Rush Limbaugh Went There.

He was being funny, late on last Thursday’s show, and he came up with this.  “My favorite conspiracy theory is that this virus is the work of a bunch of lunatic billionaires who really believe that we are destroying the planet and they have discovered that we can’t get to Mars in time and we can’t colonize the moon so they have come up with a way to get rid of billions of people to make the world have a longer survivability potential.”  I’ve been referring, recently, to Tom Clancy novels, but I had no plans to go anywhere near Rainbow Six.

As the novel involves precisely that kind of lunatic billionaire, as well as some clandestine work to shut down the plan and disappear the plotters, because of the risk of “a global panic when people realize what a biotech company can do if it wants,” though, well, perhaps there’s another story in it.

Regular readers of Tom Clancy know that the likelihood of a secret being blown is proportional to the square of the number of people in on it.  The novel left a number of possible dots to connect to put together yet another story, one with the potential to topple governments.  If I had any sort of novel-writing skills, I might essay such a thing, although it might be more productive to offer some of the dots, as if a mental exercise in quarantine, should anyone wish to essay such an effort.

There are almost enough dots to make a post as long as a Tom Clancy novel.  They’re below the jump.

The principal architects of the plot are biotech executive John Brightling, who heads a company called Horizon, his former wife Carol Brightling (it is a divorce of convenience) who has been brought into the Jack Ryan administration as Science Advisor, and a former FBI man named William Henriksen, who runs a company called Global Security and he appears as a talking head on the morning news whenever there’s a hostage rescue or counterterrorism operation in progress or concluded.  (The novel dates to the late 1990s: the jihad is not yet a thing, although there are still more than a few cranky Marxists and the like rattling around Europe.)

The proof of concept for the plan takes place in a facility in or near Binghamton, New York, and it might be disguised as a farm.  The first human subjects are street people from New York City, fooled into boarding a van that looks like one of the charitable vans making evening rounds, then doped up and transported in a hired, Illinois-based box truck to Binghamton.  The driver is not briefed in on anything.  A second set of human subjects is new arrivals to New York City, picked up in a bar called the Turtle Inn by a doctoral student named Kirk Maclean whose “Where are you from” icebreakers serves as a sort of interview criterion.  Two such out-of-towners are legal secretaries Anne Pretloe, originally from Des Moines, and Mary Eileen Bannister, from the Gary, Indiana, area.  In addition, there are male subjects, presumably recruited by somebody else, as their presence at Binghamton enables the researchers to test for the sexual transmission of their project, something facilitated with a lot of Valium and some inhibition-reducing drugs in the food.  That gives one of the male subjects, Chip Smitton, an opportunity to enjoy some female company in confinement.

There are medical researchers working in Binghamton, including Barbara Archer, M.D., described only as a “feminist;” John Killgore, also an M.D., with scholarly publications to his credit; a virologist only referred to as “Maggie” with no other particulars; Steve Berg, medical degree from Duke, with scholarly publications; and a night-shift doctor named Lani Palachek, characterized only as an “arrogant bitch.”  (Feminist types don’t like Tom Clancy’s work, and perhaps they have cause.)  In addition, there are unnamed orderlies who roll the corpses to the crematorium, as well as maintenance workers who might be restricted only to the computer and inventory side of the complex.  The medical researchers have learned enough about the political reliability of their second cohort of subjects to use three of them, known only as M2, M3, and F9, for testing the vaccine that works.

Horizon have built a large complex somewhere in western Kansas, which is where the architects and their reliable employees will ride out the plague.  A local contractor named Charlie Hollister brings in the project ahead of time and under budget.  He’s obviously not briefed in, and quite possibly expendable once the outbreak starts.

William Henriksen’s role is to deliver the virus.  The plan is for a trusted Global Security employee to introduce it into the fogging system at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, during the closing ceremony of the Olympics.  In order to ensure that Australian special forces and police see the value of having additional help (particularly from a company with such a television presence) John Brightling engages the service of one Dmitry Arkadeyevich Popov, also known as Iosif Andreyevich Serov, the latter name being whimisical, a former KGB field spook who was let go after the Soviet Union restructured, in order to make the possibility of terrorist activity seem real and enhance Global’s chances of being tendered a contract.  Comrade Popov is quite happy activating old useful idiots, whose motivation by money gets them killed, with the money winding up in Popov’s accounts.  But in stirring up those plots, Popov discovers that Rainbow is around, and John Brightling pays Popov to arrange one more action, in order to distract Rainbow.  That leads to more money in Popov’s accounts, and Brightling decides to keep Popov close, by bringing him to Kansas.

Nobody has briefed Popov in on what Horizon’s complex is all about, or why some of the people he meets are giving odd answers to his questions, but one of the security guys, Foster Hunnicutt, spills the beans about two things.  Popov shoots Hunnicutt, bugs out, and sets up a meet with John Clark, and the world is saved.

But is the secret saved?

The head of Horizon disappears, and the company announces a new heart disease drug, all the same.  Does anybody ask Jessica, the tycoon’s most recent arm candy, if she has any idea where he went?

The former Presidential Science Advisor (Chief of Staff Arnie Damm accepts her resignation) also disappears.  I told you at the beginning it was a divorce of convenience.  What might Kevin Mayflower, the president of the Sierra Club, be wondering, and can he make some inquiries?

The head of Global Security disappears.  Doesn’t that leave a gap in the Rolodexes of more than a few morning news anchors?  In addition, back in the day CNN and the Washington Post weren’t in the bad odor they currently are, and wouldn’t the Post‘s Bob Holtzman maybe engage John Clark on something?

Kirk Maclean disappears.  That’s a problem to the FBI and New York police officers working the kidnapping case.  There might be a puzzled doctoral advisor at Columbia as well, and that puzzlement might grow when a journal editor asks the advisor to review a paper, and when the advisor suggests John Killgore or Steve Berg (peer review means active scholars have a pretty good idea of who the other experts, whether as competitors or possible coauthors, are, the subspecialty rosters are relatively thin) and the editor says they’re not responding either, the common-room (well, even in 1998 it was online common rooms) gossip can be interesting.

John Killgore boarded a horse somewhere around Binghamton.  The story makes no mention of a family, either left to their fate in Binghamton, or brought into Kansas.  There is, however, a horse-boarder who is going to be, at a minimum, wondering whether to sell the horse for back rent or not.  Not only that, with the research project wound down, won’t the propane delivery truck or the power company notice a change in consumption?  And where, oh, where, have M2, M3, and F9 gone?

The New York missing persons investigation continues.  Won’t that inquiry turn to the law firms, and a closer look at the letters of resignation from Mary Bannister and Anne Pretloe, and mightn’t the casual acquaintances from the Turtle Inn or around work get curious?

Now consider developments in Kansas.  The man known as Serov shoots Hunnicutt and bugs out.  Henriksen’s man in Sydney doesn’t check in, and another Global Security man, Tony Johnson, who may or may not have been briefed in, reports him missing.  Johnson’s still in the wind in Australia.  The leadership musters up the 53 key people and bugs out in four Gulfstreams.  Where does that leave the several thousand Elect but not yet briefed in, who have come to Kansas, sometimes with their families?  What does the conversation when they return home sound like?  Strange research meeting, (corporate retreat, strategic planning, what-have-you) we all came in, then some Russian guy shot one of our guys, then the senior management and a few other people got on four Gulfstreams and we haven’t seen them again.  And there’s nobody that doesn’t meet up with a kid back from the Air Force or a neighbor with Air Force connections and they get to talking and somebody says something about a strange Track-Ex?

Finally, news stories report that a “Russian entrepreneur” named Dmitri Popov reports a gold strike on land he bought from the estate of … Foster Hunnicutt.  And there’s no homicide detective in Kansas isn’t going to start sniffing around about that?  Maybe call in a favor with an FBI colleague who has drinking buddies in counterintelligence …

There is your outline, dear reader.  Fill in the details.

(Update: 17 May. Welcome Insta Pundit readers.)

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

20 thoughts on “Rush Limbaugh Went There.”

  1. I think that was his last novel, if I remember correctly. There were a few too many coincidences early but the main plot is good and reminds me of Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear.”

    Clancy was a favorite and I have not gotten interested in the cottage industry of writing books using his name. “Without Remorse” is another favorite. His novel of a war with Japan, “Debt of Honor,” is better than the version included in George Freidman’s “The Next 100 Years.” Of course, China is now the villain but no novels in that genre yet.

    The movie versions of his novels were all inferior.

  2. here’s one detail, that dovetails into the parliamentary circus from last fall, in Italy, that was counterpart to the battle against Brexit, and against maga, Vittorio sgarbi a former journalist now in the administration in the reggio emilia region, has pointed some of this,

    the new whistleblower dr. bright, is an interesting character besides his cdc status, he was liason to pentagon for biodefense, his department arose out of a bill sponsored by top man, richard burr worked for a time for novamex, which received a 89 million dollar grant from the gates foundation, to develop a vaccine for something called nano flu, that was last fall, he’s also an adjunct advisor to the who, I don’t slight his technical chops, but we have what one would call a sysgy, that’s a government/corporate hybrid, ostensibly his complaint is about the pressure to promote hcq but that isn’t it, I didn’t go anywhere crazy, I just followed his job description to his previous posts in the organization,the report of the novamex vacuum and who offered the grant, the hosannas issued from the usual suspects made me twitchy,

  3. That is an interesting analysis, Miguel. I remember the panic when Japan was buying Pebble Beach Golf Club and Rockefeller Center. The problem was they could not be shipped to Japan. I wonder if China is making the same mistake?

    Technology is an other issue. That they can take home and use. We need new rules on industrial espionage and technology transfer.

    One problem we have is the higher education system we have now. STEM majors are full of foreign students, many Chinese. Maybe major changes in student loan laws will help. The Democrats will still push Gender Studies and other useless subjects that feed their identity politics agenda. It will take a Republican Congress that is purged of much of its Deep State actors to do anything. I wonder if the will is there ?

  4. The Japanese eventually sold most of the real estate, notably Rockefeller Center, at a considerable loss.

    The Chinese have also bought a lot of real estate here as well. They too may be anxious to sell presently.

    The Chinese students don’t concern me, their money is as good as anybody’s for now. The Chinese faculty is another thing. They get a lot of access just from their status and are in a position to get more from simple proximity and social engineering.

  5. “The Chinese students don’t concern me, their money is as good as anybody’s for now.” BuT most universities operate at a more-or-less fixed student capacity, so these Chinese (and other foreign) students are displacing potential American students


    There is no pool of American students who could actually do the work but are being excluded either just because they can’t get in, or because they can’t afford the tuition & fees.

  6. You know, I was just musing to a friend, wondering out loud if the reason some of Clancy’s later novels – Debt of Honor, Executive Orders, and The Bear and the Dragon – haven’t been made into movies was that the ChiComs are ultimately the villians in all three stories, and maybe the studios didn’t want to make the movies because they didn’t want to offend China.

    Kind of the way the jihadi villians in Sum of All Fears magically because neo-Nazis in the movie version.

    Then again, the fact that each of those three novels is roughly the length of the OED might also explain it.

  7. The only people I hear complaining about a shortage of engineers is in silicone valley and then it’s actually a shortage of indentured labor for their code mills. Most everybody else seems to be able to hire as many glorified salesman as they want.

    Where they’re really needing actual engineering, it’s about cost. What they actually mean is somebody that has worked where they actually did engineering for a few years and learned enough to be useful. These are increasingly rare.

    When you imagine a freshly graduated “engineer” confronted with a real problem, picture an innocent babe in a cradle and you’ll have a good idea what they’re worth.

  8. MCS…”When you imagine a freshly graduated “engineer” confronted with a real problem, picture an innocent babe in a cradle and you’ll have a good idea what they’re worth.”

    Has it always been that way, do you think?…A new grad needs a few years of real-world seasoning to be useful?

    Or is there something about today’s engineering education that creates the problem or makes it worse?

  9. Dave L: “… wondering out loud if the reason some of Clancy’s later novels – Debt of Honor, Executive Orders, and The Bear and the Dragon – haven’t been made into movies was that the ChiComs are ultimately the villians in all three stories …”

    And then there is the flip-side. The only reason the excellent recent movie “Midway” got made was because Chinese interests provided much of the finance. There is a large market in China for war movies in which Japan gets humbled. “Midway” included scenes set in China when Dolittle’s Raiders landed in Japanese-occupied China and were helped by Chinese patriots.

    Strange that there was money from China to make a movie about a triumph of American courage & adaptability … but not from today’s US. The NYT must be proud.

  10. There is no pool of American students who could actually do the work but are being excluded either just because they can’t get in, or because they can’t afford the tuition & fees.

    This is actually the case with the UC schools which are taking full tuition foreign students and excluding CA residents. If those kids are Gender Studies majors, I’m all for it but they are not.

    As for new engineers, Germany used to require a year apprenticeship for mechanical engineering students. I don’t know the current practice. I dropped out after two years and got a job working at Douglas Aircraft in the wind tunnel in El Segundo. It was not choice; I had lost my scholarship through having too much fun. I knew other guys doing a similar thing. It was pretty good experience but it also convinced me to switch to premed. Those were the days when engineers were either in a grave shortage or driving taxicabs. Every engineer I worked with was going to law school, getting an MBA or, in my case going to medical school.

  11. Mike K….”As for new engineers, Germany used to require a year apprenticeship for mechanical engineering students. I don’t know the current practice.”

    The jet engine pioneer Gerhard Neumann described his apprenticeship at an auto shop, and it was pretty grueling:

    He said that at the time (early 1930s), Germans who wanted to study engineering were required to do an apprenticeship first, but this requirement was waived for foreigners, probably because the regime wanted the tuition money…he strongly believed that the no-apprenticeship people were really missing out on a valuable experience.

  12. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we do education “mostly wrong”, especially in any field that isn’t pure scholarship.

    You can’t learn sculpture reading a book. Even the fields where we do incorporate “hands-on” learning, we don’t do enough of it.

    The root problem with society goes right back to how we select, educate, and evaluate our elites. Kid does well on tests, gets tracked into something, the educational process is geared towards the functionally autistic way we’ve come to do these things, and all of that becomes a self-reinforcing circular cluster-f**k that produces these intellectual pygmies who insist that their theories trump reality, and who refuse to acknowledge or accept the evidence before them that their ideas don’t work.

    The entire model is corrupt, and needs to be abandoned. Across the board, the entire system needs to be reworked, starting with the sanctified testing regimes. Firstly, the tests are totally inadequate when it comes to assessing the chimerical question of “intelligence”, and second, the entire set-up has turned into an exercise in gamesmanship rather than a really effective means of winnowing out those possessing merit.

    In the real world, it doesn’t matter what your test scores were, or how well you did, sitting in a classroom and parroting back to the equally-unworldly professor what he wants to hear. The real world contains effects that are going to respond to the reality of what you do, rather than the intent plus theory you propose. We have ample evidence of that around us–Look to the pedestrian bridge in Florida that collapsed over traffic. Had someone with a truly empirical background been making the decisions on that particular ‘eff-up, I seriously doubt they would have proceeded as they did, and that someone would have looked at that series of cracks and gone “Hmmm… Don’t think I want traffic under this thing, right now…”.

    Instead, a flock of “experts” and included incompetents ruled the day, and we killed a bunch of people who didn’t need to die. I blame education and standards, to be honest.

  13. The jet engine pioneer Gerhard Neumann described his apprenticeship at an auto shop,

    I’ve got his book. What a great story !

    Across the board, the entire system needs to be reworked, starting with the sanctified testing regimes. Firstly, the tests are totally inadequate when it comes to assessing the chimerical question of “intelligence”, and second, the entire set-up has turned into an exercise in gamesmanship rather than a really effective means of winnowing out those possessing merit.

    My medical student teaching was in a program called “Introduction to Clinical Medicine,” which began as “The Doctor Patient Relationship” when I was a student in 1961. It began in the first week of medical school and students got to talk to patients right away. The instructors were, for the most part , practicing physicians. The students didn’t know anything, of course, but they got used to talking to people and being treated as doctors. They would spend an hour talking to patients, then we would spend another hour or two talking about the experience. As they got along in class, we would talk about the diseases they were studying. It went for two years once a week and students requested that it continue into the third year.

    In later years, it began to get “feminized” and I think that detracted from it. I was still a bit of a curmudgeon but the students used to like it. The associate Dean who ran it got promoted and the new Director was a PC nobody and I was not unhappy to quit. The technique included using actors and actresses to simulate patients, which was useful, but the County Hospital was reorganized, or rather disorganized, which made the teaching mission difficult.

    In other countries, especially India and Mexico, sources of many of our FMGs, the teaching is exclusively books. No clinical.

  14. David,

    I think a lot depends on experience and interests outside of school. Somebody that tests well and did the fashionable virtue signalling extracurriculars, went straight from High School to College could have great grades and never learn to think like an engineer. Somebody else that selfishly worked construction or on cars for actual money might be half way there without setting foot in an engineering school.

    A lot depends on working with good engineers that are decent mentors and patient. When my dad started out in an electrical utility, the conventional wisdom was that it took five years. That was a fairly large organization with a larger than normal staff of engineers. At the same time, there were a lot of different projects he worked on. He had a hand in building power plants, EHV transmission lines across the Rocky Mountains, and a multi-year research facility. Although he was primarily an EE, he designed steel and aluminum transmission structures and was rather proud that a distribution standards book he was primarily responsible for was stolen whole by the REA. It was anything but the compartmentalized sort of team that seems the trend now. I don’t know where you would find the same experience today. Possibly some sort of start up but it would be a total crap shoot whether you’d come out the other end as a competent engineer or used car salesman.

    I don’t think they either do or teach much actual engineering in engineering school. Probably the most important quality is the judgement to know when something will work or need more thought.

  15. How about “The Sum of All Fears”. The Palestinians were replaced by neo-Nazis trying to destroy the Super Bowl. I’d call that a case of PC. Wouldn’t you?

  16. MCS: “Probably the most important quality is the judgement to know when something will work or need more thought.”

    Perhaps engineering education (and engineering itself) took a backward step when the slide rule was given early retirement? The slide rule would give an answer — 69. It was up to the engineer to know if that should be understood to mean 0.069 or 6.9 Million. Consequently, engineers had to develop a sense for the expected magnitude of the quantities they were calculating.

    Now, unfortunately, people read the answer off the screen and often do not stop to aske themselves if that number makes sense. It is astonishing to see young professionals (these days, disproportionately female) quote an answer to 3 decimal places when the data would support only an estimate to within an order of magnitude — and be surprised when asked about it.

  17. Gavin,
    There’s something to that. Back in the day, I was fairly proficient with a slide rule, usually a 6″ Picket that I could carry with me without resorting to the scabbard on the belt. (Talk about a nerd flag.) I could get 3-1/2 significant figures like everybody else and that’s still mostly enough. The best lessons I learned was in Chemistry after I had been using one for years. It was how to keep track of the decimal when using numbers of wildly different magnitude in extended calculations. It was simply estimating the answer using powers of 10 notation. It’s probably the only thing I retain after 50 years of using calculators and computers.

    With a little practice, you can do it in your head and get an answer good to an order of magnitude. This is enough usually to tell if you are on the right track or need to do something else.

    Starting to design something can be like trying to find your way through a dense fog. You know where you want to go but can’t see more than 50 feet. It’s really easy to spend a lot of effort and money exploring blind alleys. I don’t know if there is any way to teach it, you just have to do it enough and to have made enough mistakes that you can sort of feel when you are headed in the right direction. This is where being able to work with someone that already done it is important and what you’re not going to get from a TA that knows everything in and nothing outside of the book and may barely speak English.

    I’ve spent a lot of time with new engineers that probably know a lot more calculus than I do but don’t know the difference between a grade 2 and grade 8 bolt. What’s worse is that they don’t seem able find out on their own or realize why they might want to know.

  18. Jonathon,
    That’s a relevant post on a lot of levels just now.

    Here we have another model. A quick look around showed that it hasn’t been retracted so it must be settled science. There’s a lot of scholarly criticism that doesn’t show up until years latter.

    I can’t claim to have spotted the implausibility when it came out. So much for my number gut. You would have thought that a comparison to past wars would have been mandatory.

    In the same way, the Wuflu modelers should have been required to present some evidence of why this was going to be so much worse than past pandemics. This might have kept them a little closer to reality.

    There’s the big problem of establishing the initial conditions. The first known American may have been infected early in December. Finding the actual patient zero is probably impossible. It’s far more likely that there were many over the probably eight to twelve weeks between the initial infection and it becoming evident outside of China.

    None of this helps much if you are the one that has to make the decision. You know the economic cost is going to somewhere between huge and catastrophic with no end of experts to tell you what they think about that too.

Comments are closed.