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Retired Info Tech Project Manager. Born in the British Empire. Educated in Physics. Worked inn Information Technology. Interests - Writing, Theater, Bicycling, Rowing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mission Creep

Mission Creep
[Note that this post is meant to generate discussion and welcomes disagreement, especially without being disagreeable.]

These thoughts were prompted by Ron Paul ad, against interventions abroad and for bringing 'em home. Some would call this an isolationist position. That does not bother me; I wonder whether isolationism is necessarily bad.  Put another way, what are the benefits of foreign intervention? [We all know the costs pretty clearly].

My friend Manoj pointed out that even isolationist candidates for president become more interventionist once in office.  He attributes this to geopolitical reality.  I wonder about that too.  As a project manager, these transformations strike me as classic examples of "mission creep."  And I'm not alluding to the creeps in charge of the mission :-)

Looking at recent interventions –

  • Kuwait: We went in to defend Kuwait at the request of its Emir. Taking that at face value, what did we gain for the lives lost, the bodies shattered and the money spent? Gratitude?  Oh, please!  There are no permanent allies or permanent adversaries; only permanent interests.  Our interest in Kuwait is confined to oil - at an affordable price and delivered in quantity, on schedule that we require. Absent that, Kuwait matters no more to the American taxpayer than Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kirbati or Kyrgystan. But, after driving Saddam out of Kuwait, we did not stay there and pump enough oil, free, to compensate our efforts.  So what did the intervention accomplish?
  • Iraq: We went in to a country that did not pose a direct threat to the United States. [Israel is, please note, a separate country.  It is not our responsibility to defend Israel. Help them on your own, if that is your desire. You don't commandeer my tax dollars for your desires.] In fact, Iraq was fragmented along the lines of Sunni Arab, Shia Arab and Kurds; we could easily have let them battle one another and saved the almost 5,000 lives lost and over 30,000 bodies maimed (http://usliberals.about.com/od/homelandsecurit1/a/IraqNumbers.htm), not to mention over $800 million. So what did the intervention accomplish?
  • Afghanistan: Yes, they had sheltered Osama.  So we could have just gone in, blasted where he thought he was hiding out, perhaps a few more places to which we thought he fled, and killed a whole lot of people that we thought were his supporters.  We would have been in our rights (IMHO) to cross any "international" borders in doing so. Any country that objects to our attack on its soil had better take care not to give aid and comfort to our enemies; else, they can all go to hell and get lost. But, after neutralizing Al Qaeda, we insisted on expanding our mission to include nation building, civil society improvement, governance, etc., etc.  [That was not in the original mission.  A change in scope should have required the administration to go back to Congress and the American people, to obtain a fresh authorization.] We are now leaving, with the clear probability of a Taliban resurgence, and with a more radicalized youth clamoring for revenge against us. So what did the intervention accomplish?

To start at the beginning, let us ask what our interests are, where other countries are concerned.  I am going to leave aside emotional mumbo jumbo about countries of origin, cradles of civilization / democracy, brewers of fine lager, etc., etc.  My focus, as an American citizen and taxpayer, will be on what we need from other countries, in order to protect the quality of our lives.

Here's my list [I look forward to reading yours]:

  •  Respect for our territorial integrity.  That means, they don't fish in our coastal waters, hordes of their people don't immigrate illegally into our country, their smugglers don't bring in contraband into our country, etc.
  • Non-intervention in our domestic affairs. That means, their PACs, or citizens, don't try to influence our elections.  Yeah, I know some people will see this as a restriction on free speech; I reject that point of view categorically.  I see the right to free speech as applicable to our citizens (and perhaps permanent residents, but not to foreigners living or visiting here).
  • Fair [Reciprocal] Trade. That means, if we don't burden their exports with tariffs, they don't burden ours.  If we don't subsidize our exports in a way that is predatory to their domestic economy, they don't do it to us, either.  In other words, a level playing field bilaterally.
  • Fair (Reciprocal) Treatment of Citizens. That means, if we don’t take hostage their diplomats who are stationed in our country, they treat our diplomats with the same respect.
  • No threats to civil aviation / shipping.  That means, their citizens don't become pirates and attack our ships in international waters; their citizens don't hijack our aircraft; their government does not capture our aircraft if it stops on their territory to take on fuel or passengers.  And so on.

One can go on and on; I won't J  The point is, none of the above explicitly requires a foreign country to have the same form of government as we do, or even a form of which we approve.  In the long run, every society gets the type of government it deserves.  If there is civil war in Sudan, anarchy in Somalia or total dictatorship in Myanmar, that is the concern of the respective people, not ours -- as long as they do not impinge on our interests (see list above).

Before I am accused of bigotry against Africans / Muslims / some other group, let me loudly declare that I am not prejudiced; I will leave my friends to defend me from such charges.  Suffice it to say that I would be equally non-interventionist if we are talking about a Catholic-Protestant civil war in Northern Ireland or a Fleming-Walloon civil war in Belgium.

So, where is the justification for intervening militarily in another country?  Oh, we want to test a new weapons system?  I am sorry, that is not a legitimate reason to spend my tax dollars or kill / maim my neighbors' children.  However, I will offer an alternative below.

Now, for completeness, I will note that we should, vigorously, defend ourselves against anyone [state or non-state entity or individual] who threatens our security. Tactical nuclear weapons have a role to play; what is more important is having the right means of delivery.  Drones have a role to play; but remember to develop defenses against them, as well.  It won’t be long before someone else has drones. 

I happen to agree with Ron Paul's ad that we should bring our troops home.  I would go further:

·        Merge most of the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.  Station troops along the land borders -- Canadian as well as Mexican -- and focus on minimizing illegal immigration and import of contraband.  
·        Task the Navy & Coast Guard with similar protection along all our coasts -- Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. 
·        Break out a few special forces -- Navy Seals, Green Berets, etc. -- into a Department of Offense, constituted as a separately owned entity of the US government – even more loosely owned than USS. Treat them as a Profit Center, with no tax payer funding, but with full congressional oversight.  Let them work as “sovereign mercenaries” for paying customers – eg., Emir of Kuwait or King of Saudi Arabia. They can even test new weapons, under contract to the weapon’s manufacturer, but with no backing from the government.

Admittedly, my last bullet is only an initial suggestion and needs much discussion and refinement.  Anyway, let the fireworks begin! :-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

English for Speakers of Indian Languages


Anchorwoman Decibella Chatterjee walks into a classroom, with Camraj the cameraman trailing. Decibella looks around, then looks at Camraj questioningly.  He checks a piece of paper in his hand, then nodds at her. Several students seated on chairs arranged in a classroom configuration. 

Decibella:            Cammie, are you sure this is the place?

Camraj:            Yeah, I’m sure.  Classroom 103-5.  This is it all right.  Just settle down and wait for the teacher.

Decibella:            How come the teacher is late?

Camraj:            Must be a woman [DC glares at him] er, I mean, must be the traffic.
Young woman enters, looks around, walks up to a teacher’s desk/podium, sets down her books, faces the students.  Then notices Decibella and Camraj.

Teacher:            Oh, you must be the TV people the Front Office told me to watch out for.

Decibella:            What do you mean, watch out for?

Camraj:            Bella, I think she means, watch for.

Teacher:            No, they meant watch out.  I don’t have time to waste, so just stay out of my way.

Decibella:            Well!

Camraj:            Don’t worry, you just teach your class, and I’ll film the whole thing, so our viewers can see how you prepare these students to do business with Americans.

Teacher:            All right, then! [Faces the students] Good evening!

Student 1:            What’s happenin’ ?

Student 2:            Howzit goin’ ?

Student 3:            How you doin’ ?

Teacher:            [Louder] Good evening!  [Students stare back blankly.]  One of the first things            you should have learnt was to greet the teacher, and one another, properly, like educated people.  [All the students stand up and say, in unison, “Goo divning”.] Don’t forget, this is a class on English for Speakers of Other Languages…

Student 1:            No, it aint.

Teacher:            You mean, “No, it isn’t”.

Student 2:            Right on, Sister!

Teacher:            I am not your sister, and thank God for small mercies.  What class do you think it is?

Student 1:            Englis for ..

Student 2:-            Ispeakers of..

Student 3:            Indian Langauges!

Teacher:            Why a special class for speakers of Indian languages?

Student 2:            Indian languages diphicult…English simple

Student 1:            Indian have trouble learning simple Englis

Student 3:            Einstein could not balance checkbook.  Addition and subtraction were too simple.  He had no problem with higher mathematics.

Teacher:            Enough of this nonsense! Now [looking at Student 1], let us first introduce ourselves.  I am Miss Sethi, your teacher.

Student 1:            Where our teacher, Mrs. Gupta, is?

Teacher:            Your former teacher, Mrs. Gupta, was transferred to another school.  I am your new teacher.

Student 1:            Say what?

Student 2:            Say why?

Student 3:            I say!

Teacher:            Now, tell me who you are. [Points to Student 2] You go first.

Student 1:            Why her?  I wanna go first?

Teacher:            Because I said so.  You don’t want to flunk this course, do you? [Students shake their heads]
Student 2:            I am Gearbox Kaur.

Teacher:            Funny, it sounded like you said “Gearbox”.  I have had Indian students before and I am familiar with some Indian names.  Guess you said Gurbux…

Gearbox:            No, I said “Gearbox”.  My father named all his kids after automobile parts.

Teacher:            How unusual!  Tell me more about your dad.

Gearbox:            Pappaji was President of USA…

Teacher:            What?  Which one?  Was it JFK?  I knew he was promiscuous…

Gearbox:            No, no, not that USA.  Pappaji was president of United Sikh Association in Patiala, India.  He wrote “Product of USA” on auto parts and sold them at a higher price. 

Teacher:            Bless my soul!  And why do you want to improve your English?

Gearbox:            I have travel agency, Safar With Us.  All my customers are Indian.  I want Amrikan customers also.  So I want learn Angrezi.

Teacher:            Commendable. Well, [Turning to Student 1] and who are you?

Student 1:            I am Asok Patel.  I have a donut shop but I want to get a motel.

Teacher:            I see.  [Looking at Student 3] And you?

Student 3:            My name is C.R. Shubramaniam.  Chivas Regal Shubramaniam. 

Teacher:            Sounds like you’ve had some Chivas Regal. [Sniffs the air] Smells like it too.

C.R.:            I had Shingapore Shling for lunch.

Asok:            I had Kingphiser Beer.

Gearbox:            I drink champ-agni and cog-nak only.

Teacher:            Okay, now that we have that settled, let us do some work.  Did Mrs. Gupta give you some work last week?

Gearbox:            She gave ass ointment.

Teacher:            What? Ass…Oh, I see, she gave you an assignment.  What was it?

Asok:            She tell us “Learn phamous Amrikan writing and restitute in class”.           

Teacher:            Oh, she asked you to learn a famous American document and recite it in class?  So – what have you learnt?

Asok:            Deceleration of Indian Pandas.

Teacher:            Decelaration…[Walks over and looks at the paper in his hands] You mean, the Declaration of Independence!  Go on, let us hear it.

Asok:            [Stands up and reads with a serious expression] We hold these truths to be shelf-avoidant..

Teacher:            Self-evident

Asok:            Right….All men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creditor with certain unallowable rights…

Teacher:            Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…

Gearbox:            Why only men?  What about women?

C.R.:            Not all women are created equal…[looks at Gearbox, then at the Teacher] Some are actually pleasant to look at.

Gearbox:            Shut up!  What about “endowed” ?

Asok:            [Speaks up because C.R. is standing with his ears covered, in a “Hear no evil” gesture] Some women are endowed; other women not so endowed…

Gearbox:            Shut up! [Glares at them both] Some men are far ahead [indicates a pot belly], some are way behind [indicates a fat derriere].

Asok:            You are talking about C.R.’s behind?

C.R.:            Careful!  You might be guilty of harassment.

Gearbox:            No, I can’t be.  I can only be guilty of his-assment.

Teacher:            That is enough!  Ay-sock, continue.

Asok:            that among these are Life, Liberty and the profit of Happiness. [Looks up from the paper at the Teacher] They made mistake!  It should be “Happiness of profit”!

Teacher:            No, actually it is the pursuit of Happiness.  Enough of this, let us hear from you, C.R.  What are you going to recite?

C.R.:            The Probable to the Constipation.

Teacher:            Excuse me? [Walks over to him, looks at his paper, shakes her head]  Looks like you have chosen the Preamble to the Constitution.  OK, let us hear it.

C.R.:            [Clears his throat, assumes a dramatic pose] We the people of the United States, in order to form a more prefect onion,

Teacher:            a more perfect union

C.R.:            establish just ice,

Teacher:            justice

C.R.:            insure the mystic train quality,

Teacher:            insure domestic tranquility

C.R.:            provide for the cannon defense, promote the general’s warfare

Teacher:            provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare

C.R.:            and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posteriors,

Teacher:            posterity!  I have heard enough!  [Turns to Gearbox]  I hope you have something better to offer us.

Gearbox:            I do.  I have Gaithersburg Address.

Teacher:            [With resignation] OK, recite the Gettysburg Address.

Gearbox:            Four more and seven-eleven hours ago…

Teacher:            Four score and seven years ago

Gearbox:            our fathers brought forth on this continent, …Wait…What about the mothers?

Teacher:            They didn’t talk about the mothers in those days…just about the fathers.

Gearbox:            How stupid!  a new nation, conceived in Liberty – See, how can they conceive with only fathers and no mothers?

Teacher:            Just recite, will you?

Gearbox:            and dictated to the proposition that all men are created equal…I don’t like this.

Teacher:            dedicated..Oh, what’s the use?  I should just flunk all of you and forget about this class.

Asok:            Then we will be back next semester.

Gearbox:            Better to pass us…

C.R.:            … so we go away to another class.

Teacher:            What? [After a moment’s reflection]  Guess you have a point.  OK, y’all pass this class.  Don’t come back next week, you hear?

Decibella:            You bet we won’t even think about it!  Camraj, lets wrap up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Periodic Tale

DC:            Hello again, viewers! [Putting on lipstick and fussing with her hair] This is Decibella Chatterjee, your guest hostess on Collide-o-Scope TV.  As you know, Collide-o-Scope, the Indian kam-unity channel that brings you opposing viewpoints and conflicting personalities, of which there are plenty in your community – almost as much as there is in India. As we say, hamari vaja se community mein kam unity hai.
My guests today are an Indian community activist, and a leader of the Hispanic youth movement.  On my left is Mr. Rampant, who wants to improve the image of India in the Western news media.

RP:            Madam, you are almost as bad as the Western news media.  My name is not Rampant, it is Ram Pant.

DC:            [aside to the Cameraman] Who cares? [to Ram Pant] Pardon me, Mr. Pant.  What do you have against the news media?

RP:            First of all, they are ignorant; secondly, they are arrogant.  Apart from that, I have nothing against them.

DC:            We’ll get to a more detailed explanation from you in a moment.  Meanwhile, on my right is Senor Balboa Belmondo.

BB:            No, no!  Ah am Seńor Bubba Bullmondo. Ah walk like a bubba, ah talk like a bubba, ah AM a bubba.  Ah am also el presidente of organization is called Save Hispanic Interests Totally. 

RP:  So the abbreviation must be S – H--

BB:  [glares at RP] Mah organization is always known by its full name, never by its initials.

DC:            [spelling it out] Save – Hispanic -- Interests --Totally!  Oh, we can’t say that on TV …  [to BB]  So, Señor, our viewers really appreciate you taking the time to appear on an Indian community TV program. 

BB:            Mah pleasure.  After all, we’re fighting the towel heads over there, so I thought we might as well get to know the towel heads over hear… 

RP:            What do you mean, towel heads?  Just because some Indians wear a turban, don’t confuse us with the Afghan people.

BB:  What Ah want to know is – why are we fighting a war with Halfghanistan?  Why don’t we fight the whole country?

DC:  But half the country is in the hands of our allies. Only the other half is controlled by our enemies. 

BB:  Then why don’t we let them fight each other for a while, then go in and clean out the survivors?  Anyway, why were they so anxious to capture the Mother of the Sheriff?  Just what did the poor lady do?

DC:  Mother of the Sheriff?  You mean, Mazar-I-Sharif? That was a strategic town, whose capture allowed us to capture more towns.

BB:  Why capture all those towns?  They don’t even have a Taco Bell over there!  Now, forget the towns, what Ah want to capture are a few of those towel head señoritas…

DC:  You mean, you have designs on the Afghan women?

BB:  Si, si.

RP:  I don’t see.  Please explain.

BB:  Take off their bukras—

DC:  You mean, their burkas?  Their veils?

BB:  Yeah, that’s what Ah mean.  Take off the veils, dress up them young ladies in leather skirts and high heels, drink some tequila, play some salsa music, party all night, siesta all day…

RP:  That’s your solution to Afghanistan’s troubles?  Replace the Taliban with MTV? 
BB:  What’s not to like about MTV, man?  Anyhoo, Osama’s not the problem…

RP:  What do you mean, Osama is not the problem?
BB:  I mean, the problem is not Osama been leadin’, the problem is them Halfghanis been followin’.

DC:  Viewers, at this point we break away for a commercial. [Ads come on Safar with Us travel agency. RP and BB look at each other in frustration.  DC is unperturbed.  Interviews are interrupted for a dance.  After the break] Now, where were we?

RP:  Madam, you are wasting your time with this gentleman.  Interview me, instead.  I will speak to your viewers.  After all, I am Indian.  And speech was invented in India. 

DC:            What makes you say that?

RP:            Why else do we talk more, and do less, than any other people in the world?  It is just that we have had more practice.

BB:            Speech!  Did you ever invent anything else, man?

RP:  Of course we did.  In addition to speech, we also invented zero and the decimal system of numbers.  That is why I often say that, besides speech, our contribution to humanity is zero.

DC:            You said it, not me!

RP:         Not so fast, Miss Coconut!

DC:            What do you mean, coconut?

RP:            Brown on the outside, white on the inside.

DC:            Mr. Pant, do you always talk irrespectively to the news media?

RP:            The media in the West, especially here in Amreeka, don’t pay enough attention to India; when they do mention us, it is only to play up disasters like a train derailment, or boat sinking, or a building collapsing.  Western media don’t tell their readers/viewers/listeners about all the wonderful progress in science, technology and the arts made by people in India.

DC:            Give me an example.

RP:            The periodic table of elements.

BB: [tapping his head with a finger] Loco!  Mucho loco!

DC:            What do you mean by that?

RP:            Western media tell you the periodic table was invented by a western scientist called Dmitri Mendeleev ..

DC:            Actually, I believe he was Russian …

RP:            Russian, Prussian, Simian, same difference.  All westerners; the correct attribution is an Indian scientist called Damodar Mandelia.
BB:  Madre de Dios!

DC:            Do you really have any proof?

RP:            Look at the chemical symbol for potassium –it is K.  Now where is the letter K in the name potassium?  But if you think of the most common source of potassium, it is a banana – kela in Hindi, which starts with a K.

DC:            Anything else?

RP:            Look at the symbol for sodium – NA, which is clearly Not Applicable.  But the common source of sodium is salt, which is Namak in Hindi.

DC:            What else did our illustrious, but not illustrated, ancestors contribute?

BB:            They had nuclear weapons, as described in the Ramayan and the Mahabharat, except that in Sanskrit the weapons were called astras; which alluded to the stars.  Not only that, ancient Indians even performed brain surgery.

DC:            Why wasn’t this known to the west?

RP:            We didn’t tell the westerners about brain surgery because they didn’t have anything to perform surgery on.  Besides, they refused to sign an ineffectual -- I mean, intellectual -- property rights agreement.

DC:            There is nothing intellectual, proper, or right about this statement.  I am putting an end to this.  This is Decibella Chatterjee, wishing all our viewers a good day.  Camraj, kala bahar, please. [Cameraman looks puzzled.]  Black out!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Management by Objection

Interview with An Author(ity)

Anchorwoman Decibella Chatterjee enters the TV studio, accompanied by cameraman, struggling with a big camera. DC is a superficially attractive, but extremely self-conscious, twenty-something girl. She looks around, sits down, sees her image on the monitor, starts fussing with her appearance – tucking straying strands of hair in place, freshening her lipstick, touching up her make up and so on. DC looks at some papers, then turns to cameraman.

Decibella chatterjee
Camraj! Who’s this sucker you’ve booked for me to interview today?

Bella, look again! Don't you know who that is?

Decibella chatterjee
No – Tom Peters? Never heard of him. May be he has heard of me?

Doubt it [Bella glares at him] – er, I mean, you never know. But your guest today is no sucker; he’s a famous author.

Tom Peters, the author? What did he write – Peter Pan?

[Sighs] No, Bella, that was J.M. Barrie. Even you should know [Bella glares at him again] –er, I mean to say, you’ve probably forgotten that Tom Peters is the author of the best selling business book, In Search of Excellence.

[Looks down her nose at the papers] Tell Mr. Peters there is no need to search for excellence; he can just look at me! My viewers at Indytainment Today TV will tell him that.

[Mutters] Not sure what your viewers will tell him but …[seeing Bella looking his way] Tom Peters will be here any minute now. Don’t you want to read up on the summary I printed out for you?

[Touching up her make up] I don't need to read up on anything; I am the Media. I will ask him and he will tell me. That’s how it works, Cammie.

[A middle aged man in a business suit enters, ignores Bella, walks up to the cameraman and shakes his hand.] Sorry I’m late; your undocumented hallways misled me.

No problem. Glad you could make it. Let me introduce you to our anchorwoman, Decibella Chatterjee, who will conduct the interview.

[Smiles at Bella] Hello! [Sits down in the guest chair and takes a book from his briefcase. Several yellow stickies mark pages in the book.]

On camera, please – face this way [points to video camera, adjusts her hair, then puts on an artificial smile]. Now, viewers, we have the pleasure of speaking with one of the Towering Giants of Business, Mr. Tom Peters, author of the best seller, In Search of Excellence.

No, no, no, no. You are in the presence of Mr. Pete Thomas.

Not Tom Peters?

He is a better-known, but less important, author.

But – you look Indian! [Turning to Cameraman] Camraj, didn’t you tell me he’s a honkey? [More quietly] This guy looks more like a donkey! [Cameraman shushes her.] Never mind, you have an MBA from Stanford University, don’t you?

Actually, I have an MBSA.

What the heck is an MBSA? [Turning to Cameraman] Camraj….

It is a Master of BS Articulation. [Looks at Decibella more closely] You do know “BS”, don’t you?

She knows BS very well, actually.

Camraj! [Turns to Peter] At least, is your MBSA degree from a reputed school like Stanford? Or is it from Slippery Rock State?

My degree is from Satanford University, a lesser-known but better reputed school. And, I am actually not just an author, but an authority on business. I literally “wrote the book” as most educated people know. Do you understand?

No, I don't. I am the Anchor, so I don’t understand; if I stand at all, I upperstand. [Attempts to climb up on her desk; Camraj persuades her, with difficulty, to step down.] But I don’t need to stand up for anyone; they can stand up for me, while I sit comfortably. [Sits down and puts her feet up on the desk.] So I uppersit. Now, tell our viewers, if you can, about your book on Management by Objectives.

[Patiently ignoring her, talks to Camraj] Please explain to your Anchor – by the way, usually an anchor is just a dead weight – that my book deals with a lesser-known but more important concept – namely, Management by Objection.


Yes, objections. It is derived from the Golden Rule.

Oh, you mean [searches her desk top, locates a book of quotations, and reads] “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

That may be what they teach in mid-level schools – like Stanford – but the real Golden Rule that I learnt at Satanford says “Do unto others as they would do unto you, given a chance; except, do it first and don’t give them a chance to reciprocate.”

 Oh! They really teach that?

Don’t forget the fundamentals, now…

You tell her! She may be no fun, but she is mental, all right...

What don’t I forget? I mean, what’s fun-da-mental?

Business is hierarchical, not lowerarchical.

What the heck does that mean? [Starts fussing with her hair.]

The corporation is like an arch. At the lower levels, it is straight. Therefore it is straightforward to climb the corporate ladder – if you are low enough.

Just do your job and keep your nose clean?

Essentially. A little bootlicking might not hurt, either. Keep in mind, though, that as you go higher, the arch starts to curve. In the same way, as you get to higher levels in a corporation – say middle management – it throws a curve at you.

[Preening] I have a lot of curves…

[Ignoring DC and speaking to the cameraman] So, to move up from Middle Management to Muddled Management – I mean, the executive ranks – you have to learn your objection lesson.

You mean “object lesson”, don’t you, Mr. Educated Author?

I said “objection lesson” and I mean “objection lesson”. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

[Turns to cameraman] And he is so mean!

So, as a middle manager, you learn to object to other people’s suggestions, recommendations, plans and proposals; you know that, given a chance, they would certainly object to your suggestions, recommendations, plans and proposals. So you take care not to offer any suggestions, recommendations, plans and proposals. Just pick and choose from other people’s ideas, object to some of them vociferously, and accept others – usually the meaningless ones – grudgingly and provisionally; that is, until a practical demonstration can show the idea to be worthless. Then you can object to the idea, and to the person who wasted company time and resources by offering the idea.

But what if the idea actually has merit?

We’re talking business, not religion. Merit has no place here. Remember that the other guy’s win is your loss; and vice versa.

But what about ethics?

Ethnics may be factor in business, but ethics is not. Object away until you have accomplished your goal.

And what is your goal?

To get ahead. So you use objections to push other people behind and move yourself ahead. Mind you, that works with your peers. But objections are a 360° tool. Object to your staff – to keep them from moving up to your level. Object to people above you, so you can topple one or more of them and create an opening for yourself. Management by Objection is your all round tool.

Fascinating. Any other words of wisdom?

Actually, several. [Turning to cameraman] And she looks like she could use them all. Now, don’t depend on Objections alone. Think of them as one tool in a whole toolbox. Pay equal attention to Obstruction, Obfuscation, Ostracization and Occlusion.


Those are the five “O”s. Visualize them intertwined, like Olympic rings, in Corporate Games.

[Fusses with her appearance, then puts on a real fake smile, turns to the camera] There you have it, viewers – Pete Thomas, MBSA (Satanford University) and Authority on Business, telling you the way he sees it. I'm your host, Decibella Chatterjee.


Thursday, October 7, 2010



A crowd of people is standing around on waiting for the train to arrive. Among them is someone who is clearly a VVIP. Upon closer observation, he is seen to be a very important flunky, preceding, clearing the way and attending to a very very important person. The VVIP, on the other hand, appears modest and good natured. Without the flunky at his side, he might not even be noticed a VVIP. Roving reporter Decibella Chatterjee comes on the railway platform, accompanied by middle aged camera man, struggling with a big camera. DC is a superficially attractive, but extremely self conscious, twenty-something girl. She looks around, trying spot anything newsworthy but concurrently keeps fussing with her appearance – tucking straying strands of hair in place, freshening her lipstick, touching up her make up and so on. Flunky, leading VVIP, crosses paths with DC and cameraman. DC walks by, but cameraman nudges her.

Bella, look! Don't you know who that is?

No – looks like some old guy. Is he admiring me?

Fat chance [Bella glares at him] – er, I mean, slim chance. That is Mr. Murthy, Founder and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies. May be we can interview him.

That is Narayana Murthy? [Walks up and tries to tap VVIP on the shoulder, but Flunky intercepts her]

Hey, Missie, what you are doing?

[Looks down her nose at Flunky] Tell Mr. Murthy he might want to talk to my viewers at Indytainment Today TV.

Who you think you are? You want to interview the Chief Mentor without even an appointment?

[Touching up her make up] I don't need an appointment to talk to your Chief Mental; I am the Media. Don't you watch anything but Dur Darshan?
[Flunky glares some more and tries to steer VVIP away from her. Cameraman intervenes.]

Mr. Narayana Murthy, so many of our viewers are your fans. Won't you take a couple of minutes to say Hello to them?

[Smiles] Hello [Turns to follow Flunky, who is already walking away.]

On camera, please – face this way [points to video camera, adjusts her hair, then puts on an artificial smile]. Now, viewers, we have the pleasure of speaking with one of the Tycoons of Technology, Mr. Narayana Murthy, Chief Mental of Infosys Technologies. [VVIP laughs but Flunky interrupts her angrily.]

No, no, no, no. You are in the presence of Mr. N.R. Norayana Murthy, Chief Mentor of Ifnosys Technologies, (Pvt) Ltd.

I always thought it was Infosys ...

That is a better known, but less important, company. My company is called Ifnosys. Because, in all Information Technology, the most fundamental logic is If-then-else. Do you follow?

No, I don't. And, usually, men follow me; sometimes, even boys follow me. If its a Gay Pride celebrations, a few girls might evenfollow me. But I [drawing herself up] don’t follow anybody.

[Getting in her face] Oh Yeah? But you will follow the Chief Mentor; everybody does.

[Patiently ignoring the argument] Let me try to explain. Most I/T people are good at designing, and building, information systems to handle the If case – that is, what to do when some condition is true. That is how they think, that is how they build their systems, that is how they test their systems and that is what they deliver to their customers.

OK, so what?

So their software is full of bugs....

DC screams “Bugs!” and collapses. Cameraman helps her up, saying “Not insects, Bella, just software mistakes.” DC looks at VVIP reproachfully, and starts restoring her appearance.

How rude! Fainting in the middle of the Chief Mentor's explanation! [VVIP quiets him].

But in my company, we pay particular attention to the exceptions – that is, to the If-then-else case. That is why our software works the first time every time.

Our software works straight out of the box, because we think in and out of the box – ha, ha, ha!

[Ignoring Flunky] You're telling me your products are better than other companies' products. But that's what they all say.

But the customer knows better. To keep reminding them of the difference, we named our company If- No-Sys Technologies. Our employees liked the sound of that so much, they started calling me Mr. NO-rayana Murthy. Now, NO has become my favorite word.

My two year old daughter has something in common with you...

Where is my company's head office?


Where is our biggest foreign subsidiary?

NOva Scotia

Where are our U.S. offices located?

North Carolina and North Dakota

Who is our largest overseas customer?


Fascinating! But, Mr. Murthy, you
seem a pretty positive person....

No, no, no, no. Perish the thought. Don't let the customer hear you say that.

Actually, “No” can be a positive influence. It is what we teach our first line managers – anyone can say “Yes” to an employee, a customer, or a government regulator. That is the easy way, but it costs the company – time, money, profit margin, stock price and so on. We are looking for managers who can say “No” in such a way it sounds like “Yes”.

[Closes her eyes and rubs her forehead, as though fighting off a headache] I see, I see.

Sir, we have to get going. I see the guys from the Chamber of Commerce looking for us. Please come this way. [Leads VVIP away]

[Fusses with her appearance, then puts on a real fake smile, turns to the camera] There you have it, viewers – Norayana Murthy of Ifnosys telling you the way he sees it. I'm your host, Decibella Chatterjee.

Oh damn! I didn't notice, the camera was not turned on

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Contract on America

This is another in our series of “fly on the wall” reports that some people call “fly in the ointment” reports.-Ed

Some Richbuttlican Party leaders are sitting around a table, discussing ways to wrest the November elections from the Democrats (easy) and from the Tealiban extremists (difficult).

From right to extreme-right, The Fly can see Minority Leader John Bummer (R-Nohio), Rep. Mike Dunce (R-Nindiana), Rep. Paul Lie-an (R- Nisconsin), Minority Whip Eric Can’ter (R-Old Dumminion) and other luminaries.

Bummer: We’ve got to do something, and quickly. If we don’t, I won’t be your leader after November.

Dunce: So? I’m ready to step in. [Back pedals when the others glare at him.] OK, OK, what I mean is – what’re you worried about? The Tea Party will run the Democrats out of town in November!

Lie-an: Yeah, that’s exactly what he’s worried about.

Bummer: Eric, the Tealiban will beat both the Democrats and us, don’t you see?

Can’ter: No, I don’t see that.

Dunce: Us? How can they beat us? What do you mean – us?

Bummer: The TP crowd don’t like us – Wall Street Richbuttlicans. They are all Main Streeters. They favor Pubertea, Inequalitea, Maternitea.

Lie-an: If the Tealiban take over Congress, we’d all be taking orders from Jim VarMint, Wrong Paul and Scary Paleface.

Bummer: So, to keep my job—and let you guys keep yours—we need to find a way to swing the momentum our way.

Can’ter: Just don’t do it – I mean, just keep saying “No”.

Lie-an: And keep repeating – No New Taxes, No Old Taxes, No Taxes No How, No Way!

Dunce: We have to be firmer than that…

Bummer: Let’s put out a document, laying out all our clichés, but sounding like we mean them. Something like Neutered Grinch did in ’94.

Dunce: I got it – a Contract on America!

Can’ter: That will never sell.

Bummer: No, Grinch called it a Contract with America. But that’s been done; we need to sound like we have fresh, new ideas.

Lie-an: Package ‘em however, but make sure you have all the same lies that got us to where we are at.

Dunce: Where’re we at?

Bummer: Well, let’s see. Tricky Dick had a Southern Strategy to alienate poor whites from poor blacks and middle-class whites at the same time.

Lie-an: Brilliant!

Can’t-er: Yeah, you couldn’t go wrong with that!

Bummer: Then, Ronald the Clown gave us Supplie Side Economics. Lower taxes and balance the budget.

Lie-an: Problem was, people started Following the Leader. So Joe Sixpak refinanced his house, bought a boat and a truck, and tried to live happily everafter.

Bummer: But see, Joe refinanced with a 30 year mortgage; and the payments came due in his lifetim.

Dunce: Yeah, he should’ve got a 100 year mortgage. That way, his great grand children would’ve got stuck with the repayment.

Can’ter: He couldn’t, because no bank was giving 100 year mortgages.

Bummer: Then we had George Tush, the Elder, with his 1,000 Pints of Busch Light. It left Joe with a bad hangover, and Clinton walked into the White House.

Lie-an: But, luckily, Monica took our money and did our dirty work for us.

Bummer: Then, Gore the Bore couldn’t sell the American public his Warning on Warming, even though he invented the internet. So W got elected.

Lie-an: Yeah, but W was too straight, and played into the Democrat’s hands. We really needed the Goomba at the top of the ticket.

Dunce: Goomba?

Bummer: He means “Chuck Yourself” Feney, the Goomba of Oilyburton.

Can’ter: But Feney ended up as the Veep, not the Pee. No good.

Dunce: Then McPain and Paleface suffered the Big Loss and put Osama – I mean, Obama – in the White House.

Bummer: So, we focused on Family Values. Like – no abortion, no stem cell research, no gay marriage.

Can’ter: Can’t do better’n that!

Bummer: And things were going well, until the TP folks started popping up. They want to really shrink the government – including social security, medicare, the EPA, the SEC, OSHA, …

Lie-an: I like that!

Bummer: Also, DHS and DOD.

Can’ter: Hey, wait just a cotton pickin’ minute. There’s a lot of DOD in the Old Dimminion.

Bummer: Now you see the problem. We’ve got to stop them. That’s why we need a new Contract, based on Family Values.

Dunce: I thought we had those already…

Bummer: But this contract is based on our real family. [Texts a quick message from his BlackBerry. Some swarthy guys in white suits, black shirts and white ties enter the room, carrying violin cases]. Gentlemen, I present the Cosa Nostra Richbuttlicana! [Swarthy guys open violin cases, reach inside – Cant’er, Dunce and Lie-an flinch –pull out violins, and start playing “Sicilians are breaking my heart”. Bummer holds up his hand, and the music fades to a soft background.] So, what shall we put in this Contract?

Lie-an: No more bail outs. Too many small businesses benefit, even if indirectly.

Can’ter: Bring back the Tush Tax Cuts.

Dunce: Drill, baby, drill!

Bummer: All good ideas. OK, we’ll write these up, call a press conference and present them someplace outside Washington.

Can’ter: We can’t go too far away, with this awful traffic – especially in Northern Virginia…..

Bummer: That’s OK, we don’t have to go all that far – just outside the Beltway. Now, I don’t think we should call this a Contract; we need a new name.

Dunce: Hedge against America?

Lie-an: Mike, I agree we want to hedge against Main Street and Lunch Bucket America taking over from the RBs who give us our campaign contributions…

Dunce: RBs?

Bummer: Rich Bastards, Rich Bitches, Robber Barons. But we got to call it something else, so Joe Sixpak can buy into it. Hmm….let me see, how about Pledge to America?

Can’ter: Can’t go wrong with that.

All nod in agreement and start drafting.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Call Center English

Derailed by a Common Language
Anchorwoman Decibella Chatterjee walks in to a classroom, followed by a heavily laden camerman.  DC stops, looks around, sees no mirrors, takes one out of her purse and admires herself.  Cameraman walks around, studying angles, backgrounds and lighting; then sets up tripod and mounts camera; tests sound levels and gets ready.
DC:            Camraj, are we ready?  [Cameraman nods.  Meanwhile, instructor and students have been watching all the preparations with interest.]  Hi, I am Decibella Chatterjee [beams at the instructor].
Instructor:            I am Priya Sethi. My boss told me to expect you.
DC:            Is he one of my fans?
PS:            [Trying to remember] He just said, ‘You will have to put up with an annoying media intrusion today.’
DC:            What?  Cammie, did you hear that?
Camraj:            You should have heard what he told me when I asked for permission to broadcast from this classroom today.
DC:            Well! [Doesn’t know what to say, gives up. Looks around, sees Baldev, Gurbux and other boys gazing at her lustfully.  Cheers up.]  Never mind, I know my viewers want to see this Call Center business from the inside.
PS:            What you will see in my class room is the preparation for working in a Call Center.  We get run-of-the-mill students [Students who understand English frown; others continue gazing at DC] and turn them into passable Call Center operators.
DC:            OK, then!  Let us get started.  Proceed with your class. Cammie will start recording; I will just stand here, looking good.
PS:             Good morning, students. I am Priya Sethi, and I will be your instructor for the Error Lingua Productions course on Call Center English, offered on behalf of your employer, Airhead Telecomm.
Airhead has retained us, as have many profitable enterprises, to teach their Call Center employees the proper way to deal with customer calls.
Student raises his hand.
PS:             What is it, Baldev?
Baldev: Miss, we are knowing English already. Company employing us because we passed out English test only.
PS:             I know that, Baldev. But what you learned at your school – which was probably not as good as this school [sniff] -- was standard Indian English. That may be good enough to work at Byebye Consulting Services or Ifnosys Corp; what Airhead Telecomm needs you to learn, and utilize, is Call Center English.
Student stands up but does not raise his hand.
PS:             Yes, Shrini?
Srinivasaraghavan: Kindly enumerate, in descending order of importance, the differences between SIE and CCE.
DC:            [Interrupting] What is SIE?  And CCE?
Camraj:                        Oh, Bella!
Srinivasaraghavan: As should be clear to the meanest intelligence – even an anchorwoman’s [DC starts to protest, Camraj pacifies and silences her] – SIE is Standard Indian English; CCE is, needless to say, Call Center English.
PS:             That is exactly what I am about to teach you. Listen carefully.
Studies have shown that 87% of all customer calls to a Call Center are for a complaint. Of these, 95% are for the purpose of gaining $50 or more for the complainant. Think of it! More than four calls out of every five are made for extracting $50 or more from your company. Remember that customer’s gain is your employer’s loss. What is it, Gurbux?
Gurbux: Why we don’t send a munda or a gunda to bash up complaining customer? Aphter all, we have name and address in database.
PS:             Gurbux, Airhead Telecomm does not want to bash up its customers; that would discourage them from spending money on Airhead products and services, do you understand?
So – talk to the customer, thank them for being your customer, sell them additional products, services or contract extensions. But if they persist in complaining or – worse – asking for a refund or a credit, then you switch to CCE.
Here’s what you do. Forget all you learned in school about grammar. Subjects, verbs, numbers, genders, tenses should all be disconnected, asynchronous, unharmonious. Fracture the language to the point that the caller has trouble understanding you. Speak calmly, politely, softly. Repeat platitudes often, such as “You must be joking!” or “There is no question” or even “I beg your pardon”. In fact, that last one is good for a lot of aggravation.
When you start to respond to the caller, repeat their complaint, but distort the English so it sounds different. If they interrupt to correct or contradict you, beg their pardon, and go back to the beginning. Repeat.
Always address the caller as “Saar”, if male; not as “Sir”, that is standard. But “Saar” sounds close enough to appease the caller but secretly amuses you because it is derived from “Saalaa”. If the caller is female, address her as “Maydumb”, not as “Madam” or, God forbid, “Ma’am” – that is far too Standard. “Maydumb” sounds close enough but, again, asserts your suspicion that the caller may be dumb.
Srini:             Kindly give us examples of the foregoing.
PS:             I can do better than that. I am going to have you role play an interaction between an irate cell phone customer and you, the Airhead Rep. Shrini, you read this script, for the customer; Baldev, you read the lines for the Airhead Rep. Now, go!
Rep:             Airhead Telecomm. Baldev ispeaking. Saar and/or Maydumb, your name is what?
Cust:             Actually, my name is Whatson. That is, Tommy Whatson, founder of Indian Business Methods.
Rep:             Saar, I beg your pardon.
Cust:             I am Tommy Whatson, President of IBM.
Rep:             Welcome, Saar. You are wanting what, Mr. Whatson?
Cust:             I’m having problems with my Airhead cell phone service; it keeps dropping calls…
Rep:             Saar, you must be joking!
Cust:             What do you mean, joking? Do I sound like I am joking? I can tell you your bills are no bloody joke. You advertise a service, take my payment, can’t deliver quality services and then tell me it’s a joke? You’ve got a nerve…
Rep:             Saar, there is no question. I am having several nerves, tendons and muscles. But why you are dropping your cell phone? That is not good for the phone, are you knowing?
Cust:             I do NOT drop the bloody cell phone, although I should, preferably from a tall building…It’s the damn phone that keeps dropping my calls. What is wrong with your service?
Rep:             Saar, thank you for being Airhead customer. We are appreciating your business. But your business is not appreciating. It is static-ing. You are paying same monthly amount now as last year. You must be joking! You are not wanting additional services – like video mail or textual harassment messaging?
Cust:             First, get your voice services to work correctly, consistently, predictably. Then talk to me about additional services. Why should I buy anything else from your company when you can’t even get the basics right?
Rep:             Saar, or Maydumb, as the case may be – we are working hardly to maintain your loyolalty. We are wanting your business and willing to earnestly yearn your revenue. You are wanting to drop your cell phone service? But you are calling from your cell number. If you drop service, how I can be talking with you? There is no question.
Cust:             I can’t deal with this. Good bye!
Disconnects the call.
PS:             Well done, gentlemen. Class, remember, CCE is one of the tools Airhead wants you to employ – since you want Airhead to employ you – to turn away customer complaints. After lunch, we will take a look at the use of background noise and sound effects to distract a complaining customer…
DC:            That’s it, Cammie.  You can shut down.  Priya, that was very interesting.
PS:            Glad you liked it.
DC:            Liked it?  I learnt so much.  First thing I have to do this afternoon is switch my cell phone service.