The Origins of Brother-in-law

There is a character in my new book ‘Redfish’ called “Brother-in-law.” ‘His real name is Orin Blackmon, but nobody calls him that. To everyone he is simply ‘Brother-in-law.’ The backstory in the book is that he picked up the name while serving in the Navy SEALS.

The real backstory is that I came across a Vietnam vet nicknamed ‘Brother-in-law’ back in 1978, when living in North Carolina while on a mission for my Church. Brother-in-law was living in the town of Henderson, North Carolina and going to college near there on the GI Bill. He was kind of a hillbilly and saw some serious action in Vietnam. He was the point man for his platoon, which as you can imagine, was a very dangerous position to have. In Vietnam, most American casualties came from booby traps and mines, and the point man was usually the one to set them off.

He told me that when he was in Vietnam, his senses hightened to an unbelievable level. For example, one day as he was guiding his platoon through the jungle, his eyes picked up a gossamer thin trip wire out of all the foliage, vines, and vegetation that surrounded him. His fellow soldiers were incredulous. How on earth did he see that, they asked him! Afterwards, they wouldn’t go out on partrol unless Brother-in-law was their point man.

The character in my book is not as gregarious as the real Brother-in-law. He was a happy guy when I knew him: long hair down to his shoulders, a willingness to talk, and a care-free attitude towards life despite all that he’d seen. A remarkable person all-in-all.

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Financial Experts and other Mohicans

There is a line in one of Rulon Hurt’s favorite movies, the 1992 film “Last of the Mohicans” where Cora Munroe, played by Madeleine Stowe, speaking to her fiancé with whom she is disenchanted but who keeps pressuring her to marry him, says, You’ve complimented me with your persistence and patience, but the decision I’ve come to is this. I would rather make the gravest of mistakes than surrender my own judgment.”
What a well spoken sentiment! And, oh, how many people wish now they had not ‘surrendered their own judgment” by listening to the experts “complimenting them with their persistence” leading up to the last economic crises.   
But there are so many experts and they are so persuasive! And surprisingly for every expert on one side of an issue there appears to be an equally credible expert on the other. Global warming? Financial deregulation? Corporate taxes? Health care restructuring? Take your pick. Passionate experts, all well versed in the oratorical arts, bombard us daily with their well-researched, well-supported, and contradictory conclusions.
In regards how to fix the U.S. economy, I once saw a two-panel cartoon labeled “Economic Experts”. The first panel was of a huge muscular man in a suit lifting a very small, skinny man off the ground by his lapels and screaming into his face “SAVE!!” The second panel was the identical cartoon with the same two characters but this time the expert is screaming “SPEND!!”
To combat this confusion, I’ve developed a personal 4-point method for sifting through experts:
1. Ignore the arrogant experts. At best, their egos blind them to the facts; at worst their arrogance and lack of humility is a cover-up for deception and ill-intent.
2. Be wary of experts who claim that people who disagree with them are unpatriotic. Okay, I can accept that if someone disagrees with you they are a total idiot – but unpatriotic??? Most people make decisions based on self-interest – let’s not kid ourselves.   
3. Follow the money. History proves that many highly accomplished and well educated people wearing expensive suits can and will defend any position – if paid enough money.
4. Do consider the opinion of experts that you trust but never surrender your own judgment. 
In any case, with these four principles in mind, you might consider viewing the movie “Inside Job”, the winner of the 2010 Oscar for best documentary about the causes of the 2008 world-wide economic meltdown. It shows the experts on both sides of the issue and is a sobering indictment of the U.S. financial industry and the members in both parties who aided and abetted their monstrous fraud. And, by the way, one of the film’s surprising revelations was that those same apologists in the Bush administration who fought regulation of the derivatives industry are alive and well and plying their same trade in the Obama administration today.   
My next posting will be on an interesting email I received in regards the name ‘Yohaba Melekson’. Little did I realize that name’s significance when I chose it for the heroine in Einstein’s Trunk.
Best regards,
Jim
Zurich
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Rulon’s views on the rhetoric in political campaigns

Rulon Hurt thrives in the deadly world of spy vs. spy where you never know who to trust, and where no one is exactly what they seem. In other words, his world is great preparation for trying to decide who to vote for in the next U.S. presidential election.
Many people are cynical about politicians, but Rulon isn’t one of them. When he was younger, his father insisted that he read Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy, and even now he will read chapters of it from time to time when his faith in the U.S. political process needs rekindling. That Pulitzer prize winning book is a reminder to him that while politicians are, after all, politicians, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good people in politics trying to do the best they can. The problem is that politicians can’t do any good unless they get elected and to get elected they need two things: enough money to run a campaign and enough votes to win. Most of the time that means having to promise things to two contradictory constituencies, and there lies the built-in dilemma that creates most of the cynicism about political life.  
So how does Rulon decide who to vote for? Well, first and foremost, as a window into their souls, he takes note of their oratorical tactics. When Rulon Hurt majored in Communications at Boise State University, he became interested in the communication theories developed by a man named Kenneth Burke. In 1939, Burke did an analysis of Hitler’s Mein Kampf called “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s Battle.” In it, he exposed the specific rhetorical tactics Hitler’s used to bedazzle his listeners into accepting him as their leader. When Rulon sees a politician today using those same tactics to manipulate his audience, his antenna automatically goes up. 
Hitler believed strongly in the principle of repetition to brainwash people into accepting his obviously flawed doctrines. He and his specially trained speakers flooded Munich in the early ‘30s repeating the same message over and over and giving no heed to logical counter-arguments or contradictions. Rulon sees a lot of that going on today –obviously false statements told over and over again until people start to accept them. For example: ‘Obama caused the deficit’ or, conversely, ‘the Republicans caused the deficit’ (note: I think most people after a little reflection realize that the deficit was a team effort by Dems and Repubs – both sides only hate deficits when the other party is in power)

Rulon also carefully listens to how candidates mix religion into their message. If the candidate uses specific religious doctrines as a way to attract voters (I believe in God the same way you do, therefore I’m a good guy and you should vote for me), this raises a big red flag. Also, Rulon likes to note how a politician will characterize his opponent – does he demonize the opposition. One of Hitler’s most effective strategies was to demonize the Jews, Jewish businessmen, and Jewish bankers – blaming them as the root of all of Germany’s problems, including unemployment, inflation, poverty, prostitution, divorce, birth defects, and so on. When Rulon sees candidates doing this to the opposition, he gets very nervous. In fact, he sees a lot of that going on at the moment.

In my next posting, I will discuss, hopefully without giving the plot away, World of Hurt – the sequel to Einstein’s Trunk.  
Best regards,
Jim
Zurich
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Is Rulon Hurt a Republican or a Democrat?

Is Rulon Hurt a Republican or a Democrat – inquiring minds want to know! Early in Einstein’s Trunk, Rulon and Yohaba have their first political discussion while sitting in Yohaba’s apartment. Since then I have spent many hours eavesdropping on their political conversations and so feel singularly capable of summarizing their viewpoints. Naturally, Yohaba thinks Switzerland has most of the right answers – full employment through a nationwide apprenticeship program, stay out of wars, eliminate corruption, and return most of the tax money back to its citizens in the form of long-term infrastructure development and an adequate safety net for the aged, infirm, and unemployed.  Having lived in Switzerland for almost a third of his life, Rulon tends to agree with her.
But make no mistake, Rulon is a red-blooded, gun toting American through and through. He believes that the American eagle has a right wing and a left wing but the head is in the middle. And that is the reason why he is neither a Republican nor a Democrat! Rulon would love to see a third American party spring up. He thinks both parties have failed America. Both say one thing publicly to get votes from the masses and another thing privately behind closed doors to get money from corporations and the wealthy to finance their campaigns.

To Rulon’s way of thinking, the most important issue in America right now is fixing the campaign finance laws and to somehow overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision allowing corporations to give unlimited money to SuperPACs because “corporations are people.” Rulon believes if you fix the campaign finance laws then politicians will be free to fix the country’s problems without worrying about offending their corporate donors.

Even though Rulon is a tough guy, he’s a bit of a history buff and, as his father has said, ‘he can see through a brick wall, given enough time.” In other words, he is no fool. He’s sees the corporations in America as not having allegiance to anything except “returning value to the stockholder”, who, by the way, could be from any country in the world. If corporations can make more profits by moving jobs to China, they’ll do it in a heartbeat – then lobby for overseas tax breaks! Rulon believes that if corporations are left unchecked on the path they are headed, America will eventually return to what it was like in the 1800s when the robber barons ruled the land, child labor was in full swing, and factory workers were paid barely living wages. After all, if the world is an open market and capital is free to move anywhere in the world, why should American workers be paid more than Chinese?
Rulon is particularly impressed with Germany which also faced complaints/threats from corporations that they had to move their manufacturing jobs overseas if they were to survive. But the German unions wouldn’t let that happen and instead of being allowed to abandon German workers to chase cheap and easy profits overseas, the German corporations were forced to think of innovative ways to manufacture in Germany while paying the relatively high German salaries. And since they had no choice, they figured it out! In America, on the other hand, corporations were allowed to move American jobs overseas with impunity, keep the profits, and pay less taxes. Everyone won except the American worker. Both parties abetted or fiddled while that was happening, and that is why Rulon has no use for either party.
Next posting will be on the book Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian and what it taught me about writing novels.
Jim Haberkorn
Zurich
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Rulon Hurt: The main character in Einstein’s Trunk

     The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun. And that may be true, but as a writer I wanted my two main characters, Rulon Hurt and Yohaba Meleksen, to be unique in the world of thrillers. This post is about Rulon. The next one will cover Yohaba – my heroine.
     Rulon Hurt s a former bull-rider and Boise State University athlete who works for a private American security company called Office Crimes Division (OCD). He’s six-foot, two-hundred-ninety pounds, self-conscious about his weight, self-deprecating, not good with women but nobody’s fool, has a dry sense of humor, and generally would rather talk his way out of a fight than be in one. He also is amazingly strong and quick for his size, having been an accomplished NCAA hammer throw and Greco-Roman wrestler.
     He has two claims to fame in the world of combat skills: First, he’s a superb shot, having grown up around guns all his life as a rancher in the Twin Falls area of Idaho. Second, under certain occasions, he carries a short-handled Wilton Demolition model sledge hammer under his jacket – a weapon he first picked up several years before the events in ET during a scrape with some murderous neo-Nazis in a bar in Marseilles.
      I wanted Rulon to be different from your average thriller hero. I wanted him to be more…well, more normal. I didn’t want him to be suave, handsome, totally self-confident, as murderous as his adversaries, laughing in the face of death, careless of human life, and conscienceless. I wanted him to have gifts but to be someone who I would enjoy spending time with, and someone I could recognize from my associations with people in Idaho.

      Jim                   

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