25 January 2017

Triple Reverse, Iteration II

Ok, a revised and expanded outline of my novel. Actually it may be  long enough to call a novella.

Here is the outline of the chronology;

1. Billionaire presidential candidate Bullworth refuses to publish his tax returns in his campaign opposing President Albright’s bid for a second term. The press criticizes Bullworth, and publicly speculates that his tax returns might reveal that he pays little or no federal income tax, and ii) has foreign investments, especially in Russia, that would embarrass him.

2. The speculation about Bullworth’s  connection to Russia is heightened by the candidate’s repeated positive statements about the Russian leader and his decision to choose as his campaign manager a close associate who, it was discovered, was to be paid $12 million in cash by a Russian-supported Ukrainian leader who was so pro-Russian, he was overthrown by his Ukrainian constituents.

2. Bullworth deflects the criticism by accusing the press of bias. No, more than bias, he accuses the press of dishonesty. The press defends itself with justifiable vigor and intensity, and insists it is impartial. That press defensiveness becomes the new front page story, and the tax return story and Russian connection slip to page three.

3. Wikileaks dribbles out emails stolen from President Albright’s political party. The content is embarrassing. No corruption, treason, or criminality is involved, but the press feasts on the backbiting, gossip, and stuff probably found on the email servers of many local school boards. The leaks are serially released, and the press, eager to demonstrate its journalistic even handedness,  pays exhaustive and exhausting attention to them.  The  print-inches are are right up there with the Kardashian jewel theft, with the result that the Bullworth tax return story and his affinity for Russia’s leadership, are buried ever deeper the bowels of Section One of the newspaper, and the last 60 seconds of some tv newscasts.

4. U.S. intelligence agencies reveal it was Russia that hacked the email account and fed the take to Wikileaks, but Bullworth calls the claim “ridiculous,” and says he has inside information it was a 300 pound nephew of one of his former political competitors from Tenafly, New Jersey.  That gets much coverage. Almost as much as the hacked email gossip. The tax return issue is now mentioned only rarely -- in section two of the paper, along with movie schedules, and only one cable news show even mentions it, and then only occasionally.

5. More distractions:  Bullworth is revealed on tape boasting of his pussy grabbing propensities. The press goes berserk with coverage of the story. The refusal to disclose tax returns is now hardly ever mentioned in the press, and stories of the Russian hack decline but for an occasional reference in the sports section in articles about Russian doping. Skeptics wonder whether the pussy grabbing “confession” was not, in fact, an attention grabbing stunt that i) dominated the news, ii) attracted more white male voters, and, iii) was enhanced by a report on an obscure internet site known for its profitable manufacture of false news, that a recent poll showed that 53% of white women wanted their pussies grabbed by Bullworth. When Bullworth’s press secretary, Pamela Smiley, was asked about that viral report, she said, “It must be true, it was on the internet.”

6. Bullworth wins the election.

7. Ms. Smiley announces that since Bullworth won the election, no one any longer cares about the income tax issue, and the President-elect has decided not to release them, audit or no audit. Smiley's announcement is barely noticed because it is buried in the avalanche of news about the report that Bullworth paid for a Golden Showers episode in a Moscow hotel. Is the story true or false?  If it's true, was Bullworth entrapped by Russian agents?  Why did the press and the FBI wait till AFTER the election to publish that questionable story, but, BEFORE the election, publish the unquestionably ridiculous story that some deviant spouse of the White House Press Secretary’s third cousin had published Facebook pictures of her breasts that had freckle patterns containing a secret code advising ISIS where the Secret Service parked the Presidential limo.

This is the post-truth era, and “ alternate facts” prevail. What is important is what attracts the attention of the public this instant. The Bullworth tax return issue is, as our millennials tell us, “so over.” Now the only tax return issue in the forefront of the public consciousness are the penalty letters received from the IRS when it finds $21.46  of checking account interest was not reported as income on last year’s tax returns. And the Russians hack-interference with the election?  Please, it would be “unpatriotic” to suggest Bullworth is not going to be a legitimate President.

8. On December 11, the Brighton Beach Ledger, a small Brooklyn neighborhood newspaper that normally appeals only to its predominantly Russian subscribers, vaults to national attention by publishing irrefutable documentary proof that the whole Golden Showers shtick was reverse false news, i.e,. it was false, masquerading as real, but designed to encourage a vigorous public debate over whether it was false, and whether it was journalistically ethical to first fail to report it and then change course and report it when somebody else did. The only purpose of the story, the secret documents revealed, was not to encourage people to believe it was accurate, but to create a debate that shifted public attention away from the Russian email hack that produced the Bullworth victory.  

9. Now we have a real uproar. The CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and Homeland Security all open investigations, and after a brief but intensive inquiry, unanimously conclude that not only was the Golden Showers story a phony, but so was the Bullworth pussy grabbing tape. Moreover, the Kardashian jewel thieves were former KGB associates of the Russian Leader Ynetski, making that particular news story a new tributary of the river of fake news, i.e. the robbery was real, but it was perpetrated for fake reasons!  The investigative agencies’ report to Congress reveals that all that “news” was developed in a conspiracy between the Bullworth campaign and the Russian Leader, Boris Ynetski.  The only motive for creating the stories was to capture the news cycle, bury the story of the Russian interference in the United States electoral processes, and thereby assure a Bullworth victory. Congress, of course, immediately leaked the joint intelligence agency report to the “establishment” news organizations, and the outraged public started to organize a march on Washington.

10. Ynetski denied everything.

11. On December 18, Mrs. Mulva Seleznev, the wife of a  Russian emigre, struggled with her poor English to tell a complicated story to the desk sergeant at the Brighton Beach precinct of the New York City Police Department. With the aid of a civilian precinct interpreter, the police learn that though she was opposed to the scheme from the git-go, Mrs. Seleznev's husband, a former KGB agent, had been instrumental in feeding the false Golden Showers story to the national press via his website "Reelnewz." Afterwards, he suffered pangs of conscience -- he loved his new home in America and his daughter had just been admitted to Harvard -- so he revealed the truth to the Brighton Beach Ledger. But that’s not the reason she was talking to the police. She was frantic because her husband had disappeared.

12. On December 28, the New York State police announced that a Montauk fisherman had caught a large bluefish that had apparently encountered a food source so plentiful that it had delayed its fall migration to its winter haven in Chesapeake Bay. The fisherman was eager to see what kept the big fish so far north for so long, and after filleting the critter, cut open its stomach. He found partly decomposed squid, porgies, a small bluefish, and a human finger. DNA evidence conclusively established that the digit had once been attached to Dmitri Seleznev of Brighton Beach, the missing Russian emigre.

13. This was the most covered news story since Hitler invaded Poland. Bullworth was inundated with press inquiries. Congress demanded answers. Pamela Smiley said the whole furor was just an attack by known opponents, i.e., the press, the progressives, the members of Congress and elites of both parties who had opposed Bullworth’s nomination and election.  As to the evidence of his complicity in the Russian interference scheme, Bullworth tweeted: “I won. They are just sore losers. Sad.”

There was no evidence, indeed no suggestion, that the devout Vice President-elect Christian O’Malley, had any involvement, or even knowledge, of the Bullworth-Ynetsky conspiracy.  His undoubted purity added steam to the impeachment movement. So while Bullworth planned his inaugural address, the House planned impeachment hearings, Sean Hannity declared he always had secret doubts about Bullworth, Rush Limbaugh went on an extended vacation, and Fox News joined the demand for Bullworth’s impeachment.

14. But one op-ed columnist in The New York Times, was skeptical. Collin Brooksman suspected the intelligence agencies’ revelations were, if not inaccurate, at least incomplete.  It’s not that she credited the Bullworth and Ynetksy denials, or that she believed that the CIA had faked the evidence. She did not. But she was an experienced journalist, and her gut told her something was amiss. How could the brilliant Russian Leader Ynetski, who excelled at the political long game, have so cleverly maneuvered to have his pawn elected, but then suffer to see those same maneuvers stimulate the move to impeach his asset immediately after his taking office? What had Ynetski accomplished? In short, she thought there was a piece missing to this puzzle, but she couldn’t be more specific than that. Because her column appeared in that “old folks” medium, a newspaper, it wasn’t Tweeted, Snapchatted, Facebooked, or Instagrammed, and so it quickly disappeared from view.

15. The out-going Albright cabinet had consisted of fourteen men and women of varied talents and sophistication. The more important posts, State, Treasury, Defense, and Homeland Security were occupied by intelligent professionals. Other appointments tended to be more more political in nature. Some cabinet Secretaries were people with political clout, others had raised money for the Albright campaign. That is not to say that the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Labor, HHS, Education, etc., were not  smart and patriotic, but only that some of them had been appointed for a reason other than their skill sets, and some were barely public figures prior to their appointment and confirmation.  The pre-inauguration disposition of these officers was important because Article II, Section 1.6 of the Unites States Constitution provides:

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

In The Presidential Succession Act of 1947, and in predecessor statutes, the Congress did what the Constitution authorized it to do, and provided for succession in case the President and Vice President were dead or disabled. They legislated the following sequence: Speaker of the House,  President Pro-tem of the Senate, and then the cabinet members in the order in which their positions had been created. Thus, the first cabinet officer in the line of succession was the Secretary of State, and the fourteenth was the Secretary of Homeland Security.  Obviously, the likelihood that any of those people would succeed to the Presidency was way remote. In 228 years, succession had never descended beyond the Vice President.

16. In the week before the inauguration, President Albright’s cabinet did what their predecessors had done.  They followed tradition and submitted their resignations effective 12:01 PM on January 20th, the day and time the new President was to take his oath of office.

But security officials paid attention to details no one else thinks about. While the three elected successors to the presidency had always been forbidden to travel together on the same airplane, the passing of the torch to a new administration was such an important symbol our great democracy, that security precautions were abandoned, and they all sat, cheek by jowl, with the new President and Vice President at their swearing in ceremony. This was politically important, but nevertheless troublesome to the security nerds at DHS. Their job was to ask the "What if" questions. And one of those questions was what if all three elected successors were killed by a device launched at (or planted under) the reviewing stand? If the new President and his three elected successors were killed, and all fourteen cabinet members had already resigned, the United States would have NO EXECUTIVE BRANCH, no civilian commander-in-chief, no person authorized to launch defenses against nuclear attack, no person to sign laws passed by Congress (even if enough members survived to pass a law in the absence of their leadership.) And there was NOTHING in the Constitution authorizing any solution the problem. Anarchy? Probably not, but a period of frightening weakness and uncertainty, for sure.

17. In a process not publicly known, security officials took steps to avoid that remotest of possibilities. Starting after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, upon any change of administration, the outgoing cabinet members were required to meet and decide amongst themselves which one of them would not resign until at least one new cabinet officer had been appointed by the new President and confirmed by the Senate, a process that probably would take less than a week after inauguration. The big cheeses in the Albright cabinet were all were eager to flee D.C. and be on their way home, to vacations, family outings, business ventures, whatever, and they readily accepted the gracious offer of a cabinet officer who volunteered to postpone her resignation for a few days: the 12th on the cabinet succession list,  Education Secretary Sonia Ross,  a significant contributor to the Albright campaign. The agreeable lady had acquired her fortune upon the unexpected death of her husband, casino mogul Stephen James. The couple had reportedly been on the brink of divorce when James was killed in a mysterious boating accident on Lake Mead, and the widow Ross resumed her maiden name.

18. On January 20, as agreed, she stayed home alone, guarded by the Secret Service. The “Designated Survivor” intermittently watched the proceedings on television while she went about her business packing her belongings for her move back to Nevada, The rest of her former cabinet colleagues had already fled the city.

19. Bullworth and O’Malley were sworn in without untoward event. The sparse crowd cheered, and the officials sitting on the reviewing stand applauded, though many did so while grinding their teeth.

20. While Bullworth was reading his nine-minute inaugural address from the teleprompters, he raised his arm for emphasis, a gesture reminiscent of his campaign speeches. But this time he found himself pointing at a distant raisin in the otherwise blue sky. He hesitated for only a moment, but continued reading aloud. When he looked up two seconds later, the tiny raisin had become a fat grape and was on its way to watermelon size.

21. Subsequent investigations revealed that the missile had been launched from a fishing trawler off the coast of Virginia. That vessel had immediately thereafter disappeared from coastal radar.  Eight days later, the U.S. Navy found her sitting on the bottom in 1,275 feet of water  The vessel was raised, and investigators found that two large bilge sea cocks were in the full-open position.There could be no doubt the ship had been scuttled. The vessel's motorized lifeboat was not on board. No crew members, or remains of crew members, had been found.

22. The missile had exploded right on target. Ninety-seven people were killed and 113 injured.  Among the dead were President Bullworth, Vice President O’Malley, the Speaker of the House Macintosh, President Pro-tem of the Senate Jackson, four Justices of the Supreme Court, assorted spouses, and 61 members of Congress.

23. DHS deputy Secretary Tom Abernathy, who was in charge of inauguration security, had been observing the scene from his aerie atop the Washington Monument. He immediately put “Operation DS” into effect, and an on-call platoon of heavily armed U.S Marines from Joint Base Andrews rushed to the home of Secretary Ross. Abernathy breathed a sigh of relief when he learned she was safe, and he ordered that she be immediately hustled to a secure location in the bowels of DHS headquarters, where a television crew was waiting to record a surviving member of the Supreme Court administer the oath of office. Though hardly by means any citizen had anticipated, the country had its first woman President.

24. On February 20, to assure the anxious American public that our federal government was intact and returning to normal, there was ceremonial public swearing in as well. In attendance were the new Vice President, former  New York City Congressman Alex Barber --he had been appointed by President Ross and confirmed by all 72 surviving members of the U.S.Senate, pursuant to the 25th Amendment -- and the new Speaker of the House, the new President Pro-tem of the Senate, and numerous family members, including the President’s beaming widowed father, Mr. Victor Ross, nee Vladimir Roskovitch.

24. On March 2, The New York Times published a column entitled "The Missing Piece of the Puzzle," written by Collin Brookman. In it she reported on on a startling coincidence: information from Immigration, Social Security, and IRS records that came into her possession via a confidential source, revealed that Vice President Alex Barber was the son of Brighton Beach Uber driver Alexi Barbrovski.

25. On March 3, Brooksman was served with a "forthwith" Grand Jury subpoena issued by the newly appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, demanding the source of the leaked records.

25. Russian Leader Boris “Long Game” Ynetski was among the scores of international leaders sending congratulations to the new American leaders. He sent along a video of him sitting at his desk, with a tight smile, offering to meet with the new President at her earliest convenience.

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