Saturday, October 15, 2016

Vladimir Putin: The Useful Puppet

The hardest part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch. - Scott Glenn as Captain Bart Mancuso - The Hunt For Red October

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


In a well-lit, expansive boardroom, a group of agitated men and women argued around the boardroom table in the JFK Conference Room.  The meeting facilitator standing at the head of the table pleaded for order.  This was not an uncommon sight in this room these days, a room better known to the outside world as the White House Situation Room.

“Can we have one conversation here?”, the facilitator yelled above the din.

He waited patiently for about a minute as people gradually returned to their seats before clearing his throat and beginning to speak.

“Thank you”, he said. 

Turning towards the large screen behind him, he pointed to the presentation displayed before them.  “Now as you can see”, he continued, “In our effort to distract the people from the reality that we are unable to solve our education, healthcare, law enforcement, military and infrastructure needs, we have pretty much exhausted the list of deflections.”

He paused and then continued.

“The Black Lives Matter movement was useful but turned more violent than we anticipated”, he said, “The promotion of gender equality was useful but we allowed it to get too complicated to be useful.  I mean, who in the hell thought of 31 allowable genders for a driver’s licence in New York City?  Our leverage of folks in Hollywood has produced a backlash claiming hypocrisy since many of the people we have tapped to step up for us have become mired in their own personal shit about their own demons and indefensible positions.”

He advanced to the next slide in his presentation.  It showed lyrics from a BeyoncĂ© song and photos of Miley Cyrus.

“Can you lick my skittles, that's the sweetest in the middle, pink that's the flavor, solve the riddle”, he read. “These are lyrics by someone the First Lady is calling a role model for young women?”, he asked.

“And this picture of Cyrus at a concert riding a giant ….”, he paused again and shook his head.

He advanced to the next slide.

“And this stuff about Trump”, he said, “It seemed effective at first but his band of dedicated idiots seem unswayable.  Even leveraging storms and telling people that this one is the one that will kill all their families and make parts of the country uninhabitable didn’t frighten too many people.  Running political commercials on the weather channels as people were trying to get updates probably didn’t help us either.”

“Anyway”, he said, “This stuff with Putin had better be working.  We need something to take people’s mind off of our lack of effectiveness.  Putin’s a hot head and it shouldn’t be that difficult to get him riled up and rattling the war sabres.  The key that I must stress to you is that while we publicly threaten to bomb places like Iran and Aleppo, we must constantly keep in contract with the Kremlin to assure them there is no real threat.  That way the people fear a war is imminent while it really isn’t.  Fear and anger, my friends, is the way to manipulate people the best.”

A voice from the back of the room spoke up.

“And where does this take us?”, she asked.

“Excellent question”, replied the facilitator, “It provides us with two useful options.  Either we get Hillary elected to the White House as planned or things go off the rails with Trump and we use Putin’s war cries to justify the invocation of Executive Directive 51 and we retain power.  For those of you not familiar with the directive, here is the brief summary.”

He advanced the presentation to the next slide and waited for the participants to read it.  It read:

The Presidential Directive defines the power to execute procedures for continuity of the federal government in the event of a catastrophic emergency. Such an emergency is construed as any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions. 

The Directive gives full executive, judicial and legislative power to the President of the United States, with full control over food, water, energy distribution, transportation and communication mechanisms in the country, including the Internet.  It also provides for the dissolution of Congress and the Senate if required as well as the waiving of any elections until such time as the President believes the nation to be safe.

After waiting for a minute or so, the facilitator broke the silence.

“Fully legal as defined under the law”, he said, smiling, “We just need our puppet in the Kremlin to play along.”

“But aren’t tensions between us and the Russians getting extraordinarily high?”, the same voice asked from the back of the room.

“Absolutely”, the facilitator replied, “But we need to take Russia to the very edge to make ED 51 look like the only legitimate option.  We’ve played chicken many times in the past and it always works.”

He started to speak again when the phone in the middle of the conference room table rang, interrupting him.

The facilitator nodded to someone sitting closer to the phone and the person pressed the speakerphone button.

The entire room listened quietly as the voice on the other end of the phone, in a quick, breathless, nervous voice, explained how an accident had occurred and the Volgodonsk, a Russian warship deployed off the coast of Yemen, had just been sunk by a nuclear-tipped Tomahawk missile.

“How did this happen?”, asked the facilitator as the color drained away from his face.

“We don’t know”, replied the voice on the phone, “Some idiot over there made a mistake on our side and let it fly.  There’s almost too much chatter to keep up with what’s happening.”

The voice paused for a moment.  “I gotta go”, it said, “There’s too much going on here.  Someone will call you when we have more information.”

The phone line was cut and the person next to the phone turned it off.  The room buzzed with nervous tension as multiple conversations exploded simultaneously.

“People, people”, the facilitator yelled once more, “Please, may we have one meeting at a time here?  This is probably a minor incident.  Cooler heads will prevail.”

He was still trying to get control of the meeting when one of the Presidential aides burst into the room.

He bent over and put his hands on his knees to catch his breath.

“The President …….. taken to PEOC”, he said in broken sentences, “Bogies approaching over the pole ….. more on Atlantic and Pacific coasts ……”

A thousand questions for the aide came from all directions.

He didn’t have much time to answer.

It didn’t matter anyway.

To be continued.


© 2016 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Background

The PEOC, or Presidential Emergency Operations Center, is one of many bunkers where the President can go in times of emergency.  While it is not the ideal location, it is the best one if you have less than two minutes before a catastrophic event.

Executive Directive 51 is real and perfectly legal.  It would be politically unpopular but desperate times call for desperate measures from desperate people.

People who say that there are too many checks and balances in place that would prevent an accidental launch of a missile should recall what happened with the USS Vincenees when it shot down an Iranian commercial jet liner.

The other stuff is conjecture.  As a long-time Wall Street strategy guy, I and people I work with know that anger and fear are the most powerful tools available.  Feel-good moments can inspire others but if you want someone to act quickly without thinking, it is best to make them feel afraid or angry.  Both emotions cloud logical thinking and people will do things against their better judgement and character as long as others don’t give them time to stop and think rationally. 

As for distractions and deflections used by politicians, ask almost any politician any difficult question, even repeatedly and notice how the question is answered …. and is not.  The intention is that you will eventually give up and walk away. “Mission accomplished”, thinks the politician when this happens.

By the way, there is an interesting treatment of this subject in the 1984 movie “Countdown to Looking Glass” where things go from routine to out of control very quickly.  Thirty two years later, it is still an interesting, relevant and disturbing movie.

I’m not a pessimist.  I’m an optimistic realist, who believes that a better world is within our grasp only when we acknowledge the difficulties and imperfections around us.  We must neutralize difficulty in order to realize a better world that we are capable of creating.

As a strategy guy, it is my role to identify all plausible scenarios, including the unlikely, the unpopular, the unsavory and the unpalatable.

Risk mitigation requires people to understand all the risks, otherwise it is often the risk ignored, played down or hidden that proves to be the problematic one in the end.

We need to call out the people who put us at risk and hold them accountable for if such risk becomes reality, we die and they live.

I don’t think that’s a fair exchange.

What do you think?

You may now return to worrying about what color your next iPhone or Android phone will be or what the latest memes are on Facebook.

That is all that matters, after all.

Isn’t it?

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Presidential Election: The Real State of the Union

By way of deception, thou shalt do war – Motto of the Mossad

Life is the art of being well deceived and in order that the deception may succeed, it must be habitual and uninterrupted.- William Hazlitt

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


Using his credit card, he deftly laid out the lines of cocaine on the small mirror he had placed on the dining room table.  Laying the card aside, he grabbed a small straw and snorted up the fine white powder.  Within a minute or so, his worries began to fade away.

He staggered into the bedroom and climbed into bed next to his girlfriend.  She kissed him lightly and he snuggled in to her.

“Thanks for putting gas in my car”, she said, “I don’t think I could have gotten to the abortion clinic without it.”

“No skin off my nose”, he said as the room began to spin around him, “I used the company credit card.  They’ll never notice.  I’m sure the guys at the top steal from the company all the time.”

“And besides”, he continued, “It’s no good if my wife finds out that I’m a dad to someone else’s baby, is it?”

“That’s true”, she said as she laughed.

She got serious for a moment and then asked him, “Do you think there will be any complications because it’s my third abortion?”

“Third?”, he asked, surprised by the number.

“Nah”, he replied, shaking his head, “Doctors know what they are doing these days.”

She nodded, reached over for the remote control and turned the TV on.  It blared the latest controversy about Trump and Clinton as they prepared for the next Presidential Debate.

“I’m so disgusted with both of these people”, he said, “They’re both full of crap with all the dishonest and immoral things they do.”

“I know”, she replied, “When are we going to get someone who represents the people and not their own selfish, stupid behavior?”

“Exactly”, he said as his phone chirped.  He glanced at it, reading the SMS from a friend of his who had picked up a few guns “off the radar”.  He replied that he would reach out later and placed the phone back on the nightstand.

His girlfriend stared at the TV screen, her eyes seeing but not seeing the brief note on the ticker about the Russian military sending more nuclear weapons towards the Baltic and Mediterranean, another about India and Pakistan inching closer to a nuclear war and a report on the number of people killed in Haiti by Hurricane Matthew.

“I just don’t know”, she said, sighing.

“What’s wrong?”, he asked, momentarily glancing at the TV as he rolled over towards her.

“I’m picking up my new iPhone after I go to the clinic tomorrow”, she replied, “and I really don’t know if I should get the white one or the pink one.”

“Hmmmmm”, he said, pursing his lips in thought, “That’s a good question.”


The two “men” sat in a coffee shop, leaning in towards each other and speaking in low voices.

“Fascinating”, said the first, “The planet economy is in tatters with no solution in sight, Russian and US militaries are repositioning their assets for an all out war and all these people can worry about is which one of two immoral people is the most or least immoral.  It’s a race to the bottom and no one is the winner.”

“I know”, replied the second, “The government leaders they elect train and supply terrorists who come back to them with hostile intentions and even though the terror threat is not significant, with more people being killed by drunk drivers every year, the so-called leaders then sell to the American people the idea that they can save them from the very people who were created by their own policies and actions in the first place.“

“Yes”, agreed the first, “Tax returns and missing emails seem far more important than the economy, healthcare, education, safety from nuclear, bio and cyber weapons and the myriad of other issues requiring attention.  People even fall prey to statistical manipulation, not knowing or caring that the means by which unemployment is being calculated has been changed to omit those who would have been included in the unemployment ranks years ago, putting the real unemployment rate at over 20% while 48 million people need food stamps to survive and 98 million people are not in the ranks of the employed at all.  It wouldn’t be as easy to control their minds if it weren’t for a news media long since having given up its soul to the highest bidder.  People watch the news not to be informed but to feel good about being superior to or luckier than the poor schlep they are watching.”

“What about that rumor that Trump is actually a mole for the Democrat party and that a fix is in for the election right under the noses of the people?”, asked the second, “Isn’t that the craziest thing ever?”

The first one laughed at the thought.  “It sounds to me like you have been watching too much of their news media.”

“The really sad thing”, said the second as he stood up to leave, “Is that while the American people complain about their choices for President, they fail to recognize that the two choices are not aberrations of their society but are in fact products of it.  Given that, what else could they choose from other than those who represent a natural evolution of their society?”

“True”, agreed the first as he also stood up to leave, “Maybe if they didn’t numb their brain sharing the mundane on social media, they might have the interest or ability to figure this out.”

He looked around at the people sitting at tables around him and shook his head quietly.

“It’s easy to see issues in others that people don’t see in themselves”, he said quietly, “while waiting for someone else to be responsible for their own problems.”

The second nodded and then noticed a teenager listening to some music on his phone.

He waved at the kid to get his attention, waited for him to remove his ear buds and then asked him, “What are you listening to, kid?”

“Armageddon by Prism”, he said before placing the ear buds back in his ear.

“Well at least someone has a grasp on where they are headed”, the second man said to the first as he laughed.

The first man joined him in laughter and clapped his hand against the back of the second.

“So true”, he said, “It would be nice to help these people but their history shows that they only learn when their backs are up against the wall.”

The second pushed the door open before observing, “Hopefully for them, the lesson doesn’t come too late or deliver a punch that cannot be survived.”

They walked out of the coffee shop and vanished into the night air.

To be continued.


© 2016 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Background

There are a lot of parables buried in this story and within the parables, there is both fact and fiction.

If you need the parables explained to you, you may be part of a larger problem.

If you don’t understand them or don’t care about them at all, you are part of a larger problem.

If you are in neither of these two camps, then the world, with its amazing beauty and unlimited potential is waiting for your voice, your gifts, your talents, your strengths and your leadership.

What are you waiting for?

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.


Addendum - An Interesting Question - October 9, 2016

Holly Simon asked this question, which I found to be very thought provoking:

@HarryTucker people are a product of their own actions? Or a reflection on their own actions.

Interesting question indeed!


Addendum 2 - Another Interesting (Albeit Blunt) Opinion - October 10, 2016

Here's an intriguing, albeit blunt, opinion that follows a similar theme to this blog post. It's not an endorsement of any political candidate.

Feel free to be offended if it suits your need.