Christ Clone vs. Left Behind: A Preview

Christ Clone versus Left Behind

For those of you who know me over on Slacktivist, I’ve been one of the more vocal proponents of the Christ Clone as Rapture-done-right.

I’ll dive more into this after I finish EoA but I want to offer a couple of “appetizers”, if you will, about the contrast between Decker Hawthorne, a news reporter in the Christ Clone, and Cameron “Buck” Williams in Left Behind.

Now, in the first chapter of the first Christ Clone book, which is titled In His Image, Decker’s late for a plane trip and needs the plane to reopen the boarding door to let him in:

Decker’s flight arrived late into New York and he had to run to make his connecting flight to Milan, Italy.

(…)

“I’ve got to get on that plane!” he told the woman, as he put on the sweetest ‘help me’ look he could muster.

“You have your passport?” she asked.

“Right here,” Decker answered, handing it to her along with his ticket.

“What about your luggage?”

“This is it,” he answered, holding up an overstaffed and somewhat oversized carry-on bag.

The plane had not actually moved yet, so after notifying the pilot, it was an easy task to move the jetway back into place. After a quick but heartfelt ‘thank you,’ Decker boarded the plane and headed to his seat.

(…)

Decker found his seat and sat down. There to greet him was Professor Harry Goodman, a sloppily dressed, short man with gray hair, reading glasses half-way down his nose, and thick bushy eyebrows that blazed helter-skelter across his brow and up onto his forehead like a brush fire. “I was beginning to think you’d stood me up,” Professor Goodman said.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” Decker answered. “I just wanted to make a big entrance.”

Notice right away that Decker has a legitimate reason to need to hold up the plane – his connecting flight is late. He doesn’t ostentatiously make demands of the ticket agent, and tries to show that he’s as prepared as can be for his trip – passport ready, one bag, and he can be on the way immediately.

Furthermore, his self-effacing joke at the end actually works. He’s not trying to be a showboating asshat.

Contrast this with Buck’s showboating behavior when he’s about to get a Land Rover. He’s pushy about getting the car, and even subjects the dealer to added inconvenience. Customer service blogs and websites are replete with the kind of appalling misbehavior from customers who manage to force employees to do extra things just because they’re spending a lot of money in one spot.

Buck sat in the sales manager’s office of a Land Rover dealership. “You never cease to amaze me,” Chloe whispered.

“I’ve never been conventional, have I?”

“Hardly, and now I suppose any hope of normalcy is out the window.”

“I don’t need any excuse for being unique,” he said, “but everyone everywhere will be acting impulsively soon enough.”

The sales manager, who had busied himself with paperwork and figuring a price, turned the documents and slid them across the desk toward Buck. “You’re not trading the Lincoln, then?”

“No, that’s a rental,” Buck said. “But I am going to ask you to return that to O’Hare for me.” Buck looked up at the man without regard to the documents.

“That’s highly unusual,” the sales manager said. “I’d have to send two of my people and an extra vehicle so they could get back.”

Buck stood. “I suppose I am asking too much. Another dealer will be willing to go the extra mile to sell me a vehicle, I’m sure, especially when no one knows what tomorrow may bring.”

“Sit back down, Mr. Williams. I won’t have any trouble getting my district manager to sign off on throwing in that little errand for you. As you can see, you’re going to be able to drive your fully loaded Range Rover out of here within an hour for under six figures.”

“Make it half an hour,” Buck said, “and we’ve got a deal.”

The sales manager rose and thrust out his hand. “Deal.”

On top of all this, he crows gleefully to his wife, Chloe, about how he’s used a government-issued credit card for that purchase and has no intention of using the truck for its stated purpose.

“You consider spending almost a hundred thousand dollars on a toy like this an investment in our cause?”

“Chloe,” Buck said carefully, “look at this rig. It has everything. It will go anywhere. It’s indestructible. It comes with a phone. It comes with a citizen’s band radio. It comes with a fire extinguisher, a survival kit, flares, you name it. It has fourwheel drive, all-wheel drive, independent suspension, a CD player that plays those new two-inch jobs, electrical outlets in the dashboard that allow you to connect whatever you want directly to the battery.”

“But Buck, you slapped down your Global Community Weekly credit card as if it were your own. What kind of a limit do you have on that thing?”

I can’t imagine Decker Hawthorne ever behaving this childishly about something he spent someone else’s money on and which he intends to unlawfully convert (a.k.a. “steal”) for his own use.

The irony is that both Decker and Buck are news reporters, but one of them actually acts like a real reporter and the other is just a showboating jackass.

I’ll do a proper comparison on an “era by era” basis, if you will, between Left Behind and the Christ Clone, since they both follow the basic precepts of Rapture theology. In this way, I hope to highlight the way James BeauSeigneur avoids many of the writing problems that plague Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’s book series.

Until then, we’ll continue through LaHaye and Parshall’s attempt at Rapture theology.

EoA: The Greenback Finally Quits

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 172-176 (Chapter Thirty-One)

This chapter is actually quite interesting, because it reveals more about the intended target audience of this book. LaHaye and Parshall are not just aiming this book at RTCs, but also to a broader cross-section of various fringe right-wing groups as well as the military.

We have already seen the shout-outs and the code phrases from the anvilicously structured Jordan family in which the odd one out, Cal Jordan, is not “truly” a Christian nor a military kid, to the relatively subtle (for LaHaye-sponsored books, anyway) touches upon the fears of loss of American sovereignty, which is defined as having the right to be the worldwide Number One by any means possible. Of parenthetical note is that LaHaye was documented to have been a member of the John Birch Society once upon a time.

But in addition to the RTCs and the UN conspiracy theorists, the anti-continental-integrationists are having their turn. Let’s turn now to the American currency.

“‘Hanz, this is disastrous. Give me your take on this, will you? I’m looking at my screen right now, and the American dollar is sinking like a stone…’

Sean, a currency trader in a large brokerage house on Oxford Street in the heart of London was sitting in front of his computer. He was on the phone with the manager of the Munich branch of the same company.

‘I was looking over my open positions at the close of the day. The dollar versus the Swiss franc. The dollar versus the yen. The dollar against the pound…’

From his office on Goethestrasse in Munich, Germany, Hanz blurted out, ‘Yah, we see it too. The dollar trend slipping. Every day. But this is bad…there’s still time for trades today. We’ll dump our positions in the dollar. We’re not waiting…'”

CRAIG PARSHALL, YOUR LICENCE TO USE ELLIPSES IS HEREBY REVOKED. YOU HEAR ME? REVOKED.

Ahem, right, Where was I?

It’s not unreasonable to suppose that the US dollar would, after years of oil-driven trade deficits, high unemployment and high inflation, be experiencing a slow and steady currency devaluation. In and of itself, in a world of floating exchange rates, not much is going to be done about it unless the US government begins controlling capital flows.

From a meta- point of view, what’s interesting is that the rival to the US dollar, the Euro, is most curiously omitted from the above laundry list of downward trends. Why? The Euro isn’t the domestic currency of a small country, such as, for example, the Iranian rial, which is used mostly within that country. Even the Canadian dollar tends to be largely used wthin Canada and exchanged as needed for Euros or US dollars when we travel elsewhere.

The Euro encompasses nearly all of Europe at this point, and certainly by the projected year of this book, it’s doubtful that, for example, the Serbian dinar would still be in use.

So, a curious omission. Perhaps LaHaye and Parshall have such strong distaste for Europe that they want to telegraph their dislike of currency unions in this manner?

Economists have their own reasons for objecting to currency unions, mainly due to the loss of a domestic policy tool, which is to let the international value of the currency drop freely in response to expansionary fiscal and monetary policy. An example commonly cited of the usefulness of this was the UK Pound Sterling’s withdrawal from the ERM (Exchange Rate Mechanism), permitting it to freely float against the Deutsche Mark. The UK experienced a mild economic boom over the next year because the UK central bank could lower interest rates without worrying about the value of the currency.

But in LaHaye’s world, such currency unions carry a more sinister meaning than the question of whether it’s a good policy for a government: they represent stage N (exactly where placed in the timetable of events leading up to the End Times is a matter of some debate) in the range from zero to N + some arbitrary number, of a sequence of events which, if followed as laid out in Revelation, will lead to the return of Jesus Christ to Earth.

With that aside in mind, let’s keep moving as we follow the US government’s reaction to a sudden worsening of the trend in the US dollar. The book indicates that a carry trade has existed in the US dollar, similar to the yen carry trade; since this typically takes place when interest rates have been forced to zero or near zero for a long time in one currency (as has been the case for the Japanese Yen), you can borrow cheaply in one currency, and lend it out elsewhere and make a tidy profit doing so.

Incidentally, economists will point out that purposely pushing interest rates very low is an inflationary policy. Given that the book has already indicated the imposition of selective price controls and a well-hidden deliberate program of monkeying with the US economy (actually, why the US government would purposely keep stagflation going is never really answered; if high inflation isn’t helping bring down unemployment, then the far deeper structural issues of how wealth and income are distributed and really, the nature of work itself, need to be explored), this addition to the arsenal of the US government’s purposely inflationary program would seem to be an exercise in foolhardiness.

“An irate federal official was making another call to the White House. This time the president’s chief of staff took the call personally.

‘Sorry for the delays. I’m very familiar with the treasury secretary’s urgent matter. But with the president’s schedule, it’s been virtually impossible to arrange this earlier…’

The treasury official wasn’t going to be sandbagged this time. ‘Hank, the secretary has to see the president. Today. No more excuses. If we don’t do something quick, you’re going to see our nation experience a financial Chernobyl. And I’ll personally see to it that the whole world knows that Hank Strand, the president’s chief of staff, is the one responsible. You’ll make Bernie Madoff look like a Boy Scout.'”

I had to chuckle at that contemporaneous reference to Bernie Madoff. The sense of urgency is explained:

“The assistant secretary of the treasury had called twice in the last two days to schedule a meeting between the treasury secretary and President Corland. But Strand had given orders for the meeting to be delayed. He knew Corland had been unable to make a decision on the issue. It was clear that once America headed down this road, there would be no turning back.

But time was running out. Today’s reports from the monetary markets showed the dollar was no longer treading water–it was drowning. Pretty soon it would be unable to compete even with the Mexican peso. American currency showed signs of a catastrophic failure, and everyone in the Corland administration knew it.”

One thing I might note is that the stagflation of the 1970s was probably made worse by policy paralysis due to the gathering storm of Richard Nixon’s potential impeachment in 1973 and 1974, and, fast forwarding to Jimmy Carter, a widespread perception that he was an ineffective President due to the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis in 1979/1980.

So Parshall is onto something here; an economic crisis can be made worse if the people in charge of responding have other things on their minds.

“Thirty minutes later, Strand was in the Oval Office with President Corland, who was on his feet and was pacing like a caged animal. The chairman of his board of economic advisors, who had been seated on the couch, made a gesture of rising to match the president’s position. But after a few seconds, Corland impulsively dumped himself back down into an upholstered chair. The chairman thought the president’s behavior had been increasingly odd of late. He looked over at Corland’s chief of staff, hoping to glean something from his expression. But he should have known better.”

Why, is that foreshadowing I detect there? Parshall’s all but waved a big sign saying “keep watching the President”! Just to make it even clearer, in case we missed it the first time:

“Fewer than a handful of people knew anything about President Corland’s strange medical situation. Strand was one of them. He thought if he remained calm, paced and confident, around Corland, that one of the president’s ‘incidents’ would be avoided.”

I don’t know how old the President is in this book, but my bet’s on a heart condition that’s being kept hidden, or a stroke that’s been well-masked and for which a doctor has prescribed something.

But now they’re getting down to tackling the issue of a meltdown of the US dollar, presumably precipitated by the attempted nuking of New York and the subsequent political issues surrounding the use of the RTS-RGS to deal with trade imbalances (or just an “it’s time” moment after years of persistent US economic problems).

“The president was trying to control his emotions. His face was frozen into a tight-faced grin–trying to look pleasant, but the resulting expression was almost ghoulish.

‘I don’t want to be the one who goes down in history for…you know…killing the U.S. dollar. Washington’s face is still on the one dollar bill, remember? The American public is not going to like this–‘

The chairman blurted out, ‘I think that what the American public wants is an economy that doesn’t look like Germany at the end of World War I.'”

Given that the US government in this book appears to have been pretty heavy with the “print money” button, I’d say that last sentence is a rather real fear that these people should have. The solution will be something similar to what the Weimar govermnment eventually did: demonetize the old notes and introduce a new currency backed by something a little more tangible. In the case of Weimar Germany, the Rentenmark was introduced, backed essentially by all the landholdings in Germany. It was successful in stopping the hyperinflation in its tracks, and was eventually replaced by a proper Reichsmark.

“Hank Strand wanted to interject an attitude of calm. But he knew that the handwriting was on the wall, and so he added soothingly, ‘Mr. President, the secretary of the treasury wants you to give him the go-ahead for the U.S. to begin the monetary conversion process. It can be gradual, of course.’

‘But not too gradual,’ the chairman added. ‘We don’t want a meltdown of our markets, Mr. President.'”

Not unexpected, but national identity is often tied up with a currency. The British are reluctant to give up the UK Pound Sterling, and Canadians would fiercely resist any attempt to adopt the US dollar or even form a currency union with the USA. Similar nationalist sentiments no doubt exist with in the US with respect to the US dollar.

So what, exactly, is this monetary conversion process? Replacing the old US dollar with new ones that have some zeros cut off of them? Perhaps an attempt to impose a partial gold backing for the currency?

Oh no. It’s far worse than that, in LaHaye-land!

“The chairman relaxed back in his chair when he saw the president coming around. ‘We’ve been in global markets since the end of the twentieth century, for heaven’s sake. Is it really so radical that we now become part of a unified global currency?’

‘And the precedent you talked about?’ Corland asked.

‘Yes, the International Monetary Fund. Right. It’s a little known fact that the IMF’s had the authority for years to issue a financial form of paper called Special Drawing Rights–SDRs–as a global form of money.'”

Some background material: Special Drawing Rights are a creation of the International Monetary Fund, and tend to play little role in our day to day lives because it is not used as currency by the vast majority of us.

Indeed, it was envisioned to have more of a role of the type that LaHaye and Parshall think it has, but for a number of reasons the SDR has never taken on that kind of importance.

‘They’re just like an international currency, Mr. President. So this move for the United States to join the rest of the major nations in adopting the new international currency–the Currency Regulation Drawing Order–the CReDO–as part of our national currency, well, that’s not that new after all. Besides, the CReDO is already a dualpurpose form of money. It’s being used in the paper version, yes, but it also is available as an electronic form. Like an international debit card. A major plus since the entire world will be going the way of cashless currency very shortly. Besides, Americans are primed for this. They’ve been making more purchases with cards than they have with cash since 2007. So we are way overdue for this worldwide system of money.’

Ba-ding!

By the way, this CReDO thing has to be the stupidest name ever for an international currency.

But here we are, ladies and gentlemen: LaHaye and Parshall, as noted, are aiming this book at the segment of the population that believes seriously that the US government plans to “internationalize” the currency, with conspiracy theories related to the idea of an “Amero“.

However, no US or Canadian government is eager to rush in, and Mexico, for its own reasons, seems to be happy to simply de facto dollarize in the northern regions and keep its peso for domestic purposes.

This is not to say that fears of disproportionate influence wielded by the United States on Canada or Mexico are groundless. As Pierre Trudeau’s “elephant and mouse” analogy notes, things the US does cannot help but have an effect on Canada.

And now we know why LaHaye and Parshall omitted the Euro.

It was introduced in almost the same way as the “CReDO” is: first it was developed by a regime of fixed exchange rates among the currencies of the nations participating, then it began to be used in cross-border and domestic electronic transactions, then finally introduced as a physical currency.

But if they included the Euro, people might go look it up and realize that their buttons are being pushed unnecessarily by this absurdly named global currency.

Nonetheless, this “internationalism”, symbolized by the giving-up of the US dollar, is introduced as a dog whistle to the segments of the US population that LaHaye and Parshall desire to be reading this book.

“‘Okay,’ the president said, ‘get our press secretary working on this. A series of short announcements about a ‘monetary enhancement.’ Something vague. That we’ll still permit Americans to use the dollar. That sort of thing. But pretty soon, the American people will see their dollars are worthless but that they can use the CReDO, and suddenly they’ll be saying, hey, you know, I can buy more with the CReDO than with the old currency. Right?'”

Funny how LaHaye and Parshall manage to portray a pragmatic, common-sense political decision to replace an old currency with a new one with a better perceived stability in its value as being a secretive and sinister decision to give away the USA to the United Nations.

And just in case we weren’t sufficiently convinced of that, check this last part out:

“The secretary of the treasury was scheduled for a 3:30 meeting in the Oval Office. President Corland would give him the good news then. America was soon going to join the new form of global currency.

By 4:30, however, someone in the White House, no one ever found out who, leaked the information to an underground blogger who ran a website called the Barn Door.

At 4:48, the Barn Door reported that the president had approved the U.S. disbanding the dollar and changing America over to the CReDO.

Seventeen minutes later, the big telecom Internet server that hosted the Barn Door blogsite, fearing reprisals from the White House, without warning shut it down permanently. So the webmaster for the Barn Door blog immediately called all the major news networks to complain about it.

None of them reported it.”

George W. Bush would have loved this much command and control over media message back when he was President.

I look forward to the discussion this chapter generates 😀

Next chapter, we’ll meet back with John Gallagher.

EoA: Zimler’s Collateral Damage

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 168-171 (Chapter Thirty)

In this chapter we meet with Roger French, who, if we remember from Chapter 29, is Rocky Bridger’s son-in-law. I’ve kind of given away the point of this review in the section title, but you’ll quickly see that the sole purpose of introducing this guy was as a throwaway character to allow for some “collateral damage” as Zimler zeroes in on Joshua Jordan.

“The phone was ringing in the office of Consolidated Insurance Brokers in the downtown section of Philadelphia. It was bad timing. Everyone had left except for Roger French. He was now hesitating, torn between the guilt of leaving early and the benefit of avoiding rush hour traffic. He’d already been visualizing the route–over to JFK Boulevard and then from there onto the expressway. That would be the fastest way to make it to his daughter’s basketball game on time.

Roger’s hand reached down, hovering over the network panel button for the office phone system. Murphy’s Law told him he ought to let it go to voicemail. But a strong work ethic urged him to pick it up.

As he reached for his briefcase he punched the button on the panel that read Roger–Earpiece.

The man on the other end spoke in a crisp British accent. ‘Oh, so glad to hear someone is still there. I urgently need to acquire commercial insurance for an international company I represent.'”

Roger tries to back out, saying he needs to make his daughter’s game, but the British guy’s very insistent and says he just needs five minutes to get the paperwork done before he flies home.

By about now, you all might be remembering a rather unfortunate person who got suckered: Yergi Banica, who fell for the oldest trick in the book so Atta Zimler could sneak up behind him and kill him.

Sure enough, Zimler was the “British” guy.

“Atta Zimler, hair dyed red, wearing an expensive pinstriped suit, and carrying a briefcase, walked toward the offices of Consolidated Insurance Brokers five minutes after finishing his call to Roger. Zimler considered this an irritating side trip. But necessary. The dossier that Dr. Banica had furnished him was superficial at best. The Russian agents who had compiled it had only skimmed the surface of the RTS system. And there was zero personal information about Joshua Jordan that would enable Zimler to track him down to his most vulnerable point. Not that he couldn’t do it. He would. And Roger the insurance man was going to help him.”

And now, Zimler makes very quick work of the situation. No preliminaries like with Banica:

“After Zimler entered the building’s main lobby, skillfully moving his face away from the video surveillance cameras, he went up to the fifth floor. He rang the buzzer for Consolidated Insurance. Roger opened the door, looking a little distracted, but flashed a quick smile to his customer. Zimler took his hand and shook it firmly. While he greeted Roger, he sized him up.

When Roger turned his back to gather a large manila file, Zimler swung his arm around with lightning speed and delivered a karate blow to the back of Roger’s neck.”

Zimler “preps” Roger for a… shall we say, enhanced interrogation, and then waits for him to wake up.

“Atta Zimler waved a document in front of his victim. A copy of Roger’s email that he had posted to an antinuclear blog.

‘So nice of you, Roger, to defend Joshua Jordan in this web posting; let’s see, how did you say it?–oh yes–‘a personal friend of my father-in-law, who is a former Pentagon general.’ So, I have some questions for you, Roger French. Questions about Joshua Jordan. He is a difficult man to reach, and it is very clear from this email that your father-in-law, General Bridger, may have confided certain information about Jordan to you. So you will tell me everything you know about him and his business, his family, everything.'”

At that point, Zimler demands information about Josh Jordan’s family.

Dun-dun-DUN.

Short chapter, but this sets the stage for a fairly crucial plot arc later in the book, since Zimler now knows Jordan’s weaknesses in his family structure. The only question is – will he go after Abigail, Deborah, or Cal?

We’ll see later on. Next chapter, we’ll be back to Washington, DC.

EoA: AmeriNews Kickoff

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 160-167 (Chapter Twenty-Nine)

We’re back at the Roundtable, and we have an interesting first paragraph:

“Telling the truth had become a risky business.”

To the extent that this book explores media concentration and how it distorts political discourse, it’s quite interesting how spot-on the book is about the problem: too much media in too few hands.

But the problem is, this book should have had a footnote on ‘truth’ which would read: “for certain values of truth”.

Why?

Because the definition of truth in this book is subject to the bizarro nature of the world-building by LaHaye and Parshall. It’s a world where back is front compared to our own, where Democrats supposedly act worse than Republicans and where Muslims somehow have more religious privilege than Christians do.

The book goes on to explain the details of the media concentration issue:

“For years, America’s digital-based news belonged to the white-knuckled grip of a handful of corporate moguls, and they were not going to let go easily. Everyone in the Roundtable knew that. All the more reason, they figured, for their revolution to be launched immediately.”

As commenters and myself have pointed out, this AmeriNews thing will be a direct competitor to GNN, and even without any political shenanigans going on, GNN should be all over this already, because you don’t go around building a news infrastructure without anybody sitting up and taking notice. To the extent that Parshall realizes the problem, he’s done this:

“Phil Rankowitz had spent the better part of the day going back and forth on the phone with the lawyers, ironing out last contract terms with the World Teleco, the huge telecommunications company whose satellite would carry the news service.”

Now that is actually feasible – using a telephone company’s infrastructure to carry television, since there’s been convergence between what cable can do and what telephone wire can do, as witness things like Shaw Cable’s digital phone service, or Telus’s television service (for those who don’t know, I live in British Columbia).

Parshall has also used the same basic idea I noted, which is to use a dummy corporation for the purposes of obscuring the true ownership structure of AmeriNews:

“The project would be structured through a shell corporation called Mountain News Enterprise, MNE Inc., which had already been set up for that purpose.”

As far as the financing goes, the book notes that Beverly Rose Cortez has been lining that up as well as Roundtable members committing their own money.

This next part’s kind of funny, actually.

“The challenge was to avoid tipping off the telecom company that this news network would be radically different. After all, World Teleco was a Corland administration supporter and was in tight with the existing news services.”

Ok, and they’re negotiating this contract with this telephone company for what reason? The USA’s telco market isn’t that oligopolistic though it is regionally divided by local carrier to some extent, and long-distance carriers can freely provide service to anyone who asks.

So they could always get the contract negotiations done through a competitor if they really had to, though the geographic limitations might prove a problem. Then again, if AmeriNews is as jazzy as claimed, the free market will end up forcing World Teleco to end up carrying it anyway in order to make money (advertising, perhaps).

Oh, but I forgot. This is a bizarro world where the evil big government censors and slants the news. That wouldn’t happen to resemble anything like an Administration starting with the letter B and a news agency starting with the letter F, now would it?

Gosh no. 😛

“By contrast, AmeriNews would be a new breed of reporting, one that was willing to stand toe-to-toe with the existing news giants and would challenge the current political status quo. AmeriNews would cover hard-hitting issues that the mainstream Internet-driven TV and radio networks refused to cover. And it would be delivered right to the Allfone cell phones used by half of America’s citizens. If all went well, within ten months the plan would expand and provide AmeriNews to nearly every American with a cell phone.”

If this doesn’t sound like a paid product placement for Fox News, I don’t know what is.

And say – apparently not everyone has an Allfone. I’m shocked. SHOCKED, I say. So the half of the US’s citizens who have cell phones not worthy of being called Allfones are probably the same ones who vote for the Democrats. 😛

(Which also explains why Cal Jordan isn’t cool enough to have an Allfone, either)

So how do they plan to make this thing work? Hello hella infodump from Rankowitz courtesy of Senator Leander “hammering the group” about the viability of AmeriNews.

“‘The idea isn’t complicated,’ Rankowitz explained to the group. ‘We cover the national news with no holds barred. I’ve got unemployed news directors and reporters laid off their jobs from failed print newspapers and magazines lined up to do the investigative reporting and to write national news copy. At the same time, local newspapers in key geographical areas are given free space for their local news. When someone with an Allfone equipped with our AmeriNews service comes within fifty miles of a city or county covered by a local digital newspaper that has signed up with us, then bang, that local news automatically shows up on their Allfone. […] ‘”

Remembering that the nominal unemployment rate in the USA of this era is 15 percent, which, translated by the SGS Alternate Measure, means a “true” rate of close to 30 percent, the notion of unemployed media staff is actually not a bad idea as a pool to draw from.

But this gives rise to criticism of the worldbuilding here, similarly to how LaHaye and Jenkins don’t flesh out their post-apocalyptic world very well in Left Behind.

A 30 percent true unemployment rate in a 1970s stagflation scenario should be a lot more visible than it is in this book. But because these Roundtable people are so wealthy and so disconnected from the world around them, there’s almost no actual “visual” evidence, if you will, that unemployed people dealing with fuel rationing and the grind of steadily rising prices are a potential flash point for danger. We saw a little bit of this on a television screen in Corland’s office, but that’s not the same as being shown the problem.

Hell, Josh Jordan and his cronies have a perfect reserve army to threaten the administration if they want to go MAD over it; they could slant their AmeriNews coverage to appeal directly to these people, and within weeks, the Administration would have to basically draw all of them into the military or risk city-destroying riots.

But the problem with that would be that it would make Josh not a RTP, but rather a leader of a secret cabal cynically using the unemployed as a method by which to grind his ax against the US government.

As it is, this AmeriNews agency is not intended in good faith to offer alternative news sources; it’s intended as a vehicle by which to prove that Josh is an honest upstanding God-fearing man who’s being beaten down by those horrible Democrats.

And I was right, it seems, about AmeriNews basically being a Fox News stand-in. Note the bolded part:

“‘[…] Readership via Allfone gives us entree to the whole country from the ground up. We break through the media monopoly of silence on our issues. For the first time in years, the American people will start getting the real facts.’

But Leander was still worried about leaks. ‘What if the Allfone telecom company, World Teleco, suddenly gets cold feet? Finds out that your news is going to challenge the big mainstream media that they already have as customers? That you’re planning to bust up the news monopoly? I’m old enough to remember how the Fox network shook up the media establishment for a while and how the folks in the Senate with me had to be looking over their shoulders. It was healthy. Back when controversial radio talk-show hosts could actually challenge the White House. […] ‘”

That bit about the talk show hosts? They couldn’t possibly mean the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, could LaHaye and Parshall? Because those are not very sterling examples of people you want to use, L&P. Limbaugh and Beck have made their careers pushing wildly inaccurate viewpoints about how the world works and have, in the process, plumbed the depths of indecency and lack of good taste in discussing their political opponents.

There is then some discussion about the problem, but Judge Rice reminds the group that the dummy corporation doesn’t have anyone from the Roundtable in the leading positions:

“Judge Rice raised a finger. All the eyes went to him. ‘I’ve looked over Phil’s contract structure,’ Rice said. ‘I don’t think there is any way that World Teleco is going to know that this group or any of you people are involved. They’ll think this is just one more news service. Phil very smartly has hired former general-market newspeople to be the front men in the contracts. What World Teleco doesn’t know is that these people are media folks who quietly believe the way we do. Folks, I think we’re okay.'”

Then Josh gets his oar in:

“Joshua had been pensive. Now he decided to put a capstone on the discussion. ‘People, this gets down to trust. Several of you are backing this with your own money and your own credit. But everybody here agrees on one thing: until we get the truth to the American people, this country will continue to unravel.'”

As I mentioned before, Joshua’s notion of truth and unravelling is very subjective. It’s basically a sop to white people who feel threatened by a black President and a changing world.

LaHaye and Parshall would have us believe that the US government under Democratic control is not qualified to lead the American people. They do this through creating unrealistic scenarios involving United Nations interference in domestic affairs, and the US Government actively giving up state secrets as well as purposely mismanaging the economy.

Each item of the above list is a Republican bugaboo often brought out to mislead Americans about who is better qualified to help make ordinary peoples’ lives better, and it’s at the very least saddening that LaHaye and Parshall are basically following those talking points in their book.

Now we have already been told in previous chapters that AmeriNews will be used as the vehicle to make Josh’s case before the American public. Here’s a nice executive summary of what they’ll do:

“Phil Rankowitz was tapping his pen on the table with nervous energy, and his face was lit up with the kind of grin that a boy takes with him to the circus. Gesturing toward Joshua he said with an electricity to his voice, ‘We want to launch this new cell-phone-based news network with a headline series on your RTS story. Get the true facts out on why you won’t turn your design over to Congress. And how Congress and the news media has been falsely painting you as some kind of traitor. Also, one more thing on that subject. We want to expose the White House’s cover-up about what really happened inside the Oval Office the day those North Korean missiles were heading our way. Something stinks to high heaven about the president’s explanation. The Pentagon brass that Rocky Bridger has been talking to privately have given a different story. They say that the White House knew full well that our military was going to use the RTS system to turn those missiles around and never objected. The Corland administration saying otherwise is just plain bull…'”

LaHaye and Parshall seem to really love this cell phone television thing. Now I’m wondering if Jenkins’s telephone fetish in Left Behind convinced LaHaye that phones need to be part of all of the books produced under his aegis.

Note the cutesy trailing off after “bull”. Parshall, just use the letters “BS”, all right? Then I wouldn’t need to see another abuse of ellipses.

This next is a bit hokey, in my view. But LaHaye and Parshall clearly want the readership to imagine the Roundtable, full of wealthy, comfortable people, as the latest group of rag-tag revolutionaries to grace the world’s landscape.

“For a few seconds there was a hushed silence. As if it had finally dawned on them how big this really was. In one bold stroke they would be challenging Congress, the White House, and the American news monopoly.”

After that, Bridger calls for a vote to approve this thing and it’s done, except for Leander, who’s the lone holdout.

Then there’s some chit-chat about golf and horseback riding between Bridger and Jordan, and some foreshadowing comes up:

“‘[…] Then I’m off to Pennsylvania. I’m really looking forward to that. See my daughter, Peg, and my son-in-law, Roger.’

Joshua was trying to place the name. ‘Roger…Roger French?’

‘That’s it. He’s a commercial insurance broker in Philly. A good man. Ever since Dolly died and I’ve been on my own, family has really become precious to me. Can’t wait to see them both–and my granddaughter as well.'”

Then after that, Josh meets with his buddy Strong Rice.

“Fortis Rice gave a little grunt and nodded in a way that struck Joshua as particularly unguarded and open, especially for the judge.

Rice said, ‘Darley told me last night that she had something she needed to talk with me about. But said it could wait until after our meeting. Just got me thinking…'”

GAH PLEASE STOP ABUSING ELLIPSES PARSHALL.

“[Rice] said, ‘Also, I was thinking about that lawyer, Allen Fulsin, that I was going to recommend bringing into the Roundtable to replace Fred Myster, to work in the legal subgroup. Fred’s cancer treatments are progressing well, by the way. I’m hoping they got it in time. But the point is that I need to follow up with Allen Fulsin. I’ve already broached the subject with him personally, about our group. I tried to be as discreet as I could, of course.'”

Incidentally, we also learn in this chapter that Fulsin may have fudged on his CV by omitting his work with a law firm in which a former White House legal counsel is senior partner.

Anybody watching Rice chat with this Fulsin guy, who, we learn, used to work for the solicitor general and clerked for a Supreme Court judge, would probably start smelling a rat. Sure enough, see below:

“Joshua keyed into Rice’s concern, so he asked him pointblank: ‘Did you say anything to him that you regret? About the Roundtable I mean?’

‘No. I didn’t give him anything specific. I didn’t give him the name or the particulars of our members. Just a little about what we do. You know, to feel him out. I think I may have mentioned that we were working on a media project. I did mention World Teleco to see if he had ever represented them. He said he hadn’t.’

‘You think he’s shooting straight?’

‘I got that impression.’

‘And his politics?’

‘Very gung-ho about our position on things. Says he’s been wanting to do something for the future of America.'”

In any world but this bizarro world, a conversation like that, in which one participant is part of a shadowy, secret group, would be consdered a possible invitation to sedition.

There are open and above-board reasons to discuss political viewpoints. This is not one of them. In a multi-party democracy in which party and state are separate, there is no need or reason to clandestinely oppose the legally constituted government of one’s country. Elections are how power is legitimately transferred from one leader to the next, and from one party to another.

Jordan et al, however, have no intention of contesting any election. Instead, like the Generals in Seven Days in May, they plan to clandestinely grab control of the media to soften up the American public for an illegal coup to take power away from the legal President of the country.

It has been bandied about in this blog before that LaHaye and Parshall may be openly inviting military readers of this book to support the ideas put forth in it, with expressions of contempt for civilian oversight, contempt for civilian Democratic leaders and support for the primacy of the military. The military is run on fundamentally different lines than the civilian world, and it is precisely because of the tight inculcation of command and control in the ranks of the military that every stable country in this world has mandated civilian oversight of the armed forces and insisted that ultimate authority for orders goes not to the highest military officers, but to their civilian superiors in the government itself.

I may be reading too much into this book and the comments made on this blog, but I cannot help wondering if, in fact, LaHaye and Parshall are effectively calling for sedition among a sector of the US population with the means and opportunity to accomplish seditious objectives.

The project would be structured through a shell corporation called Mountain News Enterprise, MNE Inc., which had already been set up for that purpose.

EoA: Detour to Moscow

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 156-159 (Chapter Twenty-Eight)

We’re now in Moscow, and Hamad Katchi has business there. If you all need a memory refresher, he featured last in Chapter Twenty as a supposedly reformed arms dealer who was in Davos to have a chat with Cesar Demas.

What’s he up to now?

“Hamad Katchi threaded his way down a back alley littered with broken bottles and scraps of trash. It was right around midnight. For most people, in that particular neighborhood and at that particular time of night, it would be a hair-raising experience.”

He’s apparently been busy in his old career as an arms dealer rather than a reformed one:

“But not for Katchi. He wasn’t afraid of the Russian mobsters who controlled that part of town. Many of them had done business with Katchi in the illegal arms trade. And for those who hadn’t, they had certainly heard of him.

Over the years, Katchi had risen to the level of an international celebrity in the underworld. Who would have thought a ‘conversion’ to global peace would give him the ability to continue to secretly negotiate with national leaders behind the cloak of legitimacy. This was a man no one wanted to cross.”

It turns out that Katchi is Pakistani, and he’s about to meet with a guy named Vlad, a former KGB agent who is now in the FSB. They meet in a small cafe for this purpose; the cafe’s empty, having already been closed for the night.

“‘Good to see you again, Vlad,’ Katchi began.

The other man, Vlad Levko, was a former KGB agent and now an aging member of the Russian Federation’s newest spy agency, the FSB. He smiled and motioned toward a bottle of vodka flanked by two shot glasses. Katchi shook his head no. Levko helped himself anyway, filled up a shot, and then tossed it down.”

The Russians want a modification to their deal to get the RTS-RGS by hook or by crook, and to be honest, it makes perfect sense. As a nuclear power they’d prefer to have MAD parity with the USA rather than the USA having an asymmetrical advantage in nuclear warfare.

“Okay, but there is a slight adjustment since we talked last.’

Katchi was prepared for some last-minute treachery from the Russians. What he was not prepared for was a deal breaker.

Levko took another draw on his cigar before proceeding. ‘We want the exclusive rights to the RTS. We don’t want the system being sold to our competitors.’

‘That’s not an adjustment, Levko–that’s a complete overhaul. You should have informed me before I wasted a trip.'”

Skipping ahead, Katchi agrees.

“Katchi replied, ‘What you are asking is going to be a very hard sell to Demas.’

‘We are, of course, prepared to compensate you for exclusivity. You are, however, going to have to guarantee that you will be able to deliver all the necessary information regarding the details of the RTS laser-reversal protocol to make it worth our while.'”

It looks like the original plan might have been to dribble it out to the Russians piece by piece. This is consistent with an in-text comment about “not wanting to wait a year”.

The Russians are obviously not stupid nor fanatical. They want to stay around for a long time and if the price of that is going back to the old Soviet pattern of stealing advanced Western technology, they’re not going to flinch from it.

“‘One more thing. We cannot under any circumstance be traced back to your efforts to obtain the RTS design. Are we clear about that? We are not looking for a world war with the United States. At least not yet. Can you guarantee that you will keep us out of the spotlight?'”

Keeping in mind that this covert plan is running in parallel with careful overtures by the USA to try and trade the RTS-RGS for oil, or to get money for it, Katchi points out how to keep the US government distracted:

“‘That won’t be a problem. In the meantime, I suggest you increase the U.S. allotment of oil above what you are currently offering, to make it look like you’re helping to prop them up economically. You will continue to appear like a friend, and the U.S. does not become suspicious.'”

Then Katchi starts to almost make the same mistake that did in Banica, the Romanian.

“‘We have someone getting the RTS for us who is world-class. The best there is. Maybe the best there ever was. I am certain he will keep all of us out of the spotlight.’

But then Katchi caught himself. Had he said too much? He did not want the Russian spy-masters to know whom they had hired for this project. The Russians had long memories. Atta Zimler’s execution of three of their top agents had left a festering sore.”

The undercurrents in the spy-thriller part of this novel are actually crafted fairly decently, I’d say. We have murky background people like Cesar Demas, Hamad Katchi, the Russian FSB and Atta Zimler who may or may not be working at cross-purposes to one another in their scramble to get the RTS-RGS.

Katchi saves himself with a throwaway lie about a South American agent (which calls to mind Carlos the Jackal, oddly enough, but then I’ve read the “Bourne Identity” series of books by Ludlum), and we end with the Russian agent agreeing on the new payment terms:

“Just before exiting the cafe’s back room, Katchi added almost offhandedly, ‘For exclusive possession of the RTS design, you will have to pay double.’

Levko didn’t flinch. Russia’s oil reserves were at an all-time high. And the Federation had successfully taken control of all private oil production. Another billion dollars was no big deal.

‘Be safe, my friend,’ Vlad Levko muttered to Katchi as he made his way through the dim cafe and out onto the street. ‘The world can be a dangerous place.'”

A billion smackers is a lot of dough to fork out for this thing, but given the Russian Federation’s well-known dependence on oil sales throughout the 2000s it’s reasonable to assume they can afford it.

And with that, we’ll move back to the Roundtable next chapter.

 

But not for Katchi. He wasn’t afraid of the Russian mobsters who controlled that part of town. Many of them had done business with Katchi in the illegal arms trade. And for those who hadn’t, they had certainly heard of him.

Over the years, Katchi had risen to the level of an international celebrity in the underworld. Who would have thought a “conversion” to global peace would give him the ability to continue to secretly negotiate with national leaders behind the cloak of legitimacy. This was a man no one wanted to cross.

EoA: New Directions

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 151-155 (Chapter Twenty-Seven)

The Roundtable’s all wrapped up, and it’s just Joshua and Abigail by themselves now. This chapter can be thought of as a bookend to the previous one, in that it allows the two of them to catch up with one another about events recounted in the book.

I titled this “New Directions”, because in a sense, what this (as well as the previous chapter) chapter notes is that Josh is taking a new tack in his offensive against his opponents. In addition this chapter sets the stage for Josh’s introduction into being an RTC, which will also be a new direction in his mission-specific life.

Let’s join the couple now, shall we?

“In the north wing of the twelve-bedroom ranch lodge, Joshua and Abigail had their own private quarters and master bedroom. There was a terrace off their bedroom that opened out to a vista of the valley during the day and a canopy of stars embedded in a black sky at night.”

That’s actually not bad writing to set the scene. Incidentally, I’m thinking the house probably looks something like this one. Big and sprawling with twelve bedrooms! Good lord. And the kitchen, dining area, and living room must make this place a bloody mansion. Why, again, is Cal not invited? It’s not like they’re desperate for space.

“‘Is that the Milky Way?’

‘Yeah. It looks like a trail of diamond dust across the sky.’

‘Could you navigate using only the stars? I mean, if you had to?’

‘We were taught to do that in flight school. I’d like to think I still could.’

Then Joshua turned toward his wife with a funny look on his face. ‘After all the years we’ve spent sitting on this porch looking up at the stars, why is this the first time you’ve ever asked me that?’

Abigail had to think for a moment. Then she answered with a smile. ‘I don’t know. Just occurred to me, that’s all.'”

As a husband and wife interaction goes, this is not bad either. It serves as a segue into what’s really on Abigail’s mind. It’s been a bit soft-pedalled with the action going on, but Abigail has been trying (analogously to Irene Steele) to have Josh more fully embrace the version of Christianity she believes in.

“Then after a beat she added another thought. ‘Astrologers say our lives are wrapped up in the stars. Which I think is a bunch of malarkey. But I do think that God set the stars in the sky for a reason. Don’t you?’

‘And that reason would be…?’

She took a second before she answered. ‘Well, the Bible says the heavens declare the glory of God…'”

Why she’s trailing off at the end I’m not sure. LaHaye and Parshall seem to have a problem with overuse of trailing ellipses.

But this also allows Abigail, after some back and forth about the Bible, to start talking about her friend Darlene. Now, remember that she spoke of Cal Jordan’s confidences – her own son’s confidences – to her husband without shame. Guess what she’s going to do here, when Judge Ricemeister doesn’t even know?

“Abigail was struggling over how much to tell her husband, but she needed to share this with her soul mate. ‘Something came up today when we had lunch.’

‘From Darley?’

‘Yeah. Some personal stuff.’

‘Like what?’

‘She’s still grieving over Jimmy.’

‘I think about Fort and Darley losing their son like that. Bam, out of nowhere. Just when Jimmy was beginning his life as a man. I don’t think a parent ever gets over something like that.'”

Oddly, Josh seems almost human in this chapter. I wonder if Parshall realized even controlling assholes can show concern and care for people they give a damn about.

“Abigail decided just to lay it all out. Her husband needed to hear it. Not only because Darley and Fort were friends, but because Joshua and Fort worked so closely together with the Roundtable.”

Ok, stop right there. What gives Abigail Jordan the right to set herself up as the moral arbiter of other people’s lives?

By choosing to discuss private matters without the consent of the person who has disclosed the matter to her, she’s breaking a trust. Granted, this involves drug use, and as I noted in the Cal chapter, if Cal had been abusing drugs it might warrant breaking a confidence.

The fact that she seems to not mind breaking confidences without at least some evidence that she thought it over and really checked her motives before going ahead seems to be forming into a pattern, though. And this makes me wonder if her real back story was that she was disbarred for breaking attorney-client privilege by knowingly revealing privileged communications without permission.

“‘ […] Now she’s constantly dosing on valium. This has been going on since her son’s death. Josh, she came right out and admitted she’s addicted to prescription drugs. She says she can’t get through the day without taking something.’

‘Oh, boy. Poor Darley. Does Fort know?’

‘Not exactly. Although it may be what the law calls deliberate indifference.'”

Mmmkay there.

Not sure why Parshall had her throw that legal term in there, unless it’s for Abby to show off or something.

“‘I think people who deeply love another person are naturally going to think the best of them, not the worst. Fort may be seeing a lot of clues but unconsciously turning a blind eye. He really doesn’t want to picture his wife as an addict. Who would?’

‘So, what did you tell her?’

‘I offered to help. Get her into a rehab place maybe. And I told her to tell her husband. He has a right to know, and she needs his support.’

Joshua looked intently at his wife. He took her hands, both of them, and kissed them. ‘Thank goodness she’s got you for a friend. You’re outstanding, Abby. Really.'”

Oh, please. When I took this up in the previous review of that chapter, I noted that her insistence to Darlene that she tell her husband could have unintended adverse consequences, especially if things are “interesting” at home.

And some ‘outstanding’ friend she is, breaking confidences without even thinking about whether she should hold back and wait until things evolve.

Anyway, they switch to chatting about the AmeriNews thing and then horseback riding, only for Josh to remember he wanted to do 18 holes with Rocky Bridger:

“‘So, after you wrap up tomorrow, then maybe you and I and Deborah can do some trail riding the next day?’

‘Right…uh, oh…’

‘Uh, oh what, dear?’ Abigail was already translating the unspoken part of her husband’s reply.

‘I just remembered I am supposed to shoot eighteen holes with Rocky Bridger.’

‘Well, you could get up early, be the first to tee off, and still be back here in time for at least a half-day of riding with us. Right?’

He smirked. ‘Yeah. That’s doable. I can take orders. I was a good Air Force officer. Flight plan modified by cencom.'”

That’s CENTCOM, if I remember my US military lingo correctly – which I freely admit I may not. I recall seeing the term used by an overly enthusiastic ex-Army person who loved discussing helicopters and guns.

And LOL at Josh taking orders. It’s so hokey here. It seems to be a way for Parshall to push against the boundaries of what might be considered an acceptable RTC marriage, in that the woman’s telling the man to change his plans.

Incidentally, in regard to marriages based on sexually dimorphic gender roles, one thing I’ve noticed is that men in such marriages often make “joking” remarks about their wives nixing their ‘toys’, and they complain – whether in jest or in reality – about their wives controlling their spending, household and personal.

It’s kind of odd, actually, that a marriage envisioned with a “husband knows best and is the breadwinner” paradigm often delegates to his wife the role of managing the family’s money, which is almost certain to set her up in conflict with her husband. So comments from men about their wives controlling them may be an unintentional admission that theyalso attempt to control their wives through enforcement of things like not permitting her to work, or things like that.

In the case of the Jordan marriage here, Josh’s joke is kind of silly and a bit over the top. Married couples should have a normal amount of give and take in any case, but here it’s presented as kind of special event.

Parshall seems to think writing an approximately forty year old adult speaking like a teenager doesn’t look silly as hell:

“You are sooo overly dramatic” She grinned with a twinkle in her eye.”

And yes, there is no punctuation after ‘dramatic’ in my printed copy of the book.

Ok, now for the RTC stuff.

“‘When we get back to New York, Pastor Paul Campbell is doing a special series of evening talks over at Eternity Church.'”

Ba-bing! Abigail manages to entice Josh into it by noting that it may have to do with his Roundtable project:

“‘But this is different. I think this series of messages are more for you than for me. The topic is right up your alley. Really.’

‘Well-played, madam lawyer. So I’m the one who’ll regret it if I don’t go…’

‘Absolutely. And if you do go, I think you’ll be surprised. Actually, I think it fits into what you are doing with the Roundtable…’

She had his attention.

‘You’ve got my curiosity aroused. At least tell me what this is all about.’

‘Better than that, I’ll let you read the brochure I got from Paul. It tells all about it.’

‘Okay, I’ll read it. But no promises…’

And there’s that. Note the abuse of trailing ellipses again, and that for a person who hasn’t practiced law in many years, Parshall sure seems to love reminding us how lawyerly Abigail is.

Next chapter we move to Moscow.

EoA: Roundtable Meeting

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 144-150 (Chapter Twenty-Six)

We now turn to the Roundtable, which commenters have noted, comes perilously close to creating the appearance, if not the actuality, of a secret group which acts outside of appropriate lines of authority set down by the government.

Here’s a reminder from one of my previous reviews:

“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.”

This thing is secret and clandestine. But what on Earth would he need secrecy for? Could be Josh just likes playing at being Agent 007.

So in times past this Roundtable may very well have just been a glorified chew-the-fat chat session for people who know each other to get caught up, but now this organization will turn to a different purpose: helping Josh Jordan. In this light, I remind people again that the conflict between him and the Congressional Committee is premised on a flawed understanding of the way military contractors work. For all Jordan’s complaints and peacock-posturing about not trusting a Congressional committee with his documents and designs, his company is not immune to espionage and acting as though it were is dangerous. I’d trust the Pentagon with high security filing systems to store his documents more than I’d trust an employee of his own company.

Espionage involving private contractors working for government bodies has happened before; a story told in Clifford Stoll’s book The Cuckoo’s Egg involved an employee of a networking contractor tasked with upgrading computer systems for the CIA. The person had set up a password recording program to capture peoples’ logins and passwords. The person was caught when an observant secretary noticed that her login time was during her vacation when she wasn’t physically at her desk (as the story goes, the FBI was called in to investigate, and the person was convicted and was thrown in jail. This was back in approximately 1986 so chances are the very former employee has since been released).

To set the stage we get a quite detailed description of the setting of Jordan’s “Hawk’s Nest” retreat:

“In the mountains of Colorado, the members of the Roundtable were taking a break, milling around in the massive meeting room of Joshua Jordan’s Hawk’s Nest Ranch, grabbing sandwiches and drinks off the twenty-foot-long split-log sideboard. The large wrap-around windows gave a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains and a sweeping panorama of valley [sic] down below, full of deep green sagebrush and juniper trees, and a twisting river that ran down the middle.”

Note the split-log sideboard. Now that’s detail, folks.

We now get a better look at Judge Strong Rice, who I had originally guessed to be in his sixties:

“Judge Fortis Rice, a tall, thin man in his fifties, was standing in front of one of the large plate-glass windows with his hands in the pockets of his Western-cut slacks, looking out.”

I’m guessing those “western-cut slacks” look something like this; it’s an interesting detail that is consistent with the kind of clothing older men are pictured to wear. I believe LaHaye might wear similar clothing, which makes me wonder if Parshall patterned a lot of the older male characters after different aspects of LaHaye’s personality and behavior, real or imagined.

And now we get to the usual defects in a story in which the main character is a Gary Stu and needs to disavow that with a very facile and not believable dismissal:

“‘Josh, I never get tired of looking at that view of yours. Do you?’

Joshua Jordan shook his head and smiled. ‘Never.’

People who visited his two-hundred-acre ranch often asked such questions. Although he didn’t show it, it actually made Joshua feel uncomfortable.”

Oh, please. People with all the trappings of success like Josh has are bestowed them because the characters are intended to be the good guys, the ones to root for. I’ve hammered on this Deus Ex Machina before in regard to how Rayford Steele et al just happen across a metal-reinforced building in Chicago that  just miraculously has fifty SUVs all gassed up and ready to go. But nonetheless, they’re the good folks, so they should have nice things.

Never mind that in Left Behind, such a man as Rayford Steele even gets a reprimand in the story by another person for so egregiously welshing on a deal that it would be more in character for the person he welshed on. So guys like Josh being all bashful about the great stuff they have smacks of false modesty.

Two hundred acres is a helluva plot of land, by the way. I did a little Googling and found the web site for Wickham’s Fruit Farm, which has an aerial view, and the farm is approximately 200 acres in area.

Continuing on, we have:

“It was almost as if they were asking if Joshua was content when he was here. And, of course, he wasn’t. He was restless. Despite his splendid varnished-log mansion, where there was always a faint smoky scent from its many fieldstone fireplaces […]. Here was a place that spoke to Joshua’s soul more than any other place on the globe. A place full of good memories of family and friends. A spot seemingly away from the business decisions that forever badgered and consumed him.

Yet he was never really at peace. Even when he was here.”

I’m not sure how to reconcile the fact that Josh has wealth and creature comforts as well as emotional insecurity except that this must be how LaHaye and Parshall are trying to get across that Josh has a supposed spiritual void in his life that needs to be filled by being a Real, True Christian.

Then, just as with the Abigail and Darlene chapter, we have Joshua and Fortis agreeing that the Jordans have the best stuff. Man, if Cal was a chip off the old block Karen would be telling him her Fiat wasn’t as good as his Porsche (actually, given that Calmeister takes the train and even Deborah doesn’t seem to have her own car yet, I suspect Josh uses vehicular access as another control tool).

“‘It truly is beautiful,’ Fort continued. ‘I’ve told you about the little place Darley and I have on the lake in Idaho. Nothing like yours, mind you. But I think I know a little about how you must feel when you’re here. I keep forgetting to bring pictures of our cabin…'”

“Nothing like yours”, “keep forgetting … pictures”. What this shows is that if anyone else has anything like Josh’s, it’s inferior and not worth mentioning. It’s kind of like how he has to have the most and best Allfones everywhere and even a secret ultra-secure phone to talk to anyone in the military.

Trappings of success, indeed.

Josh and Fort go on to briefly discuss Abby and Darley (names as used in the text), and how the women wanted to go to Aspen and maybe the Roundtable’s just “too serious”. I’d believe that if it wasn’t for the fact that LaHaye-sponsored books tend to be pretty rigid in their gender-role advocacy with a thin veneer of a nod towards modern-day notions of more fluidity in such gender roles (so Deborah can be a West Point cadet but still has to like girly things, and Cal can be an artiste, but has to be nominally Christian).

So now let’s get to the meeting itself.

“Halfway through lunch, Joshua brought the meeting back to order, and everyone sat down back at the long oval table, which was large enough to seat all fourteen members of the Roundtable.

As founder, Joshua was the permanent chairman. The Roundtable was comprised of five subgroups each with a separate focus and chairperson. Each subgroup had one or two additional associate members.”

Ok, whoa. O_O

For glorified chew the fat chats, this guy’s serious about whatever the Roundtable’s mission is. Y’know, if anyone in the government found out about this, they’d probably have a good case to make that Jordan had created the appearance, if not the reality, of inappropriate collusion with other highly placed people. They appear to monitor current events and discuss them, but to what extent they try to influence these events is not yet clear.

“Judge Rice was the chairman of the law group. General Rocky Bridger headed up the national defense unit. The chairman of the media group was silver-haired Phil Rankowitz, a former television network president, current chairman of a satellite network, and founder of several experimental ‘new media’ companies.

The political unit of the group was headed up by former U.S. Senator Alvin Leander, a short, fiery man who often spoke with a brutal kind of bluntness, who was familiar with the inner workings of the Washington beltway like few others.

The men and women of the Roundtable met regularly, at least quarterly and sometimes more often, usually at Joshua’s Rocky Mountain ranch but occasionally at a few select, conveniently centralized hotels. They were all accomplished in their respective fields. But there was another more important thread that bound them tightly together.”

I’m trying very hard to believe that someone seeing these people get together would see just a bunch of old friends and acquaintances getting together every now and then, but with agendas, subcommittees, meetings and minutes it starts to take on a less innocent appearance. Again the question arises in my mind as to what an FBI agent would think depending on the state of his or her knowledge about the affairs of this Roundtable.

Incidentally, for all that “Abby and Darley” don’t want in on the Roundtable, there are “men and women“. Okay, good. What sort of women, though, merit being on the Roundtable?

A woman named Beverly Rose Cortez, who, as near as I can tell, seems to be an unmarried woman.

You can see again the unintentional reinforcement of gender roles in which women who are successful can’t have good, happy marriages.

The next paragraph reveals that the mission of the Roundtable is, indeed, to monitor and to clandestinely affect events in the USA.

“After opening the afternoon session, Joshua turned things over to General Rocky Bridger, who said, ‘You all have the email I sent to you regarding the arrest of the preacher in San Francisco. There have been numerous incidents like this involving the enforcement of the international treaty of tolerance that America has been roped into. It’s sickening, frankly. Judge Rice, I know you can update us on the legal side of things. But from my standpoint, it’s another in a continuing series of attacks on our national sovereignty.”

It also has the usual “take our country back” dog whistle as well as a faux-populistic xenophobic nod to issues more typically a concern among people on the left:

“The mere thought of U.N. officials with offices right here in America singling out citizens of a particular religious persuasion and reporting them to the federal authorities so they can be arrested. This is not the America I fought for. I know nothing about this preacher. But we have got to do something. Isn’t this why we started this group in the first place? To try to take back the United States of America from those who are auctioning off our freedoms for international trading terms that lets us buy more cars from China while our own workers are out of jobs here at home.'”

Oh, but notice that they use international trade treaties and agreements, typically worked out by right-wing or center-right politicians, as a cudgel to bash the left with alleged lack of concern for the very workers they want to stand up for.

For the record, nobody denies that trade, in and of itself, is neutral. There are complicated economic reasons why trade turns out to have unanticipated or unintended side effects, ranging from problems with wages responding to factor price equalization, to the issue of industry which behaves like agriculture in terms of the decoupling of wages from productivity, but nobody on the left seriously suggests that workers in the USA should be left to flounder.

Also, note the “religious persecution” and “this is not the America”, etc. Another dog whistle.

More bizarro-world recitation of current events follows from Strong Rice:

“[…] In one case, a federal district court presided over by Judge Anne Plymouth ruled that the First Amendment takes precedence over the treaty. Sad to say, her decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals. That terrible precedent was then cited by another trial judge in Boston where a radio commentator was arrested for criticizing a local Muslim caliph and cited for violating that treaty. So, ladies and gentlemen, as the saying goes, I’m afraid we’re on thin ice, and there’s an early thaw coming. This all started with a resolution from the U.N. Human Rights Council back in March of 2009. It picked up steam over the years. Nation after nation signed on. And finally our Senate, urged on by our good president, signed it too.'”

I have no idea what resolution he’s referring to, but the UN Declaration of Human Rights is a fine template to start, and manifestly does not say anything about forbidding criticism of religion. It only says that all people are free to worship as they see fit. Which includes atheists, since atheists chose to worship nothing supernatural, which is surely as they see fit to do.

Now, what the hell is this about a caliph? A caliph is a bigwig, a high muckity-muck. Hell, caliphs used to be de facto or de jure heads of state. Today, the powers of the Caliphate are defunct or have been transferred to secular authorities, and actual succession to the office is disputed. There are no modern caliphs and there probably never will be.

LaHaye and Parshall obviously mean an imam, but if they can’t be buggered to do such elementary research then the only conclusion one can reasonably draw is that they’re just pushing on the Islamophobia button.

Oh good Lord there’s more of this bizarro-world stuff:

“‘The Supreme Court is not going to help us,’ Judge Rice replied calmly. ‘The two most recent appointments made by President Corland both favor international law. The globalists now hold a majority in the high court. They would likely affirm the treaty and adjust the meaning of the First Amendment accordingly. At least when it comes to the treaty’s defamation of religion section. The court has already stated that crimes allegedly involving intimidation, even if it’s just a matter of verbal or written expression with no violence, don’t have protection under Freedom of Speech and Free Exercise of Religion. The language is already there from previous court decisions. I’ve been watching this happen for a while…'”

LaHaye and Parshall might as well have saved the ink on the page and just put this: “Judge Rice replied, ‘ACTIVIST JUDGES'”

‘Cause they’re all but whacking that button in the intended audience, and as we’ve seen, it’s right-wing code for “judges who interpret the law in a way we don’t like”.

There’s all sorts of blah blah blah how outraged we are and we will pledge oodles of money to Reverend Berne’s legal defence, etc, and a paragraph-long tl;dr about the USA becoming a socialist country in a globalist world.

Moving past all that, we get to the heart of this chapter insofar as how they plan to combat this insidious treaty and their perfidious government:

“Rankowitz said, ‘but the fact is, whoever controls the vehicles of communication controls the message. And in a country where we still have a few remaining vestiges of a republic left, an informed electorate is a powerful tool of liberty. On the other hand, a misinformed public is a pretty dangerous commodity.'”

Considering that the likes of Fox News operate on a modus operandi of misinforming their audience, I find this highly hilarious, because in the bizarroland of Edge of Apocalypse, it’s the allegedly liberal media that’s doing the misinforming, and that these RTPs will take to the airwaves (metaphorically, since now it’s all Internet-based) to tell the truth.

“‘I move that we put our entire focus on one thing right now: our long-awaited media project. We’ve got to break the monopoly of silence that the big media conglomerates have enjoyed ever since all the news went digital. As a news guy, I can tell you this: the damage that is done by media’s sins of commission, such as the wrong facts, skewed information, and biased reporting, can be devastating. But as bad as that is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the real threat: journalistic sins of omission. Leaving the truly important stuff on the editing room floor because you simply don’t want the people out there to find out about it.’

‘Is the timing right?’ Judge Rice inquired.

‘It couldn’t be better,’ Rankowitz announced. ‘Josh, the media has tied you to a whipping post over this RTS situation in Congress. Twisting the facts. Making you look like a weapons huckster going after the fast buck rather than the patriot we know you are. Okay, that’s their sin of commission. But will they allow your side of the story? No. So that’s also their sin of omission. And that’s where our revolutionary AmeriNews idea comes in. Our media group has the pieces in place. The tech guys have the kinks worked out. We’re ready to load our news service onto every Allfone in America. We’ve got the investment capital. We’ve got the satellite service. World Teleco is willing to sign the contract. All we need is the green light from you folks here at the Roundtable.'”

Okay, stop right there.

That’s a helluva investment they’ve made in a clandestine news and communications network. How on Earth did they do all this with nobody noticing? It’s not like you run these things out of a garage, for Pete’s sake.

They’ve had to pay programmers. They’ve had to have been setting up news studios. TV crews. Anchors. Hell, what about the administrative and payroll side?

Even if all this was given innocuous cover, through cutouts and fake corporations, there’s still a paper trail and any holder of a monopoly knows it’s bad business to let the competition get a foothold. GNN would have been all over this like yellow on a sunflower.

Josh then informs the Roundtable that his legal avenues are almost nil. but…

“‘On the other hand, just think about the importance of communication to the cause of freedom and national security in American history. The committees of correspondence leading up to the Revolution. The pony express during the westward expansion. The telegraph during World War I. Folks, I think it’s time for us to join the ranks of those who came before us. It’s time for our own revolution!'”

Big words, big guy. And, I might point out, very much in the same vein as his earlier prima-donna behavior towards the Congressional committee. The open question, I think, is whether this meeting as written in the book would, in a sane and non-bizarro world, constitute a legitimate media venture or a cover for clandestine disruption of the normal functions of government.

And with that, the chapter ends.

EoA: Bizarro Media World

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 141-144 (Chapter Twenty-Six)

Welcome to more media manipulation, as perceived in this bizarro world created by LaHaye and Parshall. Readers will recall that in past chapters, Josh Jordan was portrayed as a man out for his own wallet, even though the book claims him to be a 100% RTP*. We get introduced to LaHaye’s favorite news agency, Global News Network. Buck Willams would probably feel right at home here, I think. 😛

“As desk manager for the Global News Network’s Los Angeles studio, Jerry [Hendrickson] had just finished reading the thick transcript of congressional testimony. It was stunning. Now he was on the horns of a dilemma. He glanced at his watch. Bob Kosterman, the executive vice president of the network, should have left his private lunch in Washington with Vice President Tulrude at the Executive Mansion about five minutes ago. Jerry was scheduled to call Bob right about now, while Kosterman was alone inside the limo furnished by the administration and being driven back to the airport.”

(additions are mine)

Notice that the Vice-President, who seems to be the bizarro counterpart to Dick Cheney as the alleged mover and shaker of the Administration, is lunching with a media magnate. Now, this kind of closeness between the media and the Republican party would be almost a non-event, but for LaHaye and Parshall to believe this of Democrats? Mmmmmmkay.

During the phone call, we get some interesting revelations:

“‘Right. Well, I think we’ve been casting this whole story in a slightly…uh…misdirected fashion. This Jordan guy is not squeezing the Pentagon for a better business deal. Not at all. It says right here the real reason he’s reluctant to disclose all his research on the RTS design is–‘

But Kosterman wouldn’t let him finish. ‘Jerry, are you accusing your own network of creating a false story?’

[ … ]

‘A transcript from a closed congressional committee investigating high-level national security issues? You realize how much trouble we could be in if we publish that?’

‘But Mr. Kosterman, we published that original leaked report from the committee about Jordan defying Congress. And it now appears that the slant of the story as we reported it was all wrong–‘

‘No, it wasn’t. You said yourself we didn’t create a false story.’

‘Well, not intentionally, no. But it appears now that the accuracy of-‘

‘Jerry. Do not–I repeat–do not put anything from that transcript on our web-news service. Anywhere. At anytime. Is that clear?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And deliver that transcript immediately to my executive assistant. And don’t make any copies.'”

Well, well, well.

So a media bigwig is conspiring to deep-six a story. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

The fact is, though, is that Jordan’s behavior before a Congressional committee could be considered at the very least borderline rude. That is not in dispute, I don’t think. As commenters to this blog have noted, the entire media and Congressional circus over this RTS-RGS thing is a complete farce because there would have been documentation, somewhere, proving that a contract had been let out to tender, and that Jordan’s company had been the successful bidder.

So even if the entire details of it were classified, there would still be some kind of paper trail indicating that the device existed, and this could be used to reverse engineer the thing if a foreign power really wanted it.

Jordan’s prima-donna-ing thus forces equslly implausible behavior in other people linked in with this story, as witness the US Administration acting contrary to the security of the nation, both by attempting to barter the RGS-RTS, and by sinking a media story prejudicial to the interests of the Administration. I note that in previous chapters the ridiculousness of this idea LaHaye and Parshall have about the level of Democratic command-and-control over media message compared to the Republican.

Some tl;dr rambling follows. I’ll try to just hit the highlights, since this has a final point that LaHaye and Parshall are apparently making by means of the conspiracy-theory vehicle of digital conversion.

“Jerry was there back during the 2009-10 transition when all of America’s television stations, responding to the requirement of the federal government, had to convert from the old analogue signal system to a digital format. From a technical standpoint, that one made sense and seemed to work reasonably well for the consumers. So when several years later a second media ‘conversion’ was ordered by the U.S. government, most Americans weren’t too upset. They had seen it all before. Of course, at the time, some media watchers and pundits had warned about the potential for an ugly monopoly developing after that media transition. Jerry agreed.”

The shadowy second “conversion” involves, apparently, a switch to Internet-based delivery which would shift bandwidth usage from dedicated fiber-optic cable provided by the cable TV company to the Internet backbone and ISPs, which somewhat makes sense given that there is a considerable amount of “dark fiber” that is a legacy of the dot-com bubble and continues to be a source of readily available unused bandwidth.

Also, I’d like to note that the specific year given in this book gives us a clue as to when the book likely takes place. Given that Virgil Corland’s advisers have indicated that a Nixon-style program of expansionary fiscal/monetary policy coupled with wage-price controls could be safely handled and halted ten months prior to the “next election”, it’s likely that the book takes place in the year 2014, which would be just after a midterm election and giving Corland a comfortable margin before his Presidential election in late 2016. It could, with equal facility, be assumed to be in the year 2018 for similar reasons.

The stated rationale for the conversion also includes this, besides the usual bumpf about interactive content delivery and what-have-you:

“Besides, the government said it needed to commandeer the old-fashioned ‘over the air’ broadcast spectrum that TV and radio had used for decades so it could be used for other purposes, like emergency services and large transmissions of high-speed technical data to federal agencies, contractors, and industries.”

I’m not sure if LaHaye and Parshall intend this to be a hidden hey-the-government-is-eeeeeeevil message but when conservatives talk about government it seems like there’s never been a government program they liked except when it was a military thing, or when it comes to more ways to throw people in jail.

And now we get to the told-you-so! part:

“By that time almost all of the nation’s newspapers and magazines too had fled to the Internet. The print-publishing world had been facing financial ruin, so going electronic was a matter of survival. Television and radio had converted to a single Internet-based system of transmission; all forms of national news and information had now been transferred over to a single platform: the web. It was as if every media company had booked a ticket for themselves onto the same ocean-going cruise ship. But few people had asked the right questions: like who were the pilots of that vessel, and where was it heading?

Jerry and some of his cronies in the industry could see how it could become a ship of fools. The news conversion to the Internet had created the open door for a monopoly over all news and information that could be exercised by a few huge telecommunications companies.”

You know, this continuing motif of media concentration and monopolization being confronted by LaHaye and Parshall continues to astonish me, because I’ve never seen other right-wing organizations or publications address it at all. It’s just kind of annoying that they only intend to use this to “prove” that their bizarro mirror image of our world is the real version.

“And he didn’t miss, either, the effect of the international takeover. Foreign nations used cleverly disguised sovereign wealth funds to buy up a controlling interest in America’s news networks and the telecoms during the national economic crisis. Jerry would overhear Bob Kosterman’s secretary telling him that the big investors from Paris, Moscow, Beijing, or Bahrain were on the line. He knew it wasn’t just about finance. How could it not seep into the decisions that were being made about what news and talk programs to pull and which ones to keep? The same scenario was happening in every other TV network. And the radio syndicates too.”

And here we get the usual fear-mongering button-pushing with that strange foreigners button getting hammered a few dozen times. The fact that Rupert Murdoch has done this kind of foreign takeover in real life doesn’t seem to have registered in LaHaye’s mind. Or Parshall’s.

To wrap things up, we get the dun-dun-dun ender to this section of the chapter naming that eeeeeeeevil Vice-President as the problem:

“Jerry mouthed to himself the two words he knew were behind what had just happened.

Jessica Tulrude.

And there you have it, people. Those no-goodnik Democrats want to let good American media get bought up by foreign governments and manipulate the media in as crass a fashion as any Republican has no doubt done.

Next up, we’ll revisit the Round Table with Josh Jordan.


* Real True Patriots