad Rustiger, the school’s top basketball player, walked across the Quad in his uniform, obviously on his way to practice. Before she realized what she had done, she nudged Cal as though he were Tricia, and she pointed discreetly, saying, “Get a load of Brad, would you?!”

Deborah flushed as she realized who she said that to, but before she could apologize Cal looked back at her, his eyes wide. He whispered, “Whoa.”

They both broke up laughing at the same time, the absurdity of checking out guys with her own brother suddenly overwhelming Deborah as she struggled to breathe. Just as Cal managed to get his laughter under control, Deb let out a fresh gale of laughter, clinging to Cal’s shoulder for support.

After Deborah subsided, Cal grinned and said, “Thanks, Deb. I needed that. But try not to do that too much, huh? Checking out guys with you is sorta… weird.”

“Same here. Anyway, now I’ve completely lost my train of thought. Look, can I borrow your biology book tonight to study from? I can give it back tomorrow.”

Cal nodded. “Sure. I want to grab a drink from the cafeteria anyway. Seeya.”

Deborah waved, then packed up her backpack and headed for her dorm room.

– * –

AFter that, conversation seemed to flow more easily. On the next day, which was Saturday, Deborah said, “Cal? You remember the time we went out on Hallowe’en back in Colorado?”

“Wasn’t that the time I cut the holes in the wrong spot on the sheet and looked like a ghost with one eye and a mouth?”

Deborah nudged Cal’s shoulder saying, “Yeah! That was! I remember now. And I was a princess or something stupid like that. Anyway, you remember the really spooky sounds you heard at the end of the block which made you run all the way home?”

Cal shivered. “God, that was so freaky! I mean, I know it was probably someone making those noises– waaaait a minute!”

Deborah blushed and traced the wooden grain on the bench. “That was me. I’m sorry, Cal. I saw my friends up the street and I wanted to join them, and I thought it’d be cool to scare you.”

Cal smirked. “Hey, it’s okay. Remember the time you couldn’t find your bedsheets?”

Deborah gasped. She pointed and said, “That was you? Mom and I were going nuts trying to figure out how on Earth bedsheets go missing, and now I find out you were grinning your stupid head off about it.” She smacked the bench. “Okay, that’s it; we’re even.”

Cal smacked the bench in response. “We are so even!”

Deborah squinted. “Why do I suddenly get the feeling we’re both trying to make like we have halos on our heads?”

Cal affected a mock indignant pose. “And how dare you suggest we are anything but the fine upstanding Jordan siblings?”

She rolled her eyes. “We probably have enough blackmail material on each other to make anyone blush. All I have to do is tell someone about the time you actually sang ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ in the shower when Mom and Dad weren’t home.”

“Oh my God.” Cal put his hand to his forehead in embarrassment. “You heard that? Ugh. I was terrible!”

“You belted it out loud enough to give Elvis a run for his money. You’re lucky I was laughing too hard to run over and bang on the door.”

Cal’s face suddenly became very devious. “Hmmm… and how about if I mention that big sister still occasionally goes to bed with the Barney the dinosaur plushie doll from ten years ago?”

Deb’s jaw dropped in shock. “You did not just say that! I thought nobody knew about that!”

It was Cal’s turn to blush and look at the bench. “Actually, it was by accident. Mom made me go get some stupid makeup kit thing you’d borrowed from her; you weren’t home. Well, I noticed the Barney the dinosaur thing sticking out from under your bed.”

Chuckling, Deborah held out her hand. “Okay. Truce?”

Cal laughed. “Truce.” He shook her hand mock-solemnly, but didn’t release it. His face lost all trace of his humorous expression as he clasped her hand with both of his and said, “Deborah? You know I’d never really do that to you, right? What we know about each other stays between us. That’s for sure.”

She nodded and put her other hand on top of his. “I understand, Cal. And anything you say to me – I’ll keep it a secret. Even if you’ve, like, stolen a million dollars or something.”

Cal released her hands, saying, “If I had that much I’d cut you in for a share. Anyway, seriously, thanks for putting up with me.”

Deborah said, “I made a promise, Cal. I’m keeping it.” She stood up, stretching. “Now c’mon, let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving!”

Cal jumped up off the bench and said, “Right with ya. Let’s go!”

Deborah thought to herself, my brother’s back. Thank God for big favors.

EoA: Counselling and Treatment, RTC Style

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 131-137 (Chapter Twenty-Five)

Incidentally, Chapters One through Twenty-Five comprise the “Part One” arc of this book. To use a rather clichéd metaphor, this is where the opening moves of the chess game have been made. One may even think of this as being like a version of multiplayer chess in which the players do not yet know they are actually playing a more complicated game than at first glance.

The next three parts will carry us to the conclusion in which all the disparate plot threads come together, and set the stage for the next book.

Meanwhile, this chapter touches on a possibly delicate issue: drug addiction. This is why I have titled the chapter review “counselling, etc.” It’s a look at quite a few phenomena all packed into one chapter:

First, the people involved (Abigail, her friend) are well-off, if not actually wealthy. Having money and access to health insurance can, under certain circumstances, lead to being able to support a drug addiction that is perfectly legal. A rather prominent example of legal drug addiction is Rush Limbaugh’s addiction to oxycontin – commented upon by people as being particularly hypocritical given his use of Drug Warrior rhetoric for hoots and laughs on his TV and radio show. Because he is a right-wing celebrity as well as very wealthy, illegal acts he committed to obtain the oxycontin were, in the end, brushed under the carpet.

Similar gentility of treatment has often been afforded wealthy white people, even those addicted to illegal drugs. A person I was chatting with just recently mentioned that the high school they attended – which was in a well-off sector of the school district – had a sub rosa drug problem among its upper-middle-class student population, while the other school in the district, which was in the poorer sector, was stereotyped as being rife with drug problems when really, there was no such thing.

There are numerous social issues surrounding drug use and abuse, and the very real effect of differential treatment based on race and economic status is one that I think LaHaye and Parshall didn’t intend to raise, but the book portrays a wealthy white woman with a legal drug addiction and it certainly calls to mind all these extra complexities.

Second, the nature of the proposed treatment. I’m not comfortable, personally, with the idea of a religiously-themed treatment program for drug addiction, partly because of the way in which it is presented. Although LaHaye and Parshall may not realize it, one undercurrent of the proposed treatment, in effect, seems to me like switching from surrendering to a drug to surrendering to God.

I am not an expert in drug addiction treatment; however, I can’t help but feel that the above proposed mechanism is not healthy for the person being treated.

With all the above in mind, let’s begin looking at the chapter.

“Abigail had had to ask herself whether some dark secret might be lying just under the surface. She knew her friend Darlene well enough to know that she seemed to be carrying some great weight on her heart that morning as they drove together. While their husbands prepared for the first day of meetings of the clandestine Roundtable group, the two women had driven to Aspen for lunch. The idea had been Darlene’s.”

As we see, there is foreshadowing of the aforementioned issue above. Incidentally, the “great weight on her heart” smacks of Biblical-style language and is likely a reference which I don’t fully understand the context of.

Note also the gender roles: the men do all the heavy lifting while the women go off and do things that don’t tax their minds.

We get introduced to Darlene, and the village they’re in:

“Abigail was several years younger than the round-faced Darlene. The two had known each other for nearly a decade and had initially met through their husbands. Darlene was married to Judge Fortis Rice, a former Idaho State Supreme Court justice. He was a charter member of Joshua’s Roundtable.

As a longtime resident of Colorado, Abigail had traveled through that fashionably rustic little village more than a few times. She privately didn’t care for the celebrity-conscious, Beverly-Hills-of-the-Rockies atmosphere of the famous ski resort, which was home to a number of Hollywood stars and even a Saudi prince. But Darlene had never been there and wondered if they could go. Abigail said she would be happy to take her and agreed to do the driving. They would travel in the little yellow Jeep for the daytrip, the one that Darlene thought looked so cute, which the Jordans kept year-round at Hawk’s Nest.”

“Fortis”: there’s an interesting name. The word “fort” in French means “strong”, and as befits his name, he was a judge presumably cracking down on those lawbreakers unlike those wishy-washy liberal judges in San Francisco or whatever. “Darlene” is less obvious, but is derived from “darling”. Incidentally the name seems to have been popular as a baby name in the 1940s and 1950s, which, given that the book is set in the 2010s, would be consistent with Darlene and Fortis being an older, retired couple in their sixties.

I’m not sure if Judge Rice being from Idaho has any great significance, but it’s worth remembering that parts of Idaho have been hotbeds for virulently right-wing, anti-government organizations. For example, Ruby Ridge is located in that state.

And this book certainly plays neatly into the kind of belief system where the liberals have taken over and everybody’s freedom is in mortal danger.

I find Abigail’s faux-populistic reaction to be not credible regarding her views of Aspen. The lifestyle she and Joshua live is well-suited to the likes of Aspen, which has a Canadian counterpart in Whistler, BC. It’s exceedingly trendy as a location to ski in, exceedingly expensive as hell, and is more for the tourists than for the people who live there on a day to day basis.

Even the way in which the verb to Aspenize has entered the cultural lexicon is very suggestive of the cloistered, insular lifestyle that Joshua Jordan has created for himself: secluded penthouse apartment, “Hawk’s Nest” retreat, his private helicopter so he doesn’t have to use a car to get around, his private jet so he can go across the country if need be, and so on. Given that the trappings of success are freely bestowed on the Jordan husband and wife couple, it definitely jars when Abigail reacts the way a less wealthy person might to the way Aspen has evolved over the last thirty or so years.

I find it curious that Abigail is the one to show Darlene around, who “had never been there”. It’s almost as though being associated with the Jordans is like being introduced to the exclusive lifestyle they lead.

“As they sat down together at the crowded outdoor cafe for lunch, Abigail wondered if Darlene may have arranged their day together so she could open up about whatever it was that had her in its grasp.”

Literary nitpick again: I dislike the use of ‘may’ in the literary past tense. ‘Might’ would be better-suited.

“But Darlene wasn’t ready just yet. Instead, she was busy cracking jokes about the Aspen society: the trendy Labradoodle mix of designer dogs being walked past their table by the locals, and the wealthy chic women wearing artfully ripped blue-jeans and eight-carat diamonds strolling by and swinging their Prada bags.”

Note how LaHaye and Parshall use this to show the audience the eccentric-bizarre things rich people do, provoking both sneaking envy and that tsk-tsk-y feeling. It’s kind of like saying you can get close to Sodom and Gomorrah and take a good look at what they get up to, but don’t dare join them because at any moment it will be destroyed to make way for righteousness.

They order lunch and have some chit-chat, but eventually get down to the real issue:

“‘We don’t see each other but, what, maybe twice a year on average. And lots of phone calls in between, of course…’

Abigail smiled at that.

‘I feel I can really share anything with you…’

Now Abigail was waiting.

But then Darlene suddenly darted off course. ‘You look so fit, Abby. You must still be jogging?’

‘I try to. Our schedules have become impossible lately. It’s hard to stick to the routine with everything that’s going on…’

‘I know. Fort and I have been following how the media has been going after poor Josh over this missile crisis. What a mess this country’s in.’

Abigail nodded and smiled, but she knew Darlene was just dancing around the issue now, whatever it was.”

Note that no wife of Josh’s must in any way be less than perfect. Naturally.

But we’re getting close, now. Keep reading:

“‘I bet there’s been a lot of pressure on the two of you,’ Darlene continued.

‘There has been. But funny enough, I feel so close to Josh lately, despite the tension and stress.’

‘Hmm, stress…’ Darlene repeated the word with almost a kind of whimper.

‘But on the other hand, I know of so many other folks who have it much harder than we do,’ Abigail offered with a gentleness in her voice that unexpectedly caught her friend off guard. Darlene quickly covered her mouth with her hand as her eyes began to fill up. It took nearly a minute before she could collect herself and respond. When she did, her voice was noticeably trembling.”

That sentence of Abigail’s just doesn’t ring true for me, somehow. Her sympathetic statement about ‘other folks’ who ‘have it much harder than we do’ just jars harshly against what she did to her son a few chapters ago. For a woman who is supposed to be kind and gentle, she has proven willing to go behind her son’s back and manipulate her son in the name of love. I can’t help but wonder how deliberate her word-choices and phrasings are on a day to day basis, especially as Cal has openly complained that she has maneuvered him in this manner before.

Anyway, to switch gears for a second, I’d like to segue into another issue this chapter touches on which called to mind some rather shocking news I’ve read on occasion in the local newspapers:

“‘I will never forget how you helped me through Jimmy’s death. It’s one of those things that a mother doesn’t ever let go of. So many questions. How could my perfectly healthy twenty-five-year-old die like that from an aneurism? No warning. No symptoms. A call from his friend … they were playing basketball at the Y. ‘Jimmy collapsed,’ he said. Your whole life changes in an instant. From one phone call.'”

This kind of premature death I have been reading in the local papers over the last few years involves the sudden onset of a cluster of stories in which the basic theme is horribly similar: a teenager with no health problems who plays sports regularly suddenly dies while playing  a game, sometimes after being struck in the chest with a hockey puck, soccer ball or the like. The issue is documented by a sports-medicine doctor who insists it’s something people need to take seriously.

I can only imagine how their families must feel; young people barely into their lives die from utterly unpredictable causes, and nothing could have been done to stop it short of forbidding them to play any sports (which is unrealistic; some people enjoy active lifestyles and sports are  a component of that).

Darlene and Fortis are clearly feeling the ongoing effects from that incident (italics in the original text):

“‘I tried to talk with Fort about it. But you know him; he sort of retreats into himself. I don’t blame him. It’s just the way he is. I know he was devastated. I still wonder whether all of that contributed to his heart problems. And ever since he had to retire from the bench it’s been … well … interesting at home, and not in a good way.'”

That kind of makes me go O_O and I hope it doesn’t mean what I think it means.

But now we get to the moment of truth:

“Then, abruptly, [Darlene] sat straight up and began looking around. ‘Where is it? Where’s my purse?’

There was a look of panic on Darlene’s face.

Abigail spotted it under her chair and reached down to pluck it up. Darlene thrust her hand over the table to grab the purse. As she did she inadvertently knocked her purse out of Abigail’s hand and down onto the table where the contents spilled out.

Including a dozen prescription pill bottles.

Abigail picked up one of the bottles. Then another. And another. They all read Diazepam.

Abigail recognized what it was.

‘These are all valium…’

Darlene reached out to grab them and stuff them back in her purse. She was trying to look unruffled. But it wasn’t working. Her hands were trembling, and she accidentally dropped several of the pill bottles on the floor once again. Abigail quietly helped her pick them up and placed them on the table.”

Valium, being a perfectly legal drug, nonetheless has potentially addictive properties, and so should be used carefully. We’ll see in a moment how Darlene is abusing Valium; the “why” is the sudden death of her son.

“Finally she summoned the strength to speak. ‘Okay, Abby. Now you know. My nasty little secret. This is how I cope.’

‘That’s a lot of valium, Darley…’

Darlene nodded. ‘I have three different doctors. In three different cities. All of them prescribing. I don’t think they know about each other. Although two of them know about Fort, and because of who he is, they don’t ask a lot of questions. So I triple-dose. I’m using this to exist, Abigail.'”

It gets pretty heavy here. Darlene, barely avoiding breaking down, goes on to admit that she has tried to quit, but remarks that she feels extreme fear and anxiety when she attempts it. Abigail and Darlene suspect Fortis may be using something too, but Darlene is not sure.

Abigail discusses what Darlene’s options are:

“‘I don’t know. Maybe you’ve got some advice. I’ve run out of answers. I’m just surviving from one minute to the next. Just barely.’

‘Look, I’m glad you confided in me. I’m no expert. But I know a little about addiction. Back when I was practicing law full-time I had a few clients dealing with similar issues. And I know enough to know that your willingness to admit you’ve got a problem is the first big step.’

‘That’s good to hear…’

‘The next step is to find a place that is discreet, where counselors can help you to kick this thing. I can help you look for a good rehab center.’

Darlene was weeping gently.

Abigail continued, ‘You’re also going to have to talk to Fort about this…’

‘Abby, he’s going to be devastated…’

‘But he loves you, Darley. I’m sure he’ll support you. But there’s one more thing, an even more important step…'”

I honestly am not sure about whether or not total honesty between a long-term couple regarding drug addiction is necessarily good without taking timing into account. Eventually, yes, it should be shared, but I’m getting the feeling that if Fortis is having problems he’s going to need to see someone as well and I don’t see that being pointed out by Abigail.

And now Abigail segues into the RTC part of the prescriptive method of drug addiction treatment:

“She then looked up at Abigail through her tears and asked, ‘An even more important step? Like what?’

‘You said it yourself.’

‘I did?’

‘Yes. When you said the words God help me … I believe He can and He will. If you let Him. God’s in the business of fixing people.’

Darlene’s face relaxed into a mildly surprised look. As if she had just been told something she assumed she had known all along but now realized she had never really thought about.”

(To clarify: the “God help me” phrase was in a part I did not reprint here)

As I mentioned above, I’m not sure Abigail’s advice regarding religiously motivated “additional help” is useful or warranted and I can’t help but feel she’s taking advantage of a friend’s desperate straits, even if Abby doesn’t realize that’s what she’s doing.

She may very well know what she’s doing, given that one part of the RTC calculus vis-a-vis non-Christians is that every opportunity is an opportunity to proselytize, because the truth MUST be spread far and wide else all people shall be sent forever to Hell to burn without end.

This lack of compassion for those who sin is why, when I was younger, I think I was particularly attracted to the idea proposed by the WWCOG that Hell is not a place of everlasting torment and that people who are not redeemed would simply cease to exist upon being judged at the Second Coming, because at that time it struck me as a lot more kindly to not keep people around burning forever as that seemed particularly nasty to me*.

Doctrinal stuff aside, even today I still feel that the RTC-emphasis on people who burn forever is a rather unattractive trait of that branch of Christianity. As readers of Fred Clark’s blog will know, the appellation “TurboJesus” has entered the lexicon over there, and refers to the kind of Fuck-You-Sinners attitude the books take on, particularly when TurboJesus drags Leon Fortunato and Nicolae Carpathia back out of Hell to mock them some more and dump them right back in even though they’re really really really really very sorry.

Even assuming Carpathia is unredeemable, for Pete’s sake, put Leon out of his misery! Vaporize his ass or something, he’s spent the last how many centuries learning how very bad he was and there’s really no point to eternal torment for him except sheer sadism.

Before I move too far off topic, I should stop here and say that since Part One is ended I might detour some more and write a couple more fanfiction snippets. 🙂 Then on to Part Two.


* Even so there’s obvious moral and ethical issues with exterminating everyone who doesn’t fill the bill of “righteous and repentant person”, so it’s a question of difference in degree, not difference in kind, I think.

EoA: Bizarro Media Land

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 124-130 (Chapter Twenty-Four)

In the bizarro world of LaHaye and Parshall’s writing, the same dishonest tactics used by the conservative right-wing propaganda mills media such as Fox News are, they believe, used by the dominant liberal media in this book. So let’s start by looking at their idea of what the liberal version of the No Spin Zone would be, or perhaps (as Al Franken mockingly puts it) Hannity and Colmes. (In fact most conservatives online call it the Sean Hannity show and basically ignore the token liberal punching bag Colmes, who Sean Hannity uses as his foil to “prove” how easy it is to steamroller those weak-assed liberals who don’t know anything.)

“Matt Christensen was trying hard to keep it together. With eighteen minutes of airtime still remaining, he knew he’d better get some control back. As the long-running host of Crisis Point, a talking-heads television/web simulcast, it was his job to help push the agenda forward while giving the impression that he was unbiased. And he was good at it. That’s why he got paid the big bucks.”

Kind of like how Bill O’Reilly claims he’s the unbiased No Spin Zone guy, but in actual fact, as Franken has documented, he has bullied people who present opposing viewpoints and has cut off their microphones, et cetera.

For even more egregious examples, Rush Limbaugh has presented himself as a “comedian”, but has deliberately blamed everybody but himself for gaffes and faux pases, both accidental and deliberate. One of his most famous was the White House Dog incident in which he refused to accept responsibility (funny, that, how he demands it from everybody else around him but hypocritically escapes it whenever possible for himself) for showing a picture of Chelsea Clinton even as he got the HAW HAW HAW YUK YUK YUK roar of laughter from the audience for his Clinton-bashing.

Or, for that matter, for a time, he would purposely play the sound of a vacuum cleaner over people who tried to protest his anti-abortion stance. Reaching even further back, he would mockingly read out the list of people who died from AIDS on his radio show in California.

Now, at least true to stereotype the “liberal” version of all this in Edge of Apocalypse doesn’t sink to such lows as grossly unacceptable personal slurs on politicians or minorities, but still it’s a rather illuminating look at what LaHaye and Parshall (and thus, their intended audence) fantasize the media to really be like in the United States of America.

“Last week’s show had gone smoothly. The truckers had been marginalized exactly as the White House had wanted. Both of Matt’s guests, a leftwing journalist and a liberal strategist, had, of course, been personally handpicked by Corland’s press secretary. And the resulting program had served its purpose. But the ratings, along with the program itself, had been lackluster. There was no conflict. No reason to watch.

Today’s show, however, was proving to be a different story altogether. Inside the Global News Network’s New York studio, a verbal free-for-all had erupted. And while these types of scuffles could increase viewer numbers and ad revenue, if the agenda suffered, heads would roll. The same reliable guests from the previous week had already been booked. So the show’s new exec, to spice things up a bit, decided to add a third guest to the mix. It would be his first and last mistake.

Matt had tried to discourage this young new producer from booking Patrick Forester because Patrick was … well, he was articulate. And he could hold his own under pressure. Despite a barrage of interruptions and constant ridicule from his opponents, the conservative strategist was able to fire off a couple of key points, even though he was outnumbered by a margin of two-to-one–three-to-one, if you counted Matt.”

The fact that they believe in the embattled-conservative mentality is quite interesting. In real life it has taken people like James Carville to make any liberal headway in the 1990s media and even he bowed out not long after Clinton left his job.

The chapter moves into discussing worldwide current events, such as the RTS-RGS swap-for-money-and-oil idea:

“‘Fifty-eight percent of the American people feel that Secretary of State Danburg’s speech at the Davos peace conference went too far,’ Patrick announced. ‘They believe that America shouldn’t be so quick to trade our RTS weapons technology with other countries. Fifty-eight percent! And that’s using your own poll numbers! I imagine the numbers are in reality quite a bit higher.’

Michael Kaufman, the journalist, shot back. ‘Whoa, hold on! So now you’re claiming the polls are rigged?’

‘The parent company that owns the very news service you work for, Mike, conducted the poll. And everybody knows you guys are nothing but a mouthpiece for the Corland administration. You guys wouldn’t know how to conduct an unbiased poll if it snuck up behind you and bit you on–‘”

Considering that Fox News has widely been derided as the trumpet section for the Bush White House and that they have been regularly accused of slanting news and polling coverage, I find it extremely bizarre to keep looking at this fun-house-mirror distorted version of our own world.

Skipping ahead a bit, the pundits move to debating the ramifications of the North Korean attack:

“But Patrick charged ahead like a bull pushing his way through the noise. ‘The Pentagon has confirmed that the North Koreans were the ones who launched two nuclear missiles. And it was good ol’ American technology that was able to turn them around and send them back. The studio we’re sitting in right now, along with many New Yorkers viewing this program, wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for the RTS system.’

‘That may be true,’ the journalist responded, ‘but the administration has released a statement to the Special Select Congressional Committee investigating this incident, stating that President Corland did not authorize the use of RTS during the crisis. His understanding was that our air-defense people at NORAD and NEADS would be taking those missiles down with conventional airborne intercepts.’

But Patrick had an answer for that too. ‘If you recall, Mike, there wasn’t enough time for that.’

‘Nevertheless, without notifying the White House and Congress, a defense contractor took the matter into his own hands. Now this same defense contractor is refusing to cooperate with Congress,’ Kaufman continued. ‘He’s stonewalling. The American government has a right to know exactly how this system operates.'”

Let’s stop and try to tie some things together so as to understand what LaHaye and Parshall are constructing in terms of a plot. It has already been established that a leak from the oversight committee investigating the use of RTS-RGS has caused the media to start portraying Josh Jordan as a man out for his own wallet rather than a Real True Patriot. Given that in the novel, the US Government is actually the agency claimed to be trying to go for the high bidder, the intention is to show that those wascally politicians over in the White House are trying to throw Jordan to the wolves and are manipulating the media to further that objective by lying about who gave authorization to use RTS-RGS (I’m pretty sure the President would have had to be notified that the Pentagon was considering throwing this experimental system into play as a last-ditch effort).

Thus, Josh Jordan will be an innocent victim of those nasty venal politicians who doth protest too much about his motives, as we see below:

“‘The only reason this administration wants to know is so they can sell the technology to other countries, as Secretary Danburg so eloquently announced during his speech at Davos–‘

‘Hey, nobody said anything about selling anything, Patrick!’ the liberal strategist shouted. ‘If anybody’s trying to make money, it’s your buddy Joshua Jordan, who’s obviously holding out for the highest bidder–‘”

There is a very good point made in the next paragraph but LaHaye and Parshall slide pretty quickly past it (bold mine):

“‘Okay, guys, come on,’ the host interrupted. ‘Let’s take a deep breath. This is a good time to take a break. When we come back, I want to talk about the real problem, in my opinion, the ethical repercussions of turning nuclear weapons back onto civilian populations. Because Joshua Jordan’s RTS defense system will certainly lead to that. And I also want to discuss just who Mr. Jordan really is and why he’s in the hot seat before Congress. Until he’s more forthcoming, we’re all going to remain in the dark. And in today’s volatile world, that’s never a safe place to be. We’ll be right back.'”

Right after this, the White House Press Secretary meets with the President’s Chief of Staff. Their discussion results in the following:

“‘I already know the basics of the line we’re going to use. Secretary of State Danburg’s speech was taken out of context. The administration has made no formal decision to trade RTS designs for international economic assistance. Then we quickly shift the focus off of the president and onto Congress. They need to exercise their congressional authority. You know, use the oversight committee’s contempt powers to force Joshua Jordan to be forthcoming … blah, blah, blah …'”

So Josh’s going to be in the hot seat for a while longer.

Meantime, we switch after a section break to Caesar Demas.

“‘Mr. Demas, we appreciate your offer to negotiate as a mediator between the United States and other key countries regarding the sharing of our RTS technology. But regrettably, we will have to decline your offer.’

‘I understand,’ Demas casually responded.

‘As I’m sure you can appreciate, current political realities have rendered such a trade…well, not feasible at this time.'”

He, in turn, calls Feditzch and grouses a little then instructs recontact with Zimler to reinstate the original plan to seize the RTS-RGS by force.

“Caesar Demas was on the line. ‘It’s me.’

‘Yes, sir?’

‘You know, Petri, I told the State Department to have that idiot Danburg avoid making it obvious in his speech about swapping the RTS for better international trade terms. But no, he wouldn’t listen. So the poll numbers went south for the White House, and now they’ve got cold feet. It looks as if we’ll have to get the RTS the hard way. We are returning to Plan A.’

[ … ]

‘All right. I hope this is the last time we have to change course…’

‘Just deliver the message,’ Demas barked. ‘Considering your former KGB status, Petri, I am surprised at you. You are like a little girl. Are you afraid to talk to the messenger?’

Petri glanced into his rearview mirror to see if he was being followed.

‘Not at all. My sole concern is for success of the mission.’

[ … ]

‘I would appreciate it if our messenger didn’t leave a messy trail behind him.’

‘That may be a problem.’

‘And why is that?’ Demas asked.

‘Because creating a human mess is what he does best.'”

With that, we move to the human loose cannon Zimler, whose apparent desire for “human messes” may land him in trouble later.

“By the time Atta Zimler got the call from Petri Feditzch he was already driving a different vehicle and had left the highway. After heading down a deserted dirt road in a wooded area in northern New York State for a few miles, he pulled off and entered a fire lane that cut through the forest. He then drove a half mile into the woods before coming to the edge of a clearing where there was a peaty bog full of black mud. Before getting out, he stopped and looked at himself in the mirror.

[ … ]

He clicked on the cheap, untraceable InstaAllfone that he had picked up at a local gas station and answered the call while popping the trunk of the car.

It was Petri. ‘The boss says the mission is a go. Exactly as planned. You can start up again.’

Zimler had to smile at that. He had only one thing to say. ‘I never stopped.’

He clicked off the call and stuffed the Allfone in his pocket.”

I think Feditzch probably shat bricks after hearing that. KGB man he may have been, but this means he was acculturated in an organization that was based on certain rules and traditions and would have to have cast a dim eye on ‘cowboy’ type agents who disregarded instructions from central HQ. In any organization, Buck Williams to the contrary, people who don’t follow instructions usually get the hairy eyeball from the higher-ups. People don’t usually give orders just because they love hearing the sound of their own voices. They give orders because they want things to get done, be it in a sprawling multinational corporation or a shadowy intelligence agency.

I’m going to skip the next part because it’s kind of gruesome. Basically, Zimler uses the peat bog to ‘dispose’ of the body of the former owner of the car he’s now driving.

Next chapter we say hello to Abigail Jordan and one of her close friends.

EoA Fan Fiction: Fathers and Sons

Good morning, everyone. 🙂

Since Fred Clark has decided to have some downtime I figured I’d take a bit of a detour myself and begin filling in the possible blanks in canon when it comes to the Jordan family. We learn that Cal is actually the youngest (Deborah is stated to be nineteen, so I deduce Cal to be eighteen), and that Deborah and Cal seem to have a fairly strong sibling bond even though they have made very different choices in life and have differing levels of approval from their parents. Based on things like this and the aspects of Josh’s personality that have come through  in the book that don’t show him in a very good light (I really like whoever used the “controlling asshole” line, by the way!), I’ve tried to come up with one possible scenario for Cal’s persistent estrangement from the family, as well as Deborah not only being on decent terms with Cal, but also her chip-off-the-old-blockness.

“Fathers and Sons” is the title I have chosen. It comes from a line of dialogue in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Unification”, when Captain Picard and Commander Riker briefly discuss Spock’s estrangement from Sarek after the news of Sarek’s death. Picard says, “Sometimes, fathers and sons…” and Commander Riker brusquely acknowledges it. The viewer is reminded of Riker’s own problems with his father and how he only got a chance to initiate a reconciliation years after he ran away from home to join Starfleet.

I want to thank those who have looked this over prior to putting this online. Thank you so very much! 🙂

~~~~~

Warnings: Brief mention of homosexual acts between teenagers, some strong language, and possibly upsetting material in the form of the Jordan family’s messed-up dynamics.

The first time Cal Jordan knew what it was like to utterly disappoint his father was when he was just fourteen years old.

– * –

Cal stood in the Housemaster’s office next to Eric Thatcher. Housemaster Scott, a wiry, stern man in his mid-fifties, shook his head as he hung up the phone. He had already called their parents, but he didn’t know who else the man could be calling.
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EoA: Gallagher the Gumshoe

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 119-123 (Chapter Twenty-Three)

Since John Gallagher’s supposed to be a detective, this inspired my use of a slang term for such. 😛

One thing you will notice is that Craig Parshall, unlike Jerry Jenkins, seems to realize you need to have people doing the jobs you’ve assigned their characters. It is well-established that Buck Williams does very little actual reporting for all that he’s the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time (GIRAT). But Parshall actually writes Gallagher doing the job of detecting where a fugitive might be.

Let’s follow along as he meets with a CIA man.

“‘I have clearance to share this with you.’

‘Really?’

‘Of course. You think I’m lying?’

FBI Special Agent John Gallagher wasn’t taking any chances. So he asked again. ‘You sure?'”

Considering that strictly speaking, the FBI and CIA are supposed to stay out of each other’s respective realms of jurisdiction it’s a wise idea to make sure all one’s ducks are in a row.

The next dialog snippet is actually not bad, though it’s tinged with the usual macho scorn for people who’re perceived as hidebound and straightlaced:

“‘Come on, John. What’s going on?’

The look in Gallagher’s eye clearly indicated that he wasn’t kidding. CIA Intelligence Officer Ken Leary decided to probe a bit deeper. ‘Why so timid, John? It’s not like you. Where’s the bull-in-a-china-shop John Gallagher we all know and love?’

‘Yeah, well, my supervisor’s been breathing down my neck lately.’

‘You mean cardboard-cutout Miles Zadernack.’

‘Right. The guy who goes to bed every night wearing a starched white shirt and tie.'”

After discussing Gallagher’s “interrogation techniques”, there’s a snarky reference to the ZOMG the silly liberals as Leary jokes “Liberals are running the show now…no more waterboarding the suspects.” I remind people that Rush Limbaugh has made it acceptable to joke about torture, and make ridiculously bombastic claims about its usefulness. The above quote is an obvious dog whistle to a conservative readership. I might note that Christopher Hitchens underwent a pretty close equivalent to the full shot, and I’ll just leave it to you to read how fast it was over.

Now, I like to think Gallagher’s less crude than Leary, but LaHaye and Parshall have other ideas:

“That provoked a deep laugh from Gallagher. Leary was one of the guys in the intelligence community who shared Gallagher’s cynical dark sense of humor. Somehow, laughter always helped to buffer some of the horrendous stuff they had to deal with on a regular basis. Occasionally, Gallagher would trek over to CIA headquarters in the New York Agency station to drop in on Leary. Gallagher exercised oversight on multiple investigations. But he also maintained a short list of a few special terrorism subjects that were his own primary targets. Some of whom he’d been tracking for years.”

I’m not sure how much of the above is “standard” FBI agent procedure, i.e. how many FBI agents do personally keep case files and request international intelligence from the CIA. Assuming that it is, Gallagher’s a pretty focussed kind of guy. I won’t say “mission-specific” though. 😛

Leary cuts to the chase and shows Gallagher the information they’ve met up to exchange:

Top Secret Clearance Required

Bucharest, Romania: A body found in room 417 at the Athenee Palace Hotel in Bucharest has been identified as Dr. Yergi Banica. The Romanian professor of international studies at the University of Craiova has been a person of interest to the Agency. The cause of death was strangulation. Dr. Banica is reputed to have associated with persons also of interest to the Agency, including persons making inquiries into international weapons systems and designs. Banica was not an Agency asset.

So we learn that the CIA was keeping tabs on this guy. How much do you wanna bet it was because Banica flapped his gums a little too much at one of those shindigs with his girlfriend’s friends?

And because they were keeping tabs on him, they know that his movements have been a little funny lately:

“[Leary said,] ‘We’ve been tracking Dr. Banica’s comings and goings. For the most part, just the usual stuff. Except there was one recent trip that was a bit odd. It seems our friend traveled from Bucharest to Glasgow. And from there to Iceland for a short stopover in Reykjavik. Then onto Quebec.'”

And sure as shootin’, the autopsy estimated time of death doesn’t agree with those flight times:

“‘Okay, what am I missing?’ Gallagher wondered. Had Leary called him across town just to go over the murder of a enemy informant?

We’ve got a reliable autopsy protocol on Banica along with an estimated time of death. The ETD is important.’

‘Why?’

‘Well, you know the old saying…dead men don’t fly,’ Leary quipped with a twisted smirk. ‘At least not in first class.’

‘You tracked his passport?’ the FBI agent asked.

‘According to immigration, customs, and the airlines, Dr. Yergi Banica was in the air sipping white wine and eating microwaved chicken fourteen hours after he was strangled to death.'”

… I might add, being strangled to death after falling for the oldest trick in the book and turning his back on a guy he already had bad premonitions about.

Now we’re in for some more political button-pushing about how those weak-assed liberals are making the work of the RTPs soooooo haaaaaaaaaaaaaaard:

“‘Why wasn’t Banica’s passport on a watch list?’

Leary gave an airy laugh, the kind you let out when something really isn’t funny. ‘That’s a long, complex, and very sad story. Needless to say, travel watch-list procedures are not foolproof. And just because the CIA thinks someone is suspicious doesn’t guarantee that Homeland Security is going to agree. There are some rather intricate policy judgments involved.’

Gallagher threw Leary a dubious look. So the CIA official made it simpler. ‘To put it bluntly, the Corland administration has dumped a truckload of politics on top of the intelligence and counterterrorism business.'”

I could just roll my eyes at this kind of crap. Maybe I’ll make it a standard disclaimer that I am not responsible for peoples’ optic nerves feeling the strain of repeated eye-rolling at some of the stuff in this book.

After this we segue into the CIA-knows-stuff-but-is-not-officially-allowed-to-say aspect of the meeting. It’s supposed to be kind of cool and cloak and dagger but it just comes off a little silly after Leary’s practically spilled all the beans already:

“‘I get the picture,’ Gallagher remarked. ‘So, we’ve got someone, we don’t know who, using Dr. Banica’s passport–after he’s been murdered. Your bulletin says the professor may have been consorting with some guys with an unhealthy interest in weapons. Okay, so maybe one of them was using his passport. Have anything else?’

‘I can only give you this other thing on a verbal, no documents,’ Leary indicated. ‘This is Agency-only stuff, John. I’m treading on thin ice talking to you. So we’re going to have to play a little Q&A. Now, I can’t give you the answers. But nothing’s stopping me from asking you the right questions.’

[ … ]

[Leary said,] ‘Here we go. How many special terror subjects do you still have on your personal roster over there at the Bureau?’

[ … ]

Gallagher looked at Leary. Leary looked back and smiled. Then Gallagher started to shake his head. He had to know.

‘You mean Atta Zimler? Assassin-for-hire. Subcontract killer for Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Chechen rebels. Occasionally used by the old KGB, then flipped on a contract and turned around and killed some of them too. Did some murder projects for warring factions in Cyprus. Also skilled in intelligence theft, cyber crime, false identity. That Atta Zimler? Mother was Algerian, father was Austrian. Never caught. Never even close to being caught.’

‘Here’s what we know. According to a single source of ours, one of Yergi Banica’s contacts may have been Atta Zimler.'”

Gallagher then gets told there was a confirm on the passport’s entry into the United States, and dun-dun-DUUUUUUUUUUUUN.

So with that, Gallagher the Gumshoe’s going to be on the trail of this guy. Will he catch Zimler? Who knows…

EoA: The Jordan Family Gears Up

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 113-118 (Chapter Twenty-Two)

We meet back with the Jordans. Abigail begins by contemplating this letter, which reveals Josh Jordan’s middle name. As is par for the course when it comes to the protagonists-to-cheer-for, Parshall picked an appropriate middle name.

The White House,
Washington, D.C.
Mr. Joshua Hunter Jordan
1 Plaza Court Towers
New York City, New York 10004

Dear Mr. Jordan:

On behalf of the United States of America, I am extending my appreciation for the assistance you rendered during the North Korean missile crisis. Your cooperation during that dangerous time provided an important service to our country.

Sincerely,
Virgil S. Corland
President

Incidentally, one thing I noticed about the formatting of the letter in the book is that for some odd reason both the “from” part (the White House) and the “to” (Joshua Jordan) part were right-justified on the page. Also, note the “S.” in President Corland’s name. It seems to be a tradition in the Democratic party to engender presidents who are popularly well-known by their names and middle initials – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman*, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson – rather coincidentally, all very leftish by today’s standards as well.

Aside from the right-justification of the “from” and “to” text which must be a weird formatting quirk, lovely letter, yes? Seems a little understated for our hero. And she’s looking that gift horse right in the mouth:

“Abigail was rereading the letter. It had been issued to her husband from the White House just days after the near-destruction of New York. She hadn’t seen the document in a while, and she took the time to look closer at the gold-embossed seal at the top. It bore the familiar symbol of her country, the one with the eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and a host of arrows in the other–just like on the back of the one-dollar bill. Now, in light of the ferocious attack against her husband brewing in Congress, and the White House’s recent lack of support, she was rereading the letter from a new angle.

‘President Corland’s thank you was really no thank you at all,’ she murmured to herself.”

Well, goshamighty why would she think that? We’ll see later on. Meantime let’s find out where the Jordans are.

“She leaned back in the seat next to her husband in their Citation X private jet. The sky was clear and cloudless as they winged their way from New York to Denver. As Abigail gazed out the window into the deep blue, she continued to contemplate everything that had transpired. Trying to fit it together.”

So, penthouse suite practically isolated from the rest of the world. A secluded mountain retreat. A private helicopter.

The ongoing theme is continued with the private jet they’ve got.

The purposeful isolation of Josh and/or his family from the rest of the world (with, apparently, the exception of that wavering possibly heathen Cal) is indicative of two things:

  1. It enforces a common trope among fundamentalist sects: the idea of purposely setting yourself apart from the bulk of the world who follows Satan-inspired influences. Here, because Joshua isn’t actually an RTC yet, the substitution of physical, as opposed to spiritual, separation is used to good effect.
  2. Also, the increasing sociocultural trend of the very wealthy to find more and more ways to insulate themselves from the rest of the world is reflected here in the trappings of Josh’s lifestyle. This man has been part of the military, which constitutes a distinct culture all by itself** apart from the civilian world, and continues that habit of keeping himself distinct and aloof by using his wealth to make it possible to not have to deal with ordinary people if he doesn’t have to.

I want to also note that as recently as about 20 years ago people assumed there would never be a mass market for private aircraft and that it would always remain a specialty sector. The explosion of wealth polarization in the 1990s proved this wrong; this habit of excessive wealth driving consumption of things nobody really needs (come on, how often can you use a private jet? It’s not like a car which you can just get into and use with free parking on your own house’s driveway. You need to store it at a hangar, pay fees for that, hire a pilot and crew, and when you want to go somewhere you need to file a flight plan and get your jet slotted in for takeoff. And then there’s the cost of jet fuel, and destination hangar-rental fees, and so on…) is a symptom of a society that’s starting to get out of kilter.

Then again out-of-kilterness is considered good by RTCs who believe in things like the End Times, the Rapture, and so on.

Moving on, we see Abigail and Joshua have a chat about the letter.

“She handed the White House letter to Joshua, who grinned. ‘So, you’ve been rifling through my file, I see.’

‘Just happened to see it among those papers you were working on.’

‘And?’

‘I think Corland’s thank you letter was pretty tepid. Overly cautious, especially considering that you had just saved the entire population of New York City from being incinerated.'”

Let’s compare that letter to the one Gerald Ford sent Oliver Sipple after Sipple prevented a woman from assassinating him:

“I want you to know how much I appreciated your selfless actions last Monday. The events were a shock to us all, but you acted quickly and without fear for your own safety. By doing so you helped to avert danger to me and to others in the crowd. You have my heartfelt appreciation. Sincerely, Jerry Ford.”

The terseness is similar, but Gerald signed it personally with a diminutive of his name rather than his full name. That may be a personality difference, though, rather than anything more crucial. That having been said, the letter from Corland does feel somewhat restrained.

This is likely of a piece with the theme in this book that the politicians are just venal little creeps rather than self-sacrificing good people. It’s very ironic that actually I would characterize George W. Bush as such a venal creep who was in it for his own benefit rather than anyone else’s, especially when openly calling very wealthy donors his “base”, who are the “haves and have-mores”.

It’s like LaHaye and Parshall held up a cracked and distorted mirror to our world and decided they liked the image in the mirror better than the real thing.

Ok, now.

People who’ve followed Fred Clark’s blog know that occasionally, “meta-” characters show up. By this it is meant that LaHaye and Jenkins, by pure accident of writing, occasionally wrote their characters doing or saying things that are in opposition to the stated objective of what they’re doing, or which reveal their true, actually human sides instead of whatever false front Jenkins paints on for the purpose of ax-grinding in Left Behind. An example is Fred Clark’s Meta-Buck entry.

Well, I would like to introduce, for the briefest of moments, meta-Abigail and meta-Josh, who unintentionally reveal how much of  a showboating prima donna canon-Josh has been. One might argue that meta-Abigail also showed up when she tried to dissuade Josh from being so butthurt over Cal’s relatively minor offence of lying when he later got his skin saved by dear old dad, but she pretty much blew all that away when she started love-bombing Cal in that incredibly creepy way.

“”Yeah, well, not really,” Joshua countered. “The real heroes were my tech team and the guys at the Pentagon and the crew of the USS Tiger Shark…”

“All right, I understand. My husband, humble as ever. […]”

Well, would you look at that!

Josh actually acknowledges all the people who gave him the big assist in kicking those nukes back where they came from. And Ahigail effectively breaks the fourth wall and sarcastically remarks how “humble” he is. 😛 (It doesn’t make sense for her to say “humble as ever” unless she really does mean it ironically, which means she knows what a showboating annoyance Joshua can be, but why then would she mean it ironically to him? This is why I suggest an unintentional fourth-wall-breaking here.)

So, with those fleeting glimpses of meta-Josh and meta-Abby, let’s consign them back to oblivion as we continue reading.

“[Abigail tapped] a manicured nail on the letter that was now sitting on the top of his file. ‘Come on…’I am extending my appreciation for the assistance you rendered…’? And what about the way they ‘honored’ you? A private little reception in the West Wing. Not the Oval Office. No press invited. Just the White House photographer. The president, the chief of staff, and, what, one or two reps from the Pentagon? That was it. They sent a little press release to the media late on a Friday afternoon. That’s what they do in Washington when they want to bury a story. Which is exactly what happened. Josh, honey, you deserved better.'”

She does have a point. But behind this point lies the agenda LaHaye and Parshall are pushing: that RTPs are being hamstrung and vilified by politicians who care more for their own image than in who got-er-done.

Now, note the subject of this writeup: “The Jordan Family…”

Actually I made a slight omission in the interest of brevity. Take a look at this next bit and spot who’s missing.

“‘I agree, Dad. You deserved much better.’

Deborah was seated in the row behind them, listening.

‘Wow, it seems I have a cheering section here,’ Joshua quipped.

His daughter reached over the seat and hugged his neck. ‘Forget the politicians, Dad. All the cadets at Point think you’re great.'”

Yup, Cal’s not there.

This omission by LaHaye and Parshall smashes its point home with the force of a dozen anvils: Cal is not deemed worthy to be around when Josh plots strategy up in Colorado.

Why? Because he’s a lying liar who might possibly be shacking up with a woman Josh disapproves of. Oh, and he’s going in for art.

This sort of exclusionary pettiness in a family gathering is so chock-full of psychological issues I’m not even going to try and dive in. But forget the theoretical underpinnings which I’m sure someone could use to get a dissertation out of this book. In  the spirit of the fact that I speak experimentalist, not theorist, language 😀 let’s just look at what, empirically, this observation tells us.

Worthiness is measured not by one’s own humanity. It’s to be conditionally granted through the right hoop-jumping and lapdogging, to be bestowed at the arbitrary will of a senior individual.

Cal Jordan’s worthiness to be part of the family isn’t determined by his genetic bonds, by the natural closing-in of ranks of all members of the family when a problem hits. It’s instead conditioned on being Daddy’s Little Robot.

And this, scarily enough, seems to be what LaHaye believes a Christian’s relationship to God should be – not, as I read in my literature way back, offered freely and without reserve if you admitted you were a sinner and wished to be saved in Christ, repenting of those sins, but instead treated as though God were the gatekeeper to an elite club, with its own particular membership requirements and conditional aspects of obtaining and retaining membership.

This world-view makes sense in the context of how Left Behind works: them that bought the product are told to feel good about it, and to cackle at them that ain’t got it. Left Behind becomes a giant Fuck You to non-Christians because everybody who isn’t saved just got dumped on the Tribulation Express, accelerating headlong into some pretty horrific stuff.

Well, it’s repeating itself here in Edge of Apocalypse: those who aren’t considered worthy enough by LaHaye’s criteria don’t get to come on the cool trips in the special jet. They don’t get to be part of the big decisions or share in the rewards to come.

The above having been said, this next part does show the three family members acting like they’re human beings. It’s amazing how Parshall seems to have a knack for writing realistic young people. He should have written the Left Behind: The Kids series, come to think of it.

‘Great. Hey, why don’t we all go riding? All three of us?’

Joshua immediately gave Abigail ‘the look.’ She knew what it meant. He never liked being torn between family and professional commitments. But Joshua was a driven man, especially when he was at Hawk’s Nest for one of his secret Roundtable meetings. Single-purposed. Focused like a laser beam on the agenda. This particular meeting was critical.

‘We’ll see,’ Joshua replied.

‘Oh, I know that voice,’ Deborah responded, staring up at the ceiling of the jet. ‘It means ‘Request denied. Stand down.”

Abigail reached over and squeezed his arm. ‘Oh, Josh, let’s try. It’d be wonderful. The three of us on the trail together again.’

Joshua always found his two girls hard to resist. And they knew it. A smile beamed all over Abby’s face as she stared at him. Joshua tried to keep it serious, but after a few seconds of absorbing his wife’s radiance, he couldn’t continue. And a smile started to form in the corner of his own mouth.

I had to laugh at the corny way Deborah reacts and makes fun of Josh’s military background. It really makes me wish we could see some sibling interaction between Cal and Deborah. Parshall probably would carry it off pretty realistically.

Anyway, Josh agrees to get the horseback riding in, and the family members discuss security at the retreat (they’ve hired a retired cop and they have a sophisticated alarm system), and amuse themselves poking fun at Josh’s lawyer Harry Smythe being the one to bring up most of these concerns.

After Deborah goes back to listening to music Abigail expresses some concerns now that Josh has made the front page of every newspaper and Josh replies:

“‘Anybody who’s unfortunate enough to make the national headlines these days–for any reason–is eventually going to gain some enemies. That’s life. Abby, listen to me…’ He took her hands in his. ‘If I thought there was a risk, I’d do whatever I needed to do to protect my family. You know that. But I’m just not that concerned about what Harry said, that’s all. Everything’s under control. So, let’s not worry about it, honey. Okay?'”

Actually, Josh doesn’t feel fake-sincere here; his reaction is pretty believable, in my view. We then close out with this:

“Abigail felt the warmth and strength from the covering of his hands. There was security in his grasp. Abigail had always felt safe with Joshua. He was a man of immense courage in the face of danger. But this time it was different. She could feel it. A sense of dread she couldn’t shake. As if, out there somewhere, unseen, clawing its way toward them, was some kind of unnamed threat. And because she couldn’t put her finger on it, she hadn’t shared it with Joshua.

In her own growing relationship with God, she had learned an important lesson whenever she was faced with the challenges of life that were breathtaking or scary. In those situations the options were pretty straightforward: either act with faith or be governed by fear.

Without knowing exactly when or why, she wondered whether she would have to face that choice.”

Aside from the sack-of-anvils level of foreshadowing here, I also note that there’s shades of the “it’s a personal relationship with God, not just a religion” aspect to some Christians arguing about the different nature of their religious worship as compared to the mainstream type branches of Christianity, or for that matter, Judaism or what-have-you.

Next chapter we meet back with Agent Gallagher.


* the “S” in Truman’s name apparently didn’t stand for anything but he liked it.

** I watched Gwynne Dyer’s seven-part video series on war back in the 1980s (which was titled “War”), and one thing it gave a really fascinating look at was the way the military’s inner social and cultural workings were displayed for all to see. In that culture, being threatened with being sent out of the military was enough to make a grown man break down at his court-martial, and being sent out of the military was considered an almost unthinkable act. Keep in mind I watched this before the mass downsizings in the 1990s created similar emotional associations among workers when they got turfed from the companies they’d worked for for 20, 25, 30 years.

EoA: A Member of the Roundtable

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 111-112 (Chapter Twenty-One)

The chapter abruptly segues to this guy, General Rocky Bridger (ret). Given that usually Parshall makes you work a bit to figure out why he picked a name, this one’s almost glaringly unsubtle in telegraphing that he’s one of the Good Ole Boys. A “rocky bridge” after all, can mean a bridge constructed out of rocks, i.e. stones, and made very solid and stable. And that’s the sense his name conveys – that General Bridger is a rock-solid kind of guy who would never turn his back on his good buddies.

Now, if you read the previous write-up and refresh your memory quickly, you’ll note that the Rev. Berne, in this highly artificial world of LaHaye and Parshall’s, has been arrested for holding a rally and used his legal right to a phone call to get word to General Bridger.

A further word on names: I find it rather odd that Berne uses an uncommon word for God – “Jehovah”. For background,  Wikipedia offers some help in the area, as does the Catholic Encyclopedia. I read in a book called The Orwellian World of Jehovah’s Witnesses that one origin of it is the Greek-transliterated word Iaoue, which sounds a lot more like Yahweh than Jehovah. That being said, if you judiciously modify the letter-usage, you get yaove, which could be said ya-oh-vey, and you can start to see where Jehovah might come from. My personal thoughts only on the matter, of course; the Wiki has a rather exhaustive analysis. 🙂

Some fringe Christian sects prefer to use this word, and while I’m not up on the details of why, I think LaHaye and Parshall putting this word in Berne’s mouth may be an attempt to telegraph to particular Christians that this book is aimed at them.

So with that out of the way, let’s meet the General. Note again the habit of using his rank even though he’s retired.

“Within the hour General Bridger received a call on his Allfone. His fishing boat was just about to dock at Charleston Harbor along the coast of South Carolina. The man on the other end of the line explained what had happened to Reverend Berne.

The General listened intently as he waved to the marina master who was tying his boat off to the harbor slip. Bridger promised the caller he would look into it.

‘I’m about to meet with some people who’ll want to hear about this,’ he explained. ‘I know nothing about this Reverend Berne fellow other than what you just told me. I have no idea whether he’s an honorable man or not. But let him know his case will not be forgotten.'”

One thing I’ve got to say about LaHaye and Parshall inventing this Allfone thing for their books is it not only allows for phone porn, it also allows for not having to remember which character has one of a zillion brands of cell phones. 😀

Now as yet I don’t know what effect this Reverend will have on the plot, (I did read ahead but to be perfectly honest I was more interested in what was going to happen to the Jordans) so we’ll just have to see when we get there. Meantime, it turns out that Rocky Bridger knows Joshua Jordan:

“‘Josh, it’s Rocky. I know we got a full agenda for the Roundtable, but I got something I’d like to throw into the pot.’

‘General, whatever it is, I’m sure it’s worth discussing. How about sending out an encrypted email to all the members. Let them know what you’ve got.’

‘Okay.'”

Amusingly, the last words of each sentence rhyme. 🙂

In all seriousness, the fact that the organization that Jordan and Bridger have created ad hoc is called the “Roundtable” is quite interesting. There is the well-known legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table; in this context it seems that the intention is to evoke an exalted order of people whose membership to the order has been severely restricted to include only those deemed worthy of it. Since themes of worthiness as a human being run through the LaHaye-sponsored books as being closely correlated with real or incipient Christianity it is worth thinking about this “Roundtable” in that light – especially given that the back of the book hints at Jordan’s encounter with the highly-connected Christian “Patriots”.

‘Abby and I are really looking forward to seeing you in Colorado. Maybe we can arrange to shoot eighteen holes at the club while we talk.’

‘Only if you give me a decent handicap. In fact, as ranking officer, I’ll make that an order.’

Joshua laughed. General Bridger was one of the finest men he’d ever known. Joshua had served under him when he was detached for a stint at the Pentagon, and he reported directly to him when he flew several secret U-2 missions over Iran, leap-frogging over military chain of command.

(Ed. note: Bold mine)

I’d like to take a look at that bolded part for a sec. It seems consistent with the theme that Joshua Jordan is Special; that he is allowed to break convention and get away with it. It evokes this comparison: Cameron “Buck” Williams in Left Behind is allegedly noteworthy for “bucking tradition”, and his behavior is intended to be interpreted in that benign light – the can-do go-getter kind of guy – rather than the less attractive light of a goldbricking misogynistic jerk who throws his weight around, as evidenced by the way he humiliates Verna Zee of Sensible Shoes fame since he has the ace in his pocket of being in the old boy’s club with the Big Guy in Charge of the company. When Verna Zee calls Stanton Bailey, he verbally slaps her down, telling her that he authorized Buck to work out of his home and suchlike. Buck thus “leap-frogs” over the corporate chain of command even though he’s been nominally put out to pasture.

The rules-defying high-protector-and-protegé relationship seems to have been recreated here: Jordan is the ne’er-do-wrong golden boy under Bridger’s command. And that means we’re to see Jordan as a Special Person, worthy of looking up to, rather than the far less flattering prima-donna sophomoric-humor-using nose-thumber to the entirety of the legislative branch of the US government (honestly, for someone to say “well gee, I just don’t trust you guys and that’s that,” when a great deal of his fortune seems to have come from the revolving door between the Pentagon and the civilian sector and thus from the largesse of the US government in the first place… that takes some sheer chutzpah and more than a minor sense of entitlement).

The chapter has only a couple of extra paragraphs. I’ll end this analysis with the pseudocliffhanger here:

“Then he closed the notebook. Everything in him was indicating that the timing of his upcoming trip to Colorado and the subsequent secret meeting he would convene couldn’t be better.”

So we’re informed that many events will come together at an opportune time for Josh to begin his special project. Wonder what it could be.

Next chapter continues with Josh and Abby discussing the events since the missile deflection.

EoA: United Nations, World Enforcer in Bizarroland

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 107-111 (Chapter Twenty-One)

As I promised, we would be taking another journey into United Nations bizarroland. As established more thoroughly elsewhere (See the Slacktivist blog for details), LaHaye has a very odd belief in exactly what the UN is and is not capable of doing.

We start off by meeting a couple of US Marshals (note: as usual, all italics or bold are in the original text unless I say otherwise):

“Three blocks west of Market Street in San Francisco, not far from City Hall, two armed officers had just disembarked from their parked vehicle. Both were wearing dark blue jackets with the words U.S. Marshal emblazoned on the back in gold block letters. It was obvious that the senior officer, Deputy Marshal Jim Talbot, was less than enthusiastic about what he might end up having to do today.”

Next paragraph we get a nice lil jab at the “Government always wastes money” button-pushing popular among a conservative readership:

“This was the high-rent district of San Francisco’s downtown area, and the building the two officers were standing in front of fit right in. Gazing up at the high-rise’s smoked-glass-and-steel facade, they could guess that the interior was expensively furnished and filled with shiny chrome and polished marble, though neither officer had ever set foot inside. Talbot could only shake his head while thinking to himself, What an absolute waste of taxpayer money.”

The few government offices I’ve been in have been fairly decently laid out and decorated, though not ostentatiously and certainly not with purposeful grandeur unless they’re legislative or judicial; the Canadian Parliament Buildings are a nice example of a visible reminder of the halls of power of the nation. I got to see the House of Commons as well as the Senate. Historical anecdata: Canada borrows a lot from the British parliamentary tradition, even down to the old unwritten rule that the Monarch can never enter the House of Commons. All Throne Speeches are read in the Senate.

I also find it amusing how officials of a government, whose jobs are dependent on spending taxpayer money, are used as the mouthpieces of the oh-what-a-waste-isn’t-it-awful school of thought.

It’s kind of like waving a textbook on engineering as a way to ward off people who would otherwise point up flaws in that lovely bridge you designed which, by the way, doesn’t have the right compressive strength in the concrete to withstand anything bigger than a pickup truck.

But what really gets Talbot’s dander up is who runs that government office:

“But it was the item centered directly over the building’s exquisite glass entrance doors that had Talbot tied up in knots. Even though he’d seen the big globe-shaped blue symbol countless times before on the evening news, and once when he had passed by the world organization’s well-known headquarters while visiting New York City, it still bothered him no end. The familiar olive branches, one on each side, embracing an outline of the world’s continents in the center.

To Talbot, the whole thing seemed bizarre. To have this building with that logo right here in San Francisco. In his own city. How could this have happened?

The transformation of his home…his country…had occurred quietly…when no one was looking.

Just above the symbol were the words:

United Nations Monitor for Human Rights
California Division.”

Ok, this is where you just gotta stare at this book. I mean, staring like O_O at it, and pinch yourself to convince yourself it’s a real book and not a dream.

Because it’s chapters like this that tell you that the world LaHaye and Parshall are inhabiting mentally to make this book just isn’t our own. As has been popularized on certain websites over the years, the phrase goes, “their logic is not of this Earth”.

One thing I’ve got to say is that this book doesn’t stint at hitting all the buttons in the audience that viscerally recoil at any idea that the United States is Just Another Country instead of first among all; this is American exceptionalism rearing its head and loudly slamming the table insisting that no darn furriner dares tell us Real True Patriots what to do, dadgummit.

Considering how intrusive the United States has been in horning in on the sovereignty of other nations (example: about a decade ago there was a kerfluffle when it was found that US law enforcement routinely overflies Mexican airspace in patrolling along the southern border), it’s more than a little laughable, this pearl-clutching about the same thing happening to the United States.

As Fred Clark once termed it, it’s “oppressed hegemon” syndrome: the fear that now that the Number Twos are trying to catch up with Number One, when they become Number Ones they’ll do to you what you did to them. It might be a good time to stop and remind people that there’s a reason why we’re taught to do unto people as we would have them do unto us. The behavior you want is the behavior you model.

Nothing exercises people so much as hypocrisy, and it’s BLARING out of this book: it’s perfectly all right for the United States to selectively honor treaties in the breach, but not for other nations to demand some giving-up of US sovereingty in the name of things like – oh gee, human rights. If people like George W. Bush can naively and unthinkingly complain that everybody hates the United States, it’s because of swaggering un-selfconscious hypocrisy on the part of the US Government in international matters. If ever there was a time to say “remove the board from your own eye…”

Actually, it is quite interesting that LaHaye and Parshall are apparently unconsciously writing from the point of view of a large blind spot in  American culture: the notion that there can be human rights violations within the US’s borders is pooh-poohed up front by the authors, just as it is pooh-poohed in the cultural gestalt they are tapping into. It’s a variation on the “It can’t happen to us” or “It can’t happen here” syndrome.

We follow US Deputy Marshal Talbot as he meets with the UN Observer.

“Talbot wanted to blurt out what was on his mind right then and there. What was happening to America? But he didn’t. He was a man of honor. He loved the United States. And that meant he was dutybound to enforce its laws. Including the unfortunate U.N. treaty that his beloved homeland had signed.

Talbot and his junior deputy strode in and introduced themselves to the woman seated at the receptionist desk. Above and behind her on the wall was a smaller replica of the same words and symbol that was featured prominently outside. She spoke with a distinctive but hard-to-place accent. The two marshals were there to see Chief U.N. Monitor Catalina Obreras, a lawyer from Spain. Her office, said the receptionist, was on the third floor.”

Now, notice the names again. Talbot conveys a good-ol-boy, a law man doing his job. He’s a “man of honor”, after all. Notice who he talks to: a lady who’s not even American. She’s Spanish. (PEARL CLUTCH)

There’s some pretty unsubtle racism in this here chapter, if you keep reading. Talbot would “not associate socially” with her (paraphrased). Gee, could that be because she’s got a name usually associated with those suspicious Hispanics drifting north out of Mexico?

Now we get down to the nitty-gritty, and some more gratis button-pushing of the “oh no we are persecuted Christians” variety:

“‘It’s all here, Deputy Talbot,’ Obreras explained. ‘The original complaint against the Reverend Teddy Berne from three months ago. He was only issued a warning in the form of a written citation at that time and wasn’t arrested. That was in accord with the U.S.-U.N. Compact of Protocol. As you know warnings are given for first-time offenses out of respect for your free-speech customs here in the United States. But despite being told to cease and desist, Reverend Berne has continued his illegal rantings and dangerous public displays. He is scheduled to hold a rally in about ten minutes here in the city. The location is on the front page of the report. In there you will also find the certification from the U.S. Department of Justice accepting the referral from us to prosecute Reverend Berne, which they have agreed to.'”

I just burst out laughing at this, actually, the first time I read this; it’s just so bizarrely unlike anything actually in this world. Do LaHaye and Parshall not know that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as endorsed by the UN, states specifically in Articles 18 and 19, that religious and personal freedom are to be guaranteed?

Article 18.

* Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

* Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Right there. Why would the United Nations deem any faith as intrinsically inimical to the UDHR unless it involved coercion, which isn’t an element of mainstream Christianity at all?

This is just LaHaye and Parshall fantasizing that Christians are in imminent danger of being tossed into Coliseums all over again, all because some guy might have reasonably asked for his own religious holidays off from work instead of the usual secularized-Christian ones (or other minor inconveniences thereof which any reasonable person would shrug off as the inevitable consequence of dealing with a diverse population).

Oh, but it gets even worse. Check this out. If y’all think your eyes are wide enough at the sheer absurdity of the above paragraphs from Edge of Apocalypse, hang onto your horses.

“Talbot leafed through the papers until he came to the DOJ letter authorizing him to take the pastor into custody. The document stated Berne was the head of a group called the Foundation for a Christian America. It specified that Reverend Berne was being charged with a violation of the United Nations Covenant of Tolerance and Human Rights (UN-CTHR) as ratified by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Corland. The letter read:

Reverend Theodore Obadiah Berne has repeatedly violated the UN-CTHR, section IV, subsection 6 (defamation of religion) as made a part of the laws of the United States by the act of the United States Senate, and as signed by the president of the United States. The said Rev. Berne has engaged in the unreasonable and offensive defamation of the religion of another in a manner subjecting such religion to contempt and tending to provoke, or threatening to provoke, the likelihood of a public disturbance; to wit, through public proclamations and communications that have denigrated the religion of Islam and its followers.”

I couldn’t help it. I died laughing, again. This is easily one of the most absurdly transparent attempts at button-pushing I’ve ever seen. Given all the latent anti-Muslim hysteria I’ve seen rolling around over the last twenty years, and given how much wailing and gnashing of teeth I’ve seen coming out of conservative circles grousing about how “all those Muslims cry discrimination over everything and we can’t make even legitimate criticism* BAWWWWWWW” (paraphrased, obviously), it’s difficult to see the above segment of the book as anything but a dog whistle to the intended audience: “us RTCs are the Good Guys and we fight for the American Way”.

Now let’s go meet the Reverend. Whose middle name, by the way, definitely is Biblically derived. (Can you get more anviliciously obvious than “worshipper of Yahweh”?)

“By the time the U.S. marshals pulled up at the Justin Herman Plaza, Reverend Berne, who was standing on a small platform in front of the large fountain before a crowd of about two hundred, was in the middle of his speech.

And things were beginning to come unglued.

A small group of pro-Islamic protestors had just arrived on the scene, carrying signs that read ‘Stop the Christian Crusade against Muslims’ and ‘Bye-Bye Bible Bigotry.'”

Okay. Now for some more absolutely implauisble artificially constructed conflict resolution. Just as Josh Jordan gets to childishly OOOH BUUUUUUUUUURN thumb his nose at a Senator and be considered in the right for it, LaHaye and Parshall believe that the following is a realistic treatment of a public assault.

“[O]ne of the protesters decided to run over to the side of the stage and yank the plug on the PA. He then jumped onto the platform and charged directly at Reverend Berne. The reverend’s assistant leaned in and blocked the assailant’s path with his forearm, causing the attacker to fall. While down, the protester quickly removed one of his boots, then stood and smashed Reverend Berne’s assistant in the forehead with its heel, causing him to reel backward slightly and fall to his knees.

Talbot watched as several San Francisco police officers, who were already on duty near the perimeter of the plaza, sprinted toward the stage with batons raised. Two of the officers jumped onto the platform and swung their batons down hard onto the shoulders and arms of Reverend Berne’s assistant who was already down, while a third officer pulled the pro-Muslim attacker aside, scolded him, and simply ordered him to leave.”

Considering that oftentimes in the United States, this sort of disproportionate response is usually directed at petty offenders like people who steal cars and lead cops on high-speed chases, or, for that matter, in other nations, right-wing protest organizations have often been given a free pass**, it’s kind of laughable that this portrayal of patting-the-pro-Muslims-on-the-head is presented as realistic.

And just to drive the point home a little more, we see Talbot’s thoughts:

“As Talbot and his partner neared the platform, it was all he could do to keep his angry thoughts to himself. I ought to be out tracking down dangerous fugitives from justice. Not handcuffing some preacher and watching the local cops beat up innocent people.”

Talbot ends up putting Berne under arrest. As he does so, the crowd boos and we get this:

“‘God save the United States of America!’ Berne bellowed to the largely disinterested crowd who were now starting to disperse. ‘May Jehovah save this country from the tyranny of the global lords and from the United Nations–and from the oppression of the San Francisco police force!'”

It’s almost weird how LaHaye and Parshall seem to have kind of snapped up a few stock left-wing complaints about globalization and excessive use of force, stuck them in a blender with RTC xenophobia, and produced this sort of material.

The last part of this section has some foreshadowing in it:

“Two hours later Berne was in custody after having been booked at the federal building. The reverend was allowed one phone call, but it wasn’t to his lawyer. It was to a friend. And the friend called an associate who knew a retired Air Force general by the name of Rocky Bridger.”

The remainder of the chapter is after a section break and deals with Joshua Jordan, so I’ll take that up separately.


* Obviously, I’m not much enamored of the militant fundamentalism of any organized religion, but if these folks think nobody is allowed to make legitimate criticism of any religion out there they haven’t seen the likes of Irshad Manji. Or, for that matter, people like Ann Coulter who haven’t been meaningfully brought to heel for making grossly offensive religious-war statements about what to do to Muslims in the Middle East.

** No cites on the web for this, but if you read Ingo Hasselbach’s Fuehrer-Ex book, in it he discusses how the East German police used to come down hard on Neo-Nazis, then after the Wall fell, unified (aka West-moved-into-East) German police often came down hard on leftist-anarchists.

EoA: A Hop, Skip and Jump Around the World

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 101-106 (Chapter Twenty)

We meet with a few people; this chapter kind of sets the stage for what they’ll be doing later and why they’re important to the story as pertains the intrigues surrounding the RTS-RGS system.

First up is a man named Hamad Katchi, and he’s in Davos. Allegedly he’s a former weapons dealer, as discussed in this part of the chapter:

“‘Mr. Katchi,’ the reporter continued, ‘you were at one time one the world’s most notorious arms dealers. Supplying advanced weapons systems to a wide variety of countries, rogue nations, and terror groups–‘

‘Correction. I have never done business with terrorists,’ Katchi retorted with a smile. Now at the elevator’s entrance, he paused, then turned. ‘Besides, I am now out of the weapons business completely–‘

‘I understand,’ she replied. ‘Still, there are many who believe your decision to align yourself with the Society for Global Change, the organization you cofounded with Caesar Demas, was to camouflage your past–‘

‘I am now fully committed to building peace, rather than expanding war,’ Katchi stated. ‘You may have heard the story already. How the death of my own brother was caused by one of the very same weapons systems that I had sold. Therefore, several years ago I chose to redirect my energies into humanitarian causes. Now, please, I am sorry, I have another commitment…'”

Maybe he’s sincere, maybe he’s not. After a quick trip up the elevator, we’re seeing him talking with Mr. Demas.

“Demas and Katchi began perusing the bathroom, flinging open every stall door to make sure they were alone.

Then Demas walked over to the two hand dryers on the wall and punched them both on until the sound of their roaring filled the room.

He leaned over to Katchi and spoke directly into his ear.

‘I have given the order for the messenger to stand down. At least temporarily.'”

And at this point we learn that Katchi and Demas are both in on the two-pronged strategy to get RTS-RGS. Obviously if they can’t get it by means of diplomatic channels, less diplomatic ones will do.

I remind readers of this blog that, again, the basic premise of this book is fundamentally flawed. It presupposes a relationship between a military contractor and the Pentagon which would never exist in reality, and creates a highly artificial conflict between a Senator and the contractor for the sole purpose of pushing a particular world-view, a particular gestalt, if you will.

This cultural gestalt is one that assumes the primacy of the military, the venality of liberal politicians, and the unquestioned rightness of the United States remaining Number One by keeping all the Number Twos right where they remain, even if this might exacerbate world tensions.

Now, all this said, it is not in dispute that the US, like any other nation, both actively maintains espionage and counterespionage networks and can couple these with military research and development to maintain a technological edge in being able to defend itself from attacks, or to be able to go on the attack.

But there is a very clear principle that goes back centuries: the United States is ultimately under a civilian government. Its military is responsible to that government and must follow the orders given it by the civilian leadership. This contempt for civilian oversight, while muted in Edge of Apocalypse, does peek through in the way that Jordan prima-donnas his way through the hearing in closed session.

I’ve pointed out before that the simplest resolution would have been to establish that the Pentagon knows about the project, details have been classified according to whatever regulations govern military contracting under such circumstances, et cetera and so on. But no, Joshua Jordan gets to childishly go OOH BUUUUUUURN with his “Well gosh golly gee, I don’t trust a mother’s son of any of ya on this here committee.” (paraphrased, of course)

And that right there is why I say contempt for the legally constituted authority of the civilian government is in this book. Further, given that apparently there is a heavy evangelical Christian strain running through the US armed forces I can only conclude that books like this would, if evaluated closely, come perilously close to actively encouraging military officers to commit sedition.

Thus, the cultural gestalt I mention above is also fundamentally an authoritarian one. We’ve seen this indirectly in the Jordan family’s relations among one another: authority derives from being older, and is rigidly structured along hierarchical lines. This means that the “right people” should give the orders, and the “wrong people” should be disobeyed even if they are nominally in position to give orders.

So even though this is a kind of mystery/spy-thriller type book, let’s not forget that the conflict is essentially manufactured to help push Tim LaHaye’s* agenda.

Now, back to the book. The last part here is the segue into meeting the next person:

“‘Really? I would have waited. I know your reason. You are banking on the U.S. caving in. Well, maybe they will. And maybe not. I think you should have put the messenger securely in place first before delaying his mission–‘

‘Why? So he could be poised to grab the RTS information first? Then bypass us and sell the data directly to someone else? Hamad, I thought you were smarter than that.’

‘Even if the United States decides not to share the RTS specifications, then, per our plan, our man will still be able to get his hands on the designs anyway.’

‘Yes,’ Demas replied, ‘but by that time I will have my own people in place around him to make sure he doesn’t go rogue on us…'”

The no-honor-among-thieves trope makes itself known here, by the way. It’s not a bad notion here, all other flaws of the book aside. Internecine conflicts among criminal factions can be an interesting source of plot advancements, as each group vies for its own slice of a pie they want to divvy up.

We move now to Canada. 🙂

“At that same moment, on the other side of the Atlantic, cars were stacked up in a long line at the Canadian-U.S. border. Those wishing to cross from Lacolle, Quebec, to Champlain, New York, could expect delays of up to forty-five minutes. The U.S. customs officers were carefully checking passports of all incoming drivers.

Behind the steering wheel of his rental car, the Algerian took a few moments to examine himself in his rearview mirror. He had Yergi Banica’s passport open on the seat next to him. He glanced down at the passport photo and then up at his own face in the mirror.”

And we meet back with Atta Zimler. He’s making sure he can slip into the USA; due to the greater volume of land traffic between Canada and the USA odds do go down that the Customs guy will bother to check the passport carefully. However, this also means LaHaye and Parshall are trying for another little bit of button-pushing here: Canada lets just any old terrorist in so they can get to the US. I note with some irritation that it was a Democratic politician cited there who put forth the theory, but I’m really not surprised in the end; Democrats trying to act like Republicans are just sad.

I remarked once that Canada is sometimes practically like outer space as far as some Americans are concerned, and one of those times is when Americans act like they think no other country has an interest in keeping the United States safe. Europe does, to an extent, as does Canada. Even Venezuela; oil purchases by the US keeps that country afloat.

Zimler inches toward the border guard…

“Zimler’s Allfone started ringing.

He glanced down and saw the word “Restricted,” but he didn’t answer it. He had more important business right now. No suspicious movements. He was in plain view of the border guards with only two cars between his and the checkpoint.

No message was left on his Allfone. He muted the ringer.

Now just one car remained between Zimler and the border stop.”

That’s actually pretty smart. One thing US Customs officials get pretty touchy about is if you act like you’re trying to be sneaky about something. My personal experience is that they generally like to bark at you when they ask questions. They also stand over your car because the difference in height is an unsubtle expression of power differences.

Zimler’s also put on some music to keep himself calm before he has to chat with the official. Another car later, and it’s the moment of truth.

“But the music was not merely for pleasure. It would also help him focus. Lower his heart rate. Help loosen the facial muscles, creating a relaxed expression. Everything had to look normal.

His car was next. He pulled up to the window.

‘Good afternoon,’ Zimler announced, confidently holding out the stolen passport to the U.S. border official.

The official smiled. Then studied the passport. Then he looked hard at Zimler. ‘What brings you to the United States?’

‘I have always wanted to visit America,’ Zimler said in a polished Romanian accent. ‘Now is my chance. Business mostly. I will be studying some documents at Library of Congress for my research.’

The border guard smiled but didn’t take his eyes off Zimler. ‘May I ask why you didn’t fly directly into the United States from Romania, Mr. Banica?'”

Zimler would have needed an entry visa, being from “Romania”. That having been said if he got the necessary Canadian permissions in time I don’t know how much the US guy would have decided to bend the rules. Starting here would probably have been a good idea for LaHaye and Parshall; note that Romania is not listed under the Visa Waiver Program as of 2010.

Had I been Zimler, I would have come prepared with Canadian documentation and practiced my Quebecois French accent. Canadians are almost always routinely allowed into the US without needing a visa and often go for tourism purposes. In fact, Quebecois often go up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and “snowbirds” going back and forth from Florida are very common.

So chances are “Banica” could have been very annoyingly tied up in a lot of bureaucratic hassle before being allowed through, even though he disarmingly offers the following:

“‘Well,’ Zimler said with a slight laugh, ‘the flight into Quebec was cheaper, of course, than direct flight to Washington. But if you want to know secret…I have always wanted to see New England. I can catch a little of it coming in from northern part of state of New York while I drive. I just hope now I’m able to find gas station that has petrol…you know, with your president’s rationing plan…’

The border guard smiled back and then handed the passport back to Zimler. ‘Have a good trip, Mr. Banica.'”

He gets a call back on his cell phone, and with that we move to Rotterdam.

In his Europoort office in Rotterdam, Petri Feditzch was flicking the end of another cigarette he’d just lit. He was looking out of the grease-streaked window toward the junction of the Rhine and Meuse rivers. He had decided to wait awhile before connecting with Zimler. Just in case Petri’s superiors changed their minds and decided not to delay the project after all. Such an occurrence would have required making multiple contacts with Zimler rather than one. And that was something Petri wanted to avoid. His days with the KGB had taught him a few things about the more perverse side of human nature. Dangerous, unpredictable people must be managed in a simple manner. Unnecessary complexity, well, that was not a good thing–especially when negotiating with a sociopath like Zimler. Keep things straightforward. Predictable.

This not only gives us some back story on Feditzch, but also Zimler. This becomes important later on as we see what Zimler gets up to.

“‘Good,’ Petri said. ‘In that case I have a message for you.’

There was silence.

‘My superiors want you to delay the project.’

There was more silence…then an exhale of disgust.

‘I don’t like delays. I rarely tolerate them.’

‘I understand. But in this case, it is critical, I’m afraid.’

‘For how long?’

‘I’m not sure.’

There was another pause. The former KGB agent knew Zimler’s seething anger was about to be directed at him.

‘I am on a very strict timeline,’ Zimler snapped. ‘Cretans like you can’t appreciate that.’

Petri took another drag on his cigarette, then simply replied, ‘I was to deliver the message. I have done that. Your instructions are unequivocal. You must halt the project until you receive further instructions from me.'”

I think Parshall meant to write Cretins and not Cretans; otherwise I suspect he’s accidentally offended every citizen of Crete. 😉

We also see here why Demas took precautions. Apparently Zimler is known to be a bit of a loose cannon, even though he’s good at what he does.

“As he drove, Zimler reached over to his briefcase and pulled out a file with one hand and laid it on the seat next to him. He flipped it open. Joshua Jordan’s picture was there. Along with the other documents he had been given by the late Yergi Banica. There were also several new clippings about Joshua and the RTS controversy.

Zimler didn’t need much time to ruminate on Petri’s call. He would not delay his mission. He refused to be treated like a schoolboy waiting for the teacher to give him his next assignment. Who did they think they were dealing with?

He already knew exactly what he was going to do and how he would do it.”

And that’s that for this chapter.

Next chapter promises to be another trip into the political bizarro-land LaHaye and Parshall inhabit, and it promises to be one of those blink-stare-and-pinch-yourself kind of situations.

 


* LaHaye holds a doctorate and I should be calling him Dr. LaHaye; that said, most literature I’ve seen does not specifically mention his degree, so I will follow that de facto convention.