Monday, December 21, 2020

4680 Mutually Assured Destruction


Back in the bad old days, the US and the Soviet Union kept threatening each other.  “We will bury you,” said Khrushchev.  Their nukes and our nukes faced off in places like Turkey and little kids in elementary schools learned to duck and cover.


Those days aren’t gone but they’re not forgotten. Except what they used to call Mutually Assured Destruction has gone cyber.  Like everything else.


So now, versions of the Big Button sit on the desks of the Russian and American presidents and we can wipe each other out without contaminating the earth, air and water.  How politically correct!  Destroy the people without destroying the planet.


Everything depends on computers, both here and there. 


In the Pentagon and in the Kremlin, secret bunkers are populated by operators wearing military jumpsuits.  


Let’s say the president decides to zap an important Russian City like, say, Vladivostok and in response, the Russian president decides to zap an important American city like, say, Reno, Nevada.


The presidents log in. They go to the map app, push the “destroy” button and … then … nothing happens.  A screen appears.  It says “We’re sorry. Due to unusually heavy traffic some users will find longer waits.  We’re sorry for the inconvenience. You can reach us by calling toll free 1 800 Zap Them.  Or visit our website at


The presidents dial the number.


“Due to heavy traffic, we are experiencing unusual delays. Please be patient.  Your call is very important to us and we look forward to serving you soon. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.”


Then callers get an endless loop of music. Something catchy, like “Third Man Theme” played on the zither.


Meantime in the bunkers, guys in military jumpsuits wonder which side is first in the lineup of callers.


“Thank you for your patience. We look forward to serving you shortly. Your estimated wait time is 37 minutes.”


Finally, after 72 minutes:


Operator: “Good morning.  This is Brenda in Cincinnati. How may I help you today?” 


President: “Yes, it’s the president calling for destruction of the computer infrastructure of Vladivostok.”


O: I’m happy to help you with that, sir. Please let me have the last four digits of your social security number.”


P: Checks his wallet, gives number.


O: Thank you Mr. President.  Now please tell me the color codeword of the day.


P: Red


O: OK, that is correct. Now, let me see. You say you want to destroy the computer infrastructure of Vladivostok.  How do you spell that?


P over his shoulder: Melania, how do you spell Vladivostok?


P: gives spelling.


O: OK, Mr. president. Please continue to be patient. My computer is a little slow today.  Let me put you on hold for just a moment.


O, back on the phone after another five minutes of “Third Man Theme”: I’m sorry, sir, we’re unable to complete your task today.  Please call back later in the day or tomorrow.


And this and the Russian version is why Vladivostok still has a working computerized sewer system.  As does Reno.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®

Any Questions?

© WIR 2020


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