Sunday, November 20, 2016

Death Merchant #68: The Hindu Trinity Caper

Deadly Acronym

PAL - Permissive Action Link: the President's "trigger" to the detonation of all US nuclear warheads. Four have vanished from a high security government lab. Now, somewhere in India, a renegade communist spy plans to give the KGB the key to America's atomic arsenal!

Enter Richard Camellion. Posing as a harmless tourist, he leads a team of special agents on a blood-soaked manhunt from the back alleys of Delhi to the Holy Temples of Kashmir...toward an explosive showdown that will leave Uncle Sam's most powerful enemies without a hope or prayer.

***

So ... the Infinite Jest Group Read ended in September and my Stephen King Project has slowed to a pace resembling a jog through quicksand, so it's back to the violent and bloody exploits of Richard Camellion.

Joseph Rosenberger wrote 70 DM volumes and one stand-alone book - twice the length of the regular publications - entitled "Super Death Merchant". Looking at the publication dates, it appears that SDM #1 (titled Apocalypse) was published between #67 and #68 of the DM series. However, I don't believe there will be any problem with reading the final books out of publication order. (And who knows in what order Rosenberger actually wrote them?) I'll continue with the final three books of the series and then dive into SDM #1.

The Hindu Trinity Caper opens with Camellion in Bombay, disguised as a Sikh taxi driver. Faking car trouble, he pulls up to a house full of drug smugglers and asks the owners if he can use the phone. It's a cunning plan to see the layout of the nine-room house, so he can return later that night and apprehend Edgar Bedsloe, an East German intelligence officer. While on the phone, a gun falls out of Camellion's hidden shoulder holster and hits the ground. ... Rut roh! In a "twinkling of a bat blink", a shootout begins. In all of the commotion, Bedsloe runs out of the house. Camellion gives chase through a Dakhma, but cannot catch him.

News of the shootout reaches Mischa Wolf, the head of East German Intelligence. Wolf believes that Bedsloe is actually Franz Holtz, an agent who is planning to defect to the Soviet Union. Then, utterly out of the blue, Wolf and two other men rant about the problem of illegal immigration in the United States. Wolf mentions the "flood of Mexican trash" coming into the US and quotes an article from the New York Times.

In the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi, the Russians are also discussing the shootout, as well as asking questions about Bruce Canover, an American professor visiting India with his wife and 12-year-old son (who are actually Camellion and agents Lana Stanley and Wilbur "Weejee" Theimer (a little person)). They have concluded that Bedsloe is Holtz and that the Canovers are CIA agents. They believe that Holtz has stolen four nuclear safety circuits from the US and will give them to the Soviets when he defects.

The Death Merchant, Stanley and Weejee regroup in a safe house in northwest Bombay. While they wait as Courtland Grojean (Camellion's boss) and the CIA develop a lead on Holtz, we get Holtz's backstory:
The story had really begun almost eight years earlier. It was in late 1980 that MfS, East German Intelligence, sent two illegals into the United States, two highly trained deep-cover agents: Franz Joseph Holtz and Erika Ermatrude Hoffman. Under a man-and-wife cover of "Edgar and Cora Bedsloe," the couple settled in Amarillo, Texas, supposedly moving from Du Quoin, Illinois*.

Their target was the Pantex nuclear warhead assembly plant.

In 1983, Edgar Bedsloe obtained employment at the Pantex facility. A conscientious worker, he was promoted in 1983 to a position that gave him access to the section where the permissive action links were kept.

Bedsloe (or Holtz) was very cautious and bided his time. It was not until October 1986 that he stole four PALs—and vanished.
[* Note: Author Joseph Rosenberger was originally from Du Quoin, Illinois.]

For some reason Camellion and Stanley do not remain in the safe house. They end up going sight-seeing (!) to the Elephanta Caves. Two Soviet agents attempt to kill them during the cave tour, but they are able to gun them down (as well as killing four back-up agents). Camellion and Stanley cannot escape the cave undetected, however, so they turn themselves over the the local police. They claim they acted in self-defense, with Camellion using his superior self-control to foil a lie detector test. While the Indian police privately suspect that Bruce Canover and his wife are CIA, governmental higher-ups order them to be released. They are told to leave the country immediately.

Two police cars escort Camellion and Stanley back to their hotel. But there are two masked men (East German agents) waiting in their room. The masked men kill the cops and attempt to black-bag the Canovers. Another shootout ensues and, after gunning down several MfS agents, Camellion, Stanley, and Weejee escape, stealing a car and heading to a safe house in the Kamatipura District.

Meanwhile, at his country house, Wolf gets the bad news that the assassination attempt has failed. We learn that the Germans have been receiving information from Parveen Babbi, a prostitute who has a relationship with a hard-drinking KGB officer. They need Babbi to find out how the KGB is going to meet up with Holtz. (Babbi will end up passing the same information to the CIA.)

The Death Merchant and his team fly from Bombay to yet another safe house, this time on a betel nut plantation. As usual, Rosenberger is incredibly meticulous in describing the safe house (known as "Ding Bat") and a near-by, half-ruined fort:
Kangra Rasjasthan's house was shaped like half a swastika. There was a long perpendicular section to the north. Connected to this section was an even longer horizontal section that was laid out from east to west. At the west end of this section was the last portion of the house; it, too, was perpendicular. The five rooms of Ding Bat were in the north vertical section.

Next to Rasjasthan's house—to the east—were the rusty-red sandstone ruins of Agra Fort ...

Only Agra Fort's outer front wall, sixty-one feet high and thirty feet thick, was still intact. To the west, the wall moved past the end of the north section of the house, so close that the house's north wall—the perpendicular section to the north—was flush against the south side of the Fort's massive front wall. The wall then curved southeast, then south, then made a wide curve to the northeast.
Inside the house, they chat about Holtz and the PALs before the discussion devolves into racist comments against non-white immigrants.
Gelhart finished his ginger ale and placed the empty glass next to him on the floor. "Win or lose, we're skating on thin ice. I don't think it makes all that much difference in the long run. Sooner or later the Russians are going to lose control of their society. We've already lost control of ours. We're risking our lives to protect a society that is rapidly rushing toward its own destruction."

"That's a very broad generalization," said Lana Stanley, who found Gelhart's pronouncement annoying. "I think there's a lot of good in American society. You've been brainwashed by a media that focuses only on the bad." She glanced at Camellion, expecting him to reinforce her opinion. She didn't like what she got.

"Rory has a good point," he said curtly. "American society has stretched the boundaries of moral behavior so much that we're drowning in a sea of permissiveness. There is a tendency to encourage each delicate ego to become the prime center of its own universe. It's called 'personal freedom,' but it's a freedom that's totally out of control."

"He's right!" Gelhart was quick to point out. "Along with that runaway freedom is the attempt by the liberal-minority coalition to make the American people wholeheartedly accept immigration, integration, and miscegenation."

"That's a racist statement, if I ever heard one!" Stanley snapped. She also gave Camellion a dirty look.

"It's fact," Gelhart insisted. "What the television specials don't tell the American people is that past immigration was almost entirely of European origin, while today it is mostly nonwhite. Today's nonwhite immigrants are coming in so fast and reproducing so rapidly that in a short time white people will become a minority in their own country."

"Nonsense!" sneered Stanley. "There have always been doomsday prophets, and not one of their prophesies have ever come true. I think a lot of immigrants coming into the United States today contribute to society."

"They sure do!" laughed Gelhart. "Go to any large city and you'll see what the majority of these new immigrants contribute—crime, disease, corruption, drugs, poverty, illiteracy—the whole nine yards that's wrecking society."

The Death Merchant said mildly, "Most people don't know it, but the woman who wrote the poem that was placed on the Statue of Liberty, seventeen years after the monument's erection, was named Emma Lazarus. She was a proletarian Marxist, and she called for Americans to accept the 'wretched refuse from your teeming shore.' It's ironic. Today we are certainly accepting that 'wretched refuse'—by the millions!"
The next day, a coded message arrives: Holtz is making contact with the KGB in Fatehpur Sikri, at the Temple of the Rain, in a couple of days.

That night, or rather 3:30 the following morning, Camellion is awakened by Gelhart. Alarms are going off around the house as Indian paracommandos are closing in (it is not explained how they were tipped off to the location of the safe house). After a shootout, during which the house is rigged with explosives, Camellion and his group escape through a secret passage behind a bookcase that leads to the fort, where there is a van stashed. As they leave, they trigger the charges, destroying the house and killing the comandos.

They drive to Brass Coin, the other safe house in town: the colonial home of Malcombe Pratt Walsingham. His motivation for having his house used as a CIA safe place? Money, of course. But also: "He knew that the United States stood for freedom and was the hope of the world."

Finally, the Death Merchant and his associates are at Jammu, mingling with dozens of tourists. As they move leisurely towards the Temple of the Rain, they spy a group of seven men and one woman - and think (correctly, but based on very little evidence) these people have to be Holtz and the Russians. They attempt to surround the group and when they get close, they attack. A huge battle breaks out, and soon there are also KGB agents and East German paracommandos on site.
The Death Merchant didn't walk into Major Bukashev's trap. Bukashev, realizing instantly that he and his men had walked into a trap, was too much of a street fighter to think he could defend himself and still hold on to the attache case with his right hand. He let the handle of the case slip from his hand, feigned a left inside roundhouse kick and a right edge-of-the-hand strike to the left side of the Death Merchant's neck. At the same time, he tried a left hand two-finger spear strike straight for Camellion's throat. The Death Merchant didn't fall into the cleverly executed trap. He blocked the roundhouse kick with a right-legged chado sweep and easily brushed aside Bukashev's knife-hand strike by bringing up his left arm, his forearm slamming against the inside of the Russian's right wrist and throwing the arm outward. The two-finger spear strike was not a problem either. Camellion stepped to his left and the Russian's hand went harmlessly by the right side of his neck.

Bukashev did not have time to reorganize a new attack. The Death Merchant was far too fast, and Major Bukashev had left himself wide open. Camellion used a double-strike. He raised his right arm, and brought the edge of his hand down against the left side of Bukashev's neck in a Shuto sword-ridge slam. Simultaneously, he used his left hand in a Yubi Basami knuckle-fingertip strike.

Major Boris Bukashev might as well have been hit by a fifty-ton tank. Camellion's right-handed strike crashed into the Russian agent's sternocleidomastoid muscle and shook his jugular vein and carotid artery to the extent that, for a second, blood was cut off from the brain.

It was the knuckle-fingertip "claw" that switched off Bukashev's life. Camellion's thumb and first two fingers crushed the thyroid cartilage. Faster than one could say "Praise be to Lenin," there was hemorrhage, and as blood burst from veins the soft-tissues in Bukashev's throat began to swell, cutting off all air. Bukashev's eyes began to expand out of his head as loud gasping and choking sounds poured from his mouth. The hinges in his knees began to fold and he began to sink to the floor. He'd be stone dead within twenty seconds.

Alexander Kogan was having his problems, and Franz Holtz and Suri'an Nushinobey were having theirs. A big man, Kogan had not counted on the speed with which Rory Gelhart would employ a right-legged inside roundhouse kick, any more than Holtz and his Hindu girl friend had anticipated Dillman's cyclone-quick attack.

Almost 90 percent of Rory Gelhart's weight was behind the roundhouse slam, his foot almost burying itself in Kogan's lower stomach and upper abdomen. Blue-hot agony shot all the way to Kogan's face and down to his testicles and through each leg. His bladder and part of his lower intestine were mashed. The femoral arteries were as flat as paper, and the spinal nerves were sending giant impulses of shock waves to the brain. Unable to withstand such an assault of pure pain, the brain exploded psychically. A corpse, Alexander Kogan fell backward.
The Death Merchant is able to grab Holtz and the all-important attache case. Holtz says that there is only one PAL in the case; the other three are in a storage company vault in Chicago.

During the shooting, there are some very close calls!
By the time the other commandos to the east recovered and got into action, the Death Merchant, his three men and their captive were halfway to the first kos minars facing the north. But they were still in a storm of silent death. A 7.62mm projectile tore through the shoulder bag—taken from Major Bukashev—that was bumping up and down against Camellion's right hip. There was a loud ZINGGGgggggg as the bullet hit the side of an M61 Skorpion submachine gun, the impact making Camellion almost lose his balance. Another bullet missed the rear of his head—horizontally—by only half an inch. Several more projectiles tore through the bottom of his long coat, which was fluttering out behind him.

A slug cut through Barry Dillman's clothes and scraped part of his back where the rear of the two scapula protruded. Another tore off the right heel of his jabba boot as his foot was raised. Another came so close, horizontally, to the back of his neck that the metal touched the longer hairs in its passing.

Gelhart, Holtz, and Hondergriff also found themselves in a cloud of flying projectiles. One bullet knocked off Holtz's nritrya; another cut across the underneath side of his right wrist, the same bullet, streaking at an angle, almost hitting Rory Gelhart in the right side.
DARFA troops are standing by with a Panhard M3 command vehicle. They plan to keep the DM's group pinned down until they run out of ammo. A CIA helicopter arrives and uses its 16-Y Ubba chaingun to rain 20mm shells down on the groups of enemy agents.
BBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! Fifty 20-MM projectiles hit the Panhard, forty-eight going easily through the thin armor plate, twelve exploding with the force of a dozen hand grenades. For the space of a heartbeat there was only flame and smoke as the command car turned itself and its four occupants into hot, twisted metal decorated with bloody parts of arms and legs and other parts of bodies, including internal organs. Major Marchchakka's head flew fifty feet into the air before falling to the stones and bouncing for several feet like a basketball running out of air.
During the hellacious firing from the copter, Camellion and the others escape to the Garden of the Moon, where they will be rescued. Holtz is killed in the firefight, however.

Six days later, Camellion is in Langley, Virginia, where he is told by Grojean that he was not supposed to find Holtz! It turns out the CIA had been wise to Holtz for about a year before he made his move. The CIA had by then substituted fake or altered devices for the PALs Holtz was planning to steal. The CIA had no idea why the East Germans wanted these devices, but were thrilled when they heard Holtz wanted to defect. Grojean believed if the Soviets studied the fake PALs, it would set their missile plans "back several years". The Death Merchant is told he was called in only for appearances sake, to make it look to MfS and the KGB like the US actually wanted to capture Holtz. Camellion doesn't seem too perturbed that he risked his life in a pointless mission that didn't really need to be undertaken.

Etc.

Camellion dislikes cursing: "Swearing was only the lazy person's way of expressing emotion."

"Not only had the Death Merchant's pile driver foot-stomp broken the main tarsus bone, it had also injured a large portion of the medial plantar nerve, as well as smaller portions of the deep peroneal nerve and the superficial peroneal nerve."

"Self-contradictions, Gordian knots and paradoxes! The entire world was one big absurdity! In the United States and Europe, overweight was a problem of millions. Yet in the world at large, a human being dies of hunger every eight seconds! The West was obsessed with freedom. There were constant references made to the world's most useless debating society, the United Nations—but forty member nations in the UN do not even allow elections!"

Lana Stanley, an attractive woman posing as Camellion's wife, notes that the Death Merchant "hadn't even made a simple pass at her. Before retiring, he would sit cross-legged on the floor and do yoga breathing exercises, after which he would crawl into bed beside her, say "Good night," roll over, and instantly go to sleep."

"I used to be disgusted with the world; now I'm only amused. The Death Merchant often wished that some of the liberal unrealists in the United States could see the reality of the rest of the world. They would know that there can never be total equality. Each group has its own talents and intelligence level. What makes a people great is not "theory," but what they have accomplished. The world belongs not to "people" but to those who have made civilization."

Despite Rosenberger's frequent statements that the United States is a beacon for freedom in the world, he often has Camellion criticize the US:
Listening to the drone of the engines, the Death Merchant thought of Martin Koss. The poor guy had a lot to learn. He believed he was fighting for "freedom," for "democracy," and for that nebulous entity called the "American people." If Koss lived long enough, he would come to realize that, for comparatively little pay, he was risking his neck for self-serving hypocrites who worshiped money and power, for a system too eager to protect and too reluctant to punish, too "equality" happy to be realistic, yet too selfish to really care. A tinsel town of materialistic morons who thought more of half-illiterate sports figures than they did of scientists—That's what that fool Koss is fighting for!
And finally:
The Death Merchant had only one real regret in his life: that more often than not the people he worked with (and Courtland Grojean) regarded him as a master killer. It was paradoxical not only because he killed only when he had to, but because he considered all life special and precious. Even the pig-farmer trash in the Soviet Union contained a spark of the Eternal. However, there were honest Russians, many of whom were willing to fight and die for their belief in freedom.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Democrats Pay A Horrible Price For Abandonment Of Working People

As both parties in the United States have continued to move inexorably to the right, liberals and some progressives feel obligated to vote for "the lesser of two evils". These futile gestures did absolutely nothing to stem the conservative drift and it was only a matter of time before an odious race-baiter like Donald Trump came along to capture the anger and hopelessness and abandonment felt by tens of millions of working class and poor people. (While Trump won't actually do anything beneficial for these people, he at least acknowledged their existence.)

Robert Scheer, Truth Dig:
The people Hillary Clinton derided as a "basket of deplorables" have spoken. They have voted out of the pain of their economic misfortune, which Clinton's branch of the Democratic Party helped engender.

What you have is a defeat of elitism. Clinton's arrogance was on full display with the revelation of her speeches cozying up to Goldman Sachs—the bank that caused this misery more than any other—and the irony of this is not lost on the people who are hurting and can't pay their bills. ...

It's a repudiation of the arrogant elitism of the Democratic Party machine as represented by the Clintons, whose radical deregulation of Wall Street created this mess. And instead of recognizing the error of their ways and standing up to the banks, Clinton's campaign cozied up to them, and that did not give people who are hurting confidence that she would respond to their needs or that she gave a damn about their suffering. She's terminally tone-deaf.

So too were the mainstream media, which treated the wreckage of the Great Recession as a minor inconvenience, ignoring the deep suffering of the many millions who lost their homes, savings and jobs. The candidate of Goldman Sachs was defeated, unfortunately by a billionaire exemplar of everything that's evil in late-stage capitalism, who will now worsen instead of fix the system. Thanks to the arrogance of the Democratic Party leadership that stifled the Sanders revolution, we are entering a very dangerous period with a Trump presidency ...
Thomas Frank, The Guardian:
Start at the top. Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine. ...

She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party's number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. ...

And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. ...

To try to put over such a nominee while screaming that the Republican is a rightwing monster is to court disbelief. If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they'd chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn't mean what they said about Trump’s riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country's well-being, or maybe both. ...

The even larger problem is that there is a kind of chronic complacency that has been rotting American liberalism for years, a hubris that tells Democrats they need do nothing different, they need deliver nothing really to anyone – except their friends on the Google jet and those nice people at Goldman. The rest of us are treated as though we have nowhere else to go and no role to play except to vote enthusiastically on the grounds that these Democrats are the "last thing standing" between us and the end of the world. It is a liberalism of the rich, it has failed the middle class, and now it has failed on its own terms of electability.
Joshua Frank, Counterpunch:
[N]o matter what bullshit excuse Democrats come up with for Hillary's historic embarrassment, they have only themselves to blame. She lost because she deserved to lose. She ran an awful campaign, mired in controversy, and was unable to excite voters to the polls. She believed neoliberalism could carry the day, but she was wrong. The DNC was wrong. The establishment lost because the establishment deserved its fate.

By no means does this imply Trump will overthrow the status quo, it only means the outsider Trump was better able to exploit the boiling rage of middle America. All the workers who were undercut by Bill Clinton's NAFTA. The hundreds of thousands that never rebounded from the Bush recession. Trump provided an outlet of hope for these lost souls – a fabricated hope no doubt, but hope nonetheless – gift wrapped in rage. His mastery of social media, of vindictive and racist rhetoric, helped him gut the provincial electorate.
Michael Laxer, The Left Chapter:
Much of the worst damage actually happened under Democrats. It should never be forgotten that it was Bill Clinton who helped to destroy the American liberal post-war state. Nor the role the Clinton Presidency played in the passing of sweeping and deeply racist crime bills that imprisoned and also disenfranchised millions of people-of-colour in the United States. ...

It was bizarre, as so many apologists for Clinton and the Democrats did, to go on about the alleged achievements of "incrementalism" or Democratic governance when it is easy to prove that the United States has gone dramatically to the right in every meaningful economic sense and when inequality is greater than it has been since the 1920s.

This did not change in any real way at all under Obama, a fact that is easily demonstrated.

Liberals and social democrats have failed workers and people living in poverty so spectacularly that it is impossible to overstate the extent.

This is a day-to-day lived reality for staggering numbers of people and telling those who might well be inclined to support something that rejects what has happened around them that your candidate and party are singularly qualified to stay the course due to their experience over this time in having done so, was both typically liberal and the worst form of political folly. It was a blind and bizarre self-defeating arrogance, that was profoundly, truly, madly, deeply foolhardy in its timing.
Jeffrey St. Clair, Counterpunch:
The DNC rigged their primaries to insure the nomination of the only candidate who could lose to Trump. Is it any wonder that same brain trust, high on the fumes of their own hubris, lost all those senate seats, too?

The DNC spent more time conspiring to defeat Bernie Sanders, than they did the Republicans. They absorbed nothing from the Sanders campaign, from the issues that resonated with his followers: a corrupt system fueled by corporate cash and militarism, working class people demeaned and ridiculed, the American youth burdened by debt with no opportunity for advancement, blacks and Hispanics treated as political chattel, captives to a party that demands their loyalty yet does nothing for them. The Clinton team vanquished Sanders, paid him off and then marched on arrogantly toward their doom.

Clinton herself showed a singular lack of courage to the very end of her campaign. She couldn't even speak out against the brutalization of tribal people in North Dakota defending their water and burial grounds against the mercenaries of Big Oil. How could anyone look at her silence in the face of those ongoing atrocities and believe that she'd ever stand up for them?
Richard Moser, Counterpunch:
The Democrats were oblivious to the deep discontent among the American people because that simply does not figure into their clever and cunning calculations. Why should it? Fear, lesser of two evils, scapegoating, palace politics — all these things worked in the past, didn't they?

So all the discontent and unhappiness from years of economic distress fed right into the only other choice. We have the "great two party system" don't we? Both Democrats and Republicans insist there is no alternative. ...

The Democrats run a candidate who spent eight years in the White House, crow about her experience, even when the experience included the fact that Bill Clinton was IMPEACHED and widely viewed as a bum. The Democrats embrace a family dynasty the includes one of the two presidents in all of American history impeached by the House of Representatives. Good choice!

This has to be one of the most amazing proofs that the Democratic Party echo chamber is truly deafening.