Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 20

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on January 16, 2020

This is my 20th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-19.)

As noted in Part 18 of this, I have been discussing trade-offs and related contingency issues in recent installments to this series, that arise when the managers and owners of a business seek to balance the sometimes contradictory needs and pressures of:

• Allowing and even actively supporting free and open communications in a business, in order to facilitate work done and in order to create greater organizational agility and flexibility there while doing so …
• While also maintaining effective risk management oversight of sensitive and confidential information.

And one of the core issues that I have raised and discussed in that context, and both here and in other, topically related series in this blog is friction as that both parametrically defines both sides of that two part dynamic and, constrain its possible resolution. I focused on at least one key aspect of that line of discussion in Part 19 and then ended that posting with a statement that I offered as a provocation if nothing else and that I would more fully analyze here, and both for what it overtly says and for what is more implicitly assumed:

• “Put simplistically, a genuinely effective fully frictionless system would of necessity also be an organizationally optimized system with the right people communicating with the right people, and in accordance with effective, protective yet agile information management policy and practices. Such a business would not be too lean and sparse, so it would lack the gaps that that would cause. And it would not have functionality limiting (and friction-creating) barrier layers interposed in its operations and their execution either. Friction and its consequences challenge all of this and on all levels.”

Note that I just adjusted that assertion here by putting two key words offered in it, in italics for special emphasis. Everything in that repeated text in fact hinges on those two words: “genuinely effective.” And I would go further and argue that ultimately all business theory and all business practice – at least where that is grounded in a striving for excellence, is about operationally and strategically fleshing out those words in a practical, doable manner.

This series is in fact all about understanding and realizing in practice, the correct level of organizational structure and complexity that would be needed to support business policy and practices, that at least actively seek to reach and maintain a meaningful “genuinely effective” for any given business enterprise.

I stated at the end of Part 19 that I would turn here to discuss:

• Information and its management, and information-related risk management, and both for defining good and best practices and for carrying them out, and for monitoring them and improving upon them as change comes to demand reconsideration and adaptive business process and business strategy adjustments – proactive or reactive.
• And I added that I would discuss those higher level perspective issues here too, and as such.

I begin addressing all of this here, at what would constitute a standardized, business-specific higher level perspective that should sound comfortably familiar to essentially any business professional, and certainly if they have any strategic planning or execution responsibilities where they work: the basic business plan and the business model in place.

My above quote is too higher level as a stand-alone assertion to offer any real value to any particular business and marketplace context. Business plans and business models, as carefully developed, and hopefully as carefully maintained and updated too, serve to rein that type of assertion in so that it can offer value from the more specific real-world foci of understanding that they would give it.

• Ultimately, businesses are systems grounded in, and even competitively definable as process flows for information acquisition, processing and management, accumulation and use.
• I do not in any way deny or denigrate the products or services that they create and bring to market in this; that is what they do where the first of these bullet points addressed how they do that, organizationally.

Effective business plans and the business models that they operationally and strategically lay out for development and execution, define “genuinely effective” as that would serve individual businesses as they seek to become uniquely competitive value creators. And as part of that, they define and functionally lay out what a meaningful and effective uniqueness would even be for a given business. Note that this does not necessarily mean entirely unique and disruptively innovatively so. This does not even explicitly require innovative newness at all. In fact all that “unique” calls for in this context is that a business or prospective business offer products, services or both that would hold sufficient marketplace value to a sufficiently large enough customer base, that has been unmet as a source of real perceived need.

And with that noted, I turn back to my above-repeated quote and to a key word in it that I have repeatedly addressed in this blog: friction. I have written of that from a macroeconomic perspective as that word is more commonly used at that organizational level. And I have written of its more microeconomic counterpart which I refer to as business systems friction. More specifically, I have written at least briefly of its more negative side at both of those organizational levels and I have correspondingly written of its more positive sides at both of those levels too, where selectively limiting and controlling the flow of particular types of information for specific operationally and strategically defined purposes can hold positive value.

• Consider in that regard the at least attempted control of access to personally identifying information that in the wrong hands could be used to perpetrate identity theft and related problems, as both a macro and a more microeconomic challenge.
• And consider the general rubric of sensitive and confidential business intelligence per se and its attempted control.

Consider those two points as proof of principle examples of how friction per se is not always going to be problematical, and certainly insofar as “friction” is taken as a synonym for “any barrier or restriction to free and open access of any information, whatsoever, and to anyone and under any circumstances.”

I have been discussing both the risk reducing, benefits enhancing positive, and the risk increasing, benefits reducing deleteriously negative of that, up to her in this blog, primarily in terms of clear cut negative and positive examples, and often without explicitly linking the positives there to friction per se (as for example when discussing regulatory law as that relates to the protection of individuals and their personal information.) I am going to turn in the next installment to this series, to at least begin to map out and discuss what might be considered more gray areas where information access and sharing, and its more limiting control both carry mixed positive and negative potentials.

And in anticipation of that line of discussion to come, change and rapid change in particular, and the ongoing emergence of the disruptively new in all of this, both creates genuine areas of uncertainty, and of “grayness” there, and makes a need for clarification there more pressingly important – and even as it makes that progressively more and more difficult too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuation pages. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 43 – the jobs and careers context 42

This is my 43rd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-42.)

I have been at least relatively systematically discussing a series of workplace contexts and situations here since Part 25 that call for negotiating skills and effort on the part of involved employees, whether hands-on non-managerial, or managerial. And I have been delving into the issues and complexities of a particularly challenging and all too commonly faced negotiating challenge since Part 32 that in effect encompasses within it, all of the earlier challenges discussed here and more:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that type of circumstance.

That still-ongoing line of discussion has called for a dozen and more consecutive series installments here because the specific why and how of any negotiations that would be entered into, in navigating such uncertainly, are crucially important to any success that might be achieved there. So I have been working my way through a series of six specific downsizing scenarios and their particular issues; my goal there has been to offer a wide enough diversity of perspective here, so as to offer at least some value to a reader if they find themselves confronted by some “none of the above” seventh downsizing scenario instead.

So far I have at least briefly addressed the first four of the scenarios that I would explicitly discuss here, and my goal for here is to turn to and delve into my initial list’s Scenario 5. But I begin doing so by repeating both that scenario and Scenario 4 as considered in Part 42, so I can refer to it for purposes of comparison:

4. Downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.
5. And to cite another scenario that can be more Who oriented, and certainly from the perspective of who is bringing it about, a new, more senior manager who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there. Consider this a confrontational career enhancement tactic on their part.

Crucially importantly here, the above repeated Scenario 4 and its downsizing selection process are largely influenced by, if not shaped by the people who would be singled out for dismissal. Note that I am not assuming blame or fault of any type on their part. I am only assuming that for whatever reason they present themselves in such a way as to make them seem to be outsiders. And they do so in ways that at least one manager who is senior to them, would see as problematical. But Scenario 5 is entirely grounded in the egos and ambitions of the people who would carry it out, and with the majority of that coming from whomever among them, can best be considered a prime instigator there. The people who would be singled out for dismissal in a Scenario 5 context could be anyone.

Yes, ego and ambition, and bias and other considerations, coming out of the people who would carry it out, enter into Scenario 4 too. But that side to Scenario 5 is the only side of any real significance for it. And that simple fact is the single most important consideration to bring to the table when seeking to negotiate with such an individual.

Who, more specifically, brings about a Scenario 5 type of downsizing? This type of scenario can only take place when a manager who is driven by personal ambition is pushing for it.

• And they have to be well enough positioned in the business to be able to move this from wistful intention on their part into realized action. So they are most likely going to be middle managers at the very least. And if they are just middle managers, they can most probably only successfully push for this if they have special difficult-to-find or replace skills and experience that would prompt more senior managers and executives there to want to please them.
• But they are unlikely to be senior executives themselves there. They are unlikely to be C level officers, because a manager in that level of position would be empire building in a functional area that they already fully control, at least insofar as anyone in a large business organization can truly own their area of responsibility in a business.

Look for this scenario as coming from people who are still on their way up in their career path, as they see matters, and who have enough power and influence to be able to have real impact from that. And at the same time look for people who are more focused on their own careers and their own sense of self-worth and value, than they are on the business they work for or the people they work with.

• While it might be too anecdotal to consider this as to be more generally applicable principle, I add here that I have seen this scenario play out more as a stepping stone move than anything else, where the prime mover manager behind it is literally trying to develop resume bullet points that they can bring with them as they seek out bigger and better, and elsewhere if need be. I have seen career builders use this as they seek next step up opportunities, moving from business to business on the strength of the performance points they can amass in their resumes. And that is why I added the phrase “new, more senior manager” in the wording offered in my initial Scenario 5 bullet point descriptor.

And with that offered, I turn to the issues of negotiating in such a context, so as not to become an empire building castoff. And this is a scenario where preparation and planning are everything.

• People with this type and level of ambition are generally pretty open about that. They actively seek out opportunities to garner recognition as up and coming stars, from those above them on the table of organization. And they actively push to create opportunities to get that type of recognition from higher up if enough of them do not arise for them anyway, so as to meet their self-perceived needs.
• Use this fact both to identify these managers and to map out what their goals and ambitions are so you can approach them understanding them, and as thoroughly as possible.
• Think through and understand their resume-oriented performance and achievement, bullet point-shaped plans too, so you can approach them if and when you need to, with an equally detailed understanding of what they would do that would call for dismissals.
• As noted above, these individuals are would-be rising stars and most of the time their goal is to achieve C level executive status, if not Chief Executive Officer status and title. But focus here on what you can discern of their more immediate here-and-now goals and intentions. Plan and be prepared to negotiate and act with that in mind.
• This is key to any success that you might achieve here; you are most probably only going to succeed in this type of negotiating context if you can present yourself as a significant source of value to them for what they seek to do, and not just someone locked into what they would do away with.

What can you do that would make you a part of the solution that they seek to build and not just part of the problem that they see as standing in their way there?

At a crucially important note, the above discussion thread might suggest that any such downsizing is entirely contrived. But this basic scenario also applies to business settings where reasonable claims for needed change can be made too. In fact there are almost certainly going to be elements of real, arguably convincing need for a more genuinely business-supportive downsizing if an also-Scenario 5 downsizing effort is to take place and succeed (see Part 39 and Part 40 for their discussions of more needs-based downsizing scenarios, for comparative purposes here.) So plan and prepare for a Scenario 5 context, with an awareness of any more genuinely business needs-based staff reductions that might be argued for too. And be prepared to negotiate in those terms, as a Scenario 5 manager is never going to actually admit that they are empire building as I have been discussing that here; they are always going to justify and carry out their plans here, on the basis of an argument of real business needs. (Yes, to put this somewhat cynically, consider the negotiations that you would enter into in this context, as negotiating by euphemism, as the issues overtly discussed do not necessarily exactly match the actual reasons for these conversations being necessary.)

And as a final thought here, this is definitely a scenario where you need to think through what is and is not important to you in your life and in your jobs and careers planning. Let’s assume that you can convince this type of manager to keep you on as they set out to enhance their position at the business, and enhance their resume in the process. Do you really want to report to and work for this type of person and for what might be a significant period of time as they seek out their next career move? What other options or opportunities do you have? What other opportunities can you develop, if for example you get to stay on now, and if you use that as an opportunity to look for New for yourself, where you have a steady paycheck and benefits such as employee health insurance coverage while doing so? (See my series: Should I Stay or Should I Go? as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for a more detailed discussion of the issues raised here. I would particularly note my postings on working with difficult people as a starting point there.)

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will discuss the sixth and final downsizing scenario that I will explicitly address in this series:

6. And as a final area of consideration here, consider the last-in, first-out approach as it can by default, impact on younger employees and more recent hires and regardless of what they do and can do that might be needed by the business. Businesses with a strong union presence often follow that approach though they are not the only ones that do. But this type of retain or let-go determination can also be skills-based, or location based if for example it is decided to close a more peripheral office that might not have been as much of a profit center as desired or expected. So even there, it might be possible to argue a case for being retained at a job.

My goal there will be to discuss standardized personnel processes, and career-oriented exceptions and exceptions handling as strategically considered options. And then as already noted I will turn to and discuss severance packages and their issues, as crucial negotiating considerations here.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 25: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 14

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on January 8, 2020

This is my 26th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there. And the most recent 14 of those postings have focused on legacy building as both Trump and Xi seek to build for that. I continue developing that narrative here, with a goal of more explicitly discussing Trump’s and Xi’s approaches to control, and both as they variously seek to lead and shape their nations, and as they seek to build personal legacies out of that, and fame for themselves in doing so.

I initially intended on continuing a discussion of Xi Jinping and his strategic planning, and with a focus on his legacy building efforts in Part 24 of this series. Then Donald Trump was impeached by the United States House of Representatives and the ideological lines that divide that nation politically, became more starkly drawn than they have ever been and both in the narrower context of the Trump administration itself, and as self-proclaimed conservatives and ultra-conservatives, and liberals and progressives have fought for the soul of the nation.

I decided to postpone my next Xi posting to now but find myself continuing a Trump-centric narrative again here too as we all face the heightened risk that has been imposed upon all of us by what arguably can be seen as an act of madness on Donald Trump’s part: the assassination of Iran’s senior-most military officer.

Some might question my choice of that word there: assassination. But let’s put my use of it in perspective. If the supreme leader of Iran had ordered the death of the most senior officer in the United States military: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and that directive was carried out with a targeted and effective bombing, president Trump and his followers, and his political opponents in the United States and their followers too would virtually all call that an assassination. So I use an intentionally loaded word here for a reason; it is the exact same word that would be all but universally used in the United States if the direction of this action were reversed. And I will add that the United States Congress would in all likelihood be facing a vote on a declaration of war coming out of that too, and as an all but immediate response and call for action. So we should not be too surprised to hear the Iranians calling out for vengeance. We should not be all that surprised if they call the killing of their Major General Qasem Suleimani an act of war.

Why was this done? According to president Trump and his spokespersons, he ordered this killing to prevent imminent attack by Suleimani led forces, on Americans and upon critically important American interests. But the details of that proclaimed imminent threat have not been forthcoming. And the confusion over the why of this action, coming out of America’s intelligence community as well as from other sources, raise questions as to whether that claimed threat was real or not.

I decided to write this posting when I first heard of this event itself, but held off on doing so until now because I was hoping to hear of some clarification on the why of it first. Anything like that is still to come and for essentially everyone. And that leaves at least one other possibility as to why president Trump would so act, that silence in all of this allows to fester and grow.

That is the possibility that when Trump was briefed on the options available to him for dealing with the ongoing Iran versus United States conflict, as it has continued as what amounts to business as usual, he chose the most extreme option that he heard, and regardless of the risk that it created and regardless of a lack of specific reason for carrying it out – as a distraction that he could present to the world, from his impeachment and his impending trial.

According to that possible narrative, Trump thought that if he did this and the leadership of Iran backed down, with only minor and low level reactions carried out far from American soil, he would look strong and decisive. That could only strengthen his support in the face of the constitutional crisis that he is embroiled in. And if the Iranians responded in a more decisive way, and with a level of impact that could not be brushed aside, then they would have attacked the United States. And traditionally, Americans really have rallied around the flag when their country has been attacked in any way. And polling numbers in support of a sitting president have always gone up then too. In this case that popularity bump would happen going into his Senate trial.

I am not in fact claiming that path to the why of this, is what Donald Trump actually followed here. I point it out because this attack should have been seen up-front and by all concerned, as deeply polarizing and damaging of any efforts to retain a civic discourse in this country, where that is an essential prerequisite for a democracy to function and to endure. People who disagree still need to be able to talk together and to work together, towards achieving shared goals in response to shared needs. This type of military action can only be seen as mitigating against that and certainly when even the basic why of it is shrouded in mystery, confusion and acrimony.

But this did happen. The real question now is one of what comes next, and the possibilities there and the more likely of them in particular are not all that reassuring:

• The first of them are already happening with the Iranian government openly and loudly stating that it will no longer abide by any of the terms of the agreement that they entered into during the Obama administration, to limit their nuclear technology development programs so as to preclude their building an atomic bomb. Donald Trump unilaterally ended that agreement from the United States side, because it was an accomplishment reached by his Democratic Party predecessor in office. The Iranians still abided by some and even much of what had been agreed to, in spite of that abrogation of responsibility on the part of this American president. But that is now over. And without citing references or sources, I feel fairly confident in suggesting that Iran will be able in build an atomic bomb within about three weeks of when they have completed enriching at least one full critical mass of uranium-235, up to weapons grade purity. They all but certainly, have everything else ready, or at the very least very close to finalized fabrication. This killing probably gave Iran the bomb. And with that, the balance of power in the Middle East, and any opportunity to meaningfully shape or even just influence that and certainly from the United States, will end.
• And yes, Iranian forces have now attacked American forces in Iraq, and at a time when the Iraqi government is now demanding that all American forces leave their country.
• This assassination was a tremendous holiday gift for the ISIS forces that America has been combating in Iraq and elsewhere, and certainly from how the Iraqi government has stated that it wants all American military presence out of their country (and away from ISIS and other terrorist organization strongholds there.) And as the gift that keeps on giving, ISIS also gains here from the killing of an Iranian general who was leading an anti-ISIS front from his nation too. (Do you remember when a true and avowed enemy of one of our most dire enemies could be at least marginally acceptable even if not our friend?)

All of that has already begun, and for the prospects of an Iranian atomic bomb, actively set in motion to happen. And more of that will likely continue – there, well away from American soil. But I write this brief note while waiting to see if one other possibility comes to pass too: a cyber-attack against American interests. And there are grounds for that, going back at least as far as a 2010 American and Israeli launched attack on Iran using a then cutting edge technology cyber-weapon: Stuxnet.

It does not matter if this killing is seen in the United States as an assassination or not. It does not matter if it is seen there as an act of war. And it does not matter if any considered cyber-attack that might be carried out by or at the behest of the Iranian government against the United States or its interests, would be considered there to be a retaliatory response to actions taken against Iran or as an initial and largely unprovoked attack. These possible understandings as presumed from an American perspective do not matter, at least as far as they would shape Iranian action. That will depend on what words they use and why, and on how pressured they see themselves to act, if they are to retain their sovereign independence and not present themselves to the world as weak and vulnerable and as an easy target. What happens next will depend on whether they genuinely see all of this in terms of “assassination” and “war.” And I sincerely hope that my more dire concerns here do not come to pass … in spite of the emerging realities that have brought me to hold them.

This now more dangerous world that we live in, is a part of the Trump legacy too, and regardless of what does or does not happen in the US Senate when they hold whatever form of trial they will enter into, regarding those Trump impeachment charges. This is part of his legacy, and it is an important part of it and certainly if Iran does build and test detonate an atomic bomb of their own.

My hope is that the level of crazy coming out of the White House will tone down enough now, so that I can in fact return to my intended narrative flow in this series. But however that does, or might turn out, I find myself finishing this note with one final thought. I very clearly remembering one of president Trump’s (apologist?) spokespersons declaring in front of open microphones and cameras that “president Trump thrives on chaos.” Personally, I am not sure how his putting himself into a position where he would be impeached and face possible forced removal from office could be seen as thriving. But let’s put that in the same box as his “mentally stable genius” claims and move on, counting all of that as political campaign talk. Unfortunately, his actual realized legacy is probably going to end up in that same box too. What else might end there as well?

I will continue writing to this series. Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 24: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 13

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on January 3, 2020

This is my 25th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there. And the most recent 13 of those postings have focused on legacy building as both Trump and Xi seek to build for that. I continue developing that narrative here, with a goal of more explicitly discussing Trump’s and Xi’s approaches to control, and both as they variously seek to lead and shape their nations, and as they seek to build personal legacies out of that, and fame for themselves in doing so.

I initially intended to write this series installment as a continuation of an unfolding narrative that I have been offering regarding Xi Jinping, focusing on his vision and on its consequences as he seeks to realize it. And as a key part of that, I would continue an already begun historical narrative that I have pursued as I have sought to put Xi into a more meaningful, understandable perspective. Emerging news and events have forced a change and a refocusing here, with a continuation of my parallel discussion of president Trump and his story in this series installment instead.

Donald Trump, to put matters bluntly, is in meltdown. His ongoing flood of tweets, as he shares them with his supporters and with the world at large, have become more and more shrill and pressured as he lashes out in all directions through his ongoing flow of online rage and resentment, engagement messages.

He has been impeached by the United States House of Representatives, fundamentally challenging his self-image – and even when he sees that as coming from his enemies. His unconsidered bluff and bombast regarding North Korea, the Middle East and essentially everywhere and everything else, and certainly as far as his foreign policy is concerned, are all coming back to haunt, and if not him, then his Republican Party and those who have tied their fortunes to his.

Members of his political party, as backed by ideologically aligned “news” sources such as Fox News and Breitbart may be able to control the message as far as his domestic policy and practices failures are concerned, and certainly for his followers. But foreign leaders and foreign holders of power and influence in general are a lot harder to control for that and particularly when they actively seek to showcase how little regard or respect they hold for this United States president.

Donald Trump, to put matters bluntly, is in meltdown. And that is true even as he, himself is still incapable of seeing his house of cards collapse around him and even as it is doing precisely that. Senator McConnell, the ranking Republican member of that congressional body, has way too publically declared himself to be a tool of the Trump administration and of Donald Trump personally. And he has done this and he continues to do so, from how he has stated that it is the defendant in any Senate trial that is to come here: Donald Trump himself, and his legal team who will decide how that trial can proceed in response to that bill of impeachment. With that, both McConnell and his fellow Republicans in the Senate, and president Trump himself, have made a farce and a failed charade of their oaths of office, and of their avowals that they would in any way serve, protect or defend the constitution of their country, as they all pledged to do.

And yes, with all of this, Donald Trump’s core followers still see him as something of a second coming of Jesus Christ himself: his politically ultra-right wing evangelical Christian followers most definitely included there. They, in fact are the ones making those “chosen one” proclamations.

Donald Trump, to put matters bluntly, is in meltdown. But then again, he has been for as long as he has held elected office. And given his track record of business failures and bankruptcies from before then, he has never actually been all that stable or secure in his position, and from his beginnings as a once young adult when his father continued having to bail him out financially, if in no other ways.

I was initially planning on holding off on a next Trump-related posting here until after Nancy Pelosi: the speaker of the House, officially and formally turns the articles of impeachment that were voted on in that legislative body, over to the Senate, and until after the Senate Republicans who would receive it, have shown if they still see their president as being above the law: the US constitution included. And if they in fact continue with the farce that McConnell has so publically declared, and make their trial an automatic acquittal with no real consideration of any evidence or findings, they will for all intent and purpose have elevated Donald Trump to an autocratic dictatorial rank. And they will have fundamentally challenged and betrayed their nation and all that it stands for in the process, starting with their oaths of office.

Consider it a matter of irony if you will, but an attempt to hold Trump accountable and according to the laws of the United States and according to its constitution, might provide to be the opening wedge that he needs if he is to actually achieve what is probably his most fondly held, of all of his authoritarian dreams and goals: that finally, our system of laws and of governance in the United States might become so suborned and subjugated to his will that he: Donald J. Trump can finally, fully be Trump and without any counterbalancing reasoning or any intervening voice of authority to limit him there: any presumed constitutionally mandated limitations to his power in office included.

So I find myself writing this next step to this overall series-long narrative concerning authoritarianism a la Trump and Xi, with a primary focus on Donald Trump and his narrative. And with that acknowledged, I turn to more directly consider the word that I said I would more fully explore here, as a primary focus of discussion in this posting: control.

I have been citing the word control in the course of writing installments to this series but have yet to actually discuss what that means, and certainly as these two would-be absolute rulers seek to create it for themselves. I turn here to at least begin to more directly address that core defining issue as it underlies authoritarianism, as it is envisioned and attempted in the hands of a would-be ruler: a striving for absolute control and what can become an overwhelming sense of need to achieve and maintain it, in order to prevent chaos as they would see it.

Donald Trump seeks this through an insistence of complete, unquestioning, unswerving loyalty to himself as an individual, as an absolute requirement of admission into his inner circle. And where this means others trusting him, he requires absolute trust in himself and in his judgment and understanding too. A loyal follower can never question or doubt anything that he says or does, and no matter how unconsidered or off-the-cuff his words or actions.

I have to add when stating that repeatedly validated fact, that trust and trustworthiness as noted here, do not flow in both directions in such a system of relationships. Trump and others like him for this trait, insist that others support them with complete and unreserved loyalty and with complete trustworthiness in doing so. But a Donald Trump does not feel any need to reciprocate on any of that; Trump in particular, as an exemplar of this approach to leadership, feels no compunction about turning on and betraying those who support him, and as soon as they cease to hold immediate here-and-now value to him personally. I cite by way of example, the first elected member of the Republican Party with anything like national name recognition, who actively endorsed him leading up to his nomination as that political party’s presidential candidate for the 2016 US national elections: New Jersey governor Chris Christie. He publically, wholeheartedly endorsed Trump as a presidential contender starting as early as February 26, 2016 with his first fully public statements to that effect. And he stood by his candidate and loyally so – even as a now emerging presidential contender Donald Trump began to publically mock and humiliate him, his once only nationally known Republican public figure supporter. When Trump had achieved political backing and support that he saw as more valuable to himself than anything that Christie could offer, he discarded his once “good and close friend” and supporter as if he was so much trash.

Chris Christie, to be fair, was looking for something for himself there too. He supported Trump as a possible path forward when his own political career in New Jersey was disintegrating around him. (See for example this piece on one of his perhaps more widely known scandals from when he decided to take political vengeance against the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey for what he saw as disloyalty towards him: Chris Christie Knew About Bridge Lane Closings as They Happened, Prosecutors Say.)

Christie thought that if he backed Trump and showed real loyalty to him, he would be rewarded with a cabinet position in a Trump administration, or an ambassadorship if The Donald were elected. And he thought that his increased visibility as a true and committed voice in the Republican Party’s ascending ultra-right wing, would serve him in good stead even if Trump were to lose the 2016 election. None of that was possible, when his path forward depended on Donald Trump reciprocating in appreciative response to his support and his commitment.

Donald Trump has made a career out of that type of expedience-based fickleness and as a recurring behavior pattern, and from well before he first sought public office and on until now, and with no end in sight to that. What would have happened to Chris Christie if he had in fact been rewarded for his loyalty with a cabinet position in the Trump presidential administration? Look at the number of senior level appointees to his administration who he has used as he has found value in them, just to discard and dismiss them as soon as they have stopped offering him personal value, as he sees his due.

Trump was elected, and his administration has been dysfunctional from the day he won that election and from even before he was actually sworn into office. And nothing of his basic behavior pattern has changed through all of that, except for a shift in scale as he has become more grandiose than ever now, as the “leader of the free world.” And this represents his vision of control and it constitutes the core of his legacy building endeavors.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will turn to consider Xi and his story, as initially planned for in this posting. And in the process I will discuss the issues and challenges of truth and of propaganda, and from both a Xi and a Trump perspective. And from a Xi and China perspective, I will at least start a discussion of his efforts to achieve what he would see as a perfect surveillance state as the defining mechanism for his achieving his overall goals.

Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 42 – the jobs and careers context 41

This is my 42nd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-41.)

Jobs and careers-oriented negotiating can become both the most important and the most challenging conversations that an employee: hands-on or managerial can face, and certainly as resultant consequences would directly affect them. And they call for what are generally among the least known and least exercised workplace skills that most of us can suddenly find that we need. I began systematically addressing each of a set of specific negotiations-requiring scenarios in this series in Part 25, with that narrative progression leading up to a sixth and final one that encompasses within it, at least elements of all of the first five and more: the challenge of being caught up in a downsizing or of facing significant risk of that happening. And I have been delving into its issues and complexities since Part 32, with that leading up to systematic analyses of a set of six downsizing contexts: six reasons why a business might pursue that type of course of action. As a part of that, I have both outlined some of the key specific issues that a business would face in a downsizing, and negotiating approaches that might be pursued, and why, for better dealing with those issues as an employee at risk.

My primary goal here is to delve in at least some detail into the fourth such downsizing scenario, having already addressed the first three. So for smoother continuity of narrative I begin this posting by repeating it here:

4. All of this noted, in reality downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.

And I begin this posting as promised in Part 41, by noting a point of detail that I offered as commentary regarding scenario 3: the elimination of old and obsolete legacy holdovers from a business that has come to see itself as being dysfunctionally mired in its past. I said in Part 41 that that scenario “is almost certainly the most difficult and challenging of the six that I would discuss here in this series, for actually negotiating continued employment.” An initial reading and consideration of scenario 4 might very well challenge that assertion and for many readers. But the first issue that I will address in discussing scenario 4 will at least hopefully clarify why I would question that presumption. And I begin addressing that by noting a point of observation that I have seen replicably validated:

• The reason why an employee might be considered for inclusion in a downsizing can be important. But perception and the workplace history that shape it can be everything.

Let’s consider two specific “grounds for dislike” there, that if provable would make it difficult and even extremely risky for a business to dismiss someone and under essentially any circumstances short of provable criminal malfeasance on their part:

• A demonstrable history of discriminatory behavior that has arguably targeted an individual employee under consideration for downsizing, or others who would fit into a same legally protected group that they belong to at that business,
• And whistleblowers.

Workplace discrimination is both odious, and illegal in a wide range of jurisdictions globally. The precise list of classes of individuals who are legally protected under anti-discrimination laws do vary but they generally include most or all of:

• Race.
• Skin color.
• Religion or creed (including protected status for agnosticism and atheism.)
• National origin or ancestry.
• Gender and self-defined gender identity.
• Age.
• Physical or mental disability.
• Veteran status.
• Genetic information (where that might reveal increased risk for developing specific health challenges.)
• Citizenship and certainly for legal foreign residents (e.g. people with green cards in the United States.)

Imagine the bind that a business would be in, that is legally bound to follow such laws, if a manager there were to decide to “house clean” by downsizing an employee or two who have always received good to excellent annual performance reviews, whose basic job types were not going to be eliminated even if their specific job titles were, and who were older and Hispanic … when that manager has made a practice of publically denigrating older employees simply because of their age and with extra jabs taken at “Mexicans.”

It would not matter if they tried arguing that they were pushing for these dismissals for reasons that had nothing to do with anyone’s age or ethnicity, and certainly if that employer’s legal counsel were to be brought into that discussion. It is the staff simplifying manager with dreams of rebuilding a part of the business in their own image, who might find themselves facing dismissal.

Any effort to “downsize,” (as in fire) a whistleblower in the face of the legal protections from retribution that they have, and in so many legal jurisdictions, would likely lead to at least roughly similar results.

I began this scenario 4 discussion by citing two admittedly extreme non-dismissal situations, in order to point out that the manager seemingly in control in that context, is not necessarily going to be in a position to get their way, at least as they initially see it. And that specific wording as to their reach and its limitations here, leads me directly to the two crucially important determinants of what can be done when seeking to negotiate in a scenario 4 context and how, and for the benefit of whom – and when the employees at risk there are not so legally indemnified against less than fully, individually justified dismissal action as in the above two cases.

• It is important to both understand and plan for any negotiations to come, with as full and clear an understanding as possible as to why targeted individuals would be included in a downsizing, where simply labeling them as “difficult” employees would likely not be considered reasonable grounds by an employing business,
• And it is just as important for such an individual to plan and prepare for how they could effectively address both whatever stated reasons that would be offered for their dismissal, and the unstated but in fact driving reasons behind that effort.

And with the second of those points of consideration in mind, at the very least, I add a third one which I present in the form of two questions:

• Who there at that place of employment, if anyone, is both in a position of authority and respect to be able to champion the cause of a “difficult” employee under fire?
• And who of that perhaps short list would be most willing to do so?

Let me take this line of discussion a step further out of the abstract, personalizing it. If you are this employee in this bind, who have you worked with and successfully so, who might even have reason to owe you support from how you have taken extra steps to be of help to them? What have you done that would fit that pattern? And how best can you approach these possible allies to ask for their support in this? That would most likely mean your attempting to appeal to a sense of enlightened self-interest on their part, to at least a degree where you argue your case with them in terms of your value to the business and to what they are responsible for at it.

And as a part of this, you will probably have to find an opportunity to speak candidly and in private with the manager who would like to see you go away too. That type of discussion might very well not succeed for you and certainly in and of itself. But if you don’t do this or at least make a good faith effort to do so, that absence will almost certainly end your chances of succeeded through any other channels.

I said at the end of Part 41 that I would turn to consider the Plan B possibilities of severance packages, and add that this is a vitally important area of discussion for all of the downsizing scenarios that I have under consideration here. I am going actively address that topic, but will complete my at least initial discussion of the last two downsizing scenarios first so I can delve into the issues of severance packages as contractual agreements with a fuller range of contingencies and possibilities in mind. And in anticipation of that discussion to come, that will mean parsing out the issues of what a dismissed employee would receive and the issues of what they would have to agree to in order to be deemed eligible for that, and why.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and lessons from the Whig Party, Part 3

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 22, 2019

I initially offered what with time became a first, Part 1 installment to this de facto series on October 20, 2016 – one month before the fateful United States presidential election that brought Donald Trump into power. And I wrote that as a fourth posting that I would offer regarding the state of political discourse, and of the public conversation in general in the United States, with that still ongoing effort initiated with a June 2016 posting: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs.

Carrying this orienting note forward, I added a second part to this now-series on December 11, 2017 – just over two years ago as of this writing and just over one year after Trump’s election. So this is an installment to a sparsely occasional series here. But at the same time, I have been expecting to write it for months now, and I have been waiting for what I have seen to be a right occasion for that.

I actually write this as an off-schedule addition to this blog on December 22, 2019; Donald Trump was formally impeached by the United States House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 18 of this year. And I do so while looking at the front page headline to the December 19 print edition of the New York Times:

• TRUMP IMPEACHED: BECOMES THIRD PRESIDENT TO FACE TRIAL IN SENATE (with that so printed, and all in capital letters)
• … and see the full text of that resolution with its two articles of impeachment.

That noted, the most recent polling numbers from, as to Trump’s approval rating in office shows that he is still the beloved of his 40+% of adults in this country and regardless of what he has done in office and regardless of the fact that he has openly, publically bragged about carrying out all of the actions that he ended up being impeached for.

I listened to the vote on Public Radio, as all of the members of the House of Representatives gave brief statements in support of or condemnation of the impeachment resolution that was before them. And the one unavoidable fact that I faced out of all of that verbiage, was that the people who were speaking and who would vote on this grave matter, spoke as if they came from wildly differing, not so parallel universes. Democrats, and essentially without exception, saw this as a somber and even tragic moment in America’s current reality and in their nation’s unfolding history. And acknowledging that, they virtually all went on to say that the evidence that was brought before them, forced them in good conscience to vote to impeach. Republicans all spoke of impeaching their president as a betrayal of all that the United States is supposed to stand for, a betrayal of the 63 million voters who had elected Trump president in 2016, and a betrayal of democracy as a whole. One of them even compared Donald Trump to Jesus, stating that he was being treated more unjustly than even Jesus was in his trial, as that led to his crucifixion!

To one side, the evidence gathered, and for the most part acknowledged as valid as to fact by Trump in his public statements and in his tweets, was compelling truth. To the other, it was all fake news and fabrications – though even if it were true it should never be considered legitimate grounds for complaint, let alone censure or impeachment. I write this thinking back to my initial June 2016 posting to this progression of thought, as cited above. I wrote there of impervious epistemic bubbles as the breaking down of any possibility of open dialog across our political divides and divisions. The walls that divide that I wrote of there, have only become thicker and higher, and the stridency of accusation for any who might not live within “our” bubble has only become more and more strident, as partisan voices continue to strike out at any and all who they would see as different from themselves. Donald Trump’s xenophobia is not just his alone, and it is not just directed outward toward foreign nationals and foreign societies and governments.

When I first wrote my above cited June posting, I knew that whoever was nominated as a next Republican presidential candidate, leading up to the 2016 elections would be a voice for the extreme fringe of an already highly radicalized, angry Republican Party. The hopefuls in that contest who stepped into that ring, all seemed to be competing with each other to see who could sound the most reactionary, the most xenophobic and the most likely to push for a repeal and removal of all that the Democratic Party’s president Obama had achieved in his two terms in office, and just starting with his healthcare reforms. So I was not at all surprised when Trump won that nod. He was the most dismissively forceful in that field of radical extremists.

One of the talking point issues that pundits and editorialists have pondered in recent months has been shaped by how a specific, at least reasonable sounding question might best be answered. Does Donald Trump represent a faction of the Republican Party, with more moderate members of it silenced for now but still present, or has he made the Republican Party his own personal property, with himself in its middle and with Republicanism reduced to cult of personality status? When possible Republican nominees first started to speak out and campaign for their party’s nomination in 2016, the few more moderate voices who initially attempted to join that race were vilified and crushed. The few Republican moderates who had made it into and who still remained in the United States Congress were vilified and driven out, many deciding not to even run for reelection in 2018 if they were up for reelection then. And they were all replaced on the ballot then, by fully radicalized Trump supporters. How could anyone expect anything different from what happened in Trump’s impeachment vote when essentially all Democrats in the House saw him as an existential threat to the nation and all that it stands for and essentially all Republicans there saw him as their hero and savior, unjustly facing his very own Calvary?

Donald Trump is the Republican Party and the Republican Party is Donald Trump now. From a Venn diagram perspective, there might still be a few elements of the Trump persona that go beyond that political party. But given its eager willingness to embrace anything and all of what he says and does, they would be minor and disappearing. And by now there are no allowed faces or perspectives within the Republican Party permitted, that in any way challenge or even just question their leader. Any possibility of dissent is treated with immediate retribution and the entire Republican Party is now “Trump country” and food for his ego.

The House impeached Donald Trump; Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the US Senate and a leading architect of president Trump’s Republican Party support in the US Congress, began publically stating, and even before the impeachment vote was taken, that he would do everything he could to insure that any Senate trial that might take place pursuant to such a House resolution, would be carried out as president Trump himself would want it – and with no additional witnesses allowed and with everything carried out as much behind closed doors and without publically shared details as possible. The Republican Party controls the Senate and McConnell leads the Republican Party there as Donald Trump’s chief spokesperson and tool, so he will be acquitted on both of the charges that are included in the House’s impeachment resolution.

If the US Senate does carry through on its constitutionally required duty to carry out a trial based upon the charges of the House resolution as passed (H. RES. 755 [Report No. 116–346] as can be found in the above link towards the start of this posting, and the Republican majority there does follow president Trump’s lead as to how that should be conducted procedurally, the basic rationale they will follow can most likely be found in the open letter that Trump sent to the Democratic Speaker of the House: Nancy Pelosi as can be found for its full text here:

Trump’s Letter Protesting Impeachment.

The Democratic Party controlled House will delay sending its impeachment resolution to the Senate at least until after the start of 2020 in hopes of somehow influencing Senator McConnell and his fellow Republicans there to allow for the inclusion of new evidence that was blocked by president Trump from being entered into House hearings leading up to his impeachment. And they will push for the compulsion of such testimony by subpoena if need be. Whether that happens or not, president Trump will be acquitted. He will be exonerated as his supporters will put it, baring events that would be unanticipatable and certainly as of this writing. And he will be nominated as the Republican Party’s 2020 presidential candidate. And the Republican Party continues to become more and more of a toxically compromised hollow shell of its now former self, from when a word such as “conservative” could be a positive and mean “to conserve and protect” and with a focus there on fiscal responsibility and on protecting our nation’s constitutional system and our democratic principles.

I cite the United States’ Whig Party and its primarily self-imposed downfall in the titles to these now three postings. That political party: once one of the two leading political voices and sources of power in the United States, did in effect commit suicide from how it drifted and willfully so into what became national extremism and irrelevance. Will that happen to the Republican Party and even as a named presence? I have raised this question in all of the now three installments to this series and I continue to answer it at least consistently with what I have offered before. The Republican Party is already dead for what it used to be, from before it drifted into radical demagogic extremism and from before it became a cult of personality with its very own self-proclaimed messiah at its center. But the Party, or at least its ongoing strength and momentum continue on … and certainly for our here and now: the name and the organizational structure live on. I now add a second basic question to that one, thinking back to the political aftermath of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s downfall. What type or reckoning will a post-Trump Republican Party face when he and his demanding control are gone and that Party’s then-leaders have to pick up the pieces? (I pose this question and its context for doing so, noting the perhaps irony of the fact that one of Senator McCarthy’s chief henchmen: Roy Cohen, became one of a then still young Donald Trump’s key personal mentors and guides.)

I am certain to add at least a fourth installment to this as events continue to unfold. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 23: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 12

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 16, 2019

This is my 24th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there. And the most recent 12 of those postings have focused on legacy building as both Trump and Xi seek to build for that. I continue developing that narrative here, with a goal of more explicitly discussing Xi’s approach to control, and both as he seeks to lead and shape his nation, and as he seeks to build a personal legacy out of that, and fame for himself in doing so.

The key to understanding all of this can be found in how Xi understands and values stability and constancy in his nation and among his peoples. Ultimately, his China Dream: the organizing framework that he pursues as a guide and model for achieving his goals, is a striving for security and for a strength from that, that he sees as possible only if his vision of stability is achieved.

I have argued a case for viewing Mao Zedong as a would-be new, nation shaping emperor in the China of his day: a first Communist Emperor, holding all of the power of the more legendary golden age imperial emperors of old, and more. And I have also in effect argued a case for presuming that Xi Jinping seeks such an historic role too. The How of leadership in his here-and-now, and in his future facing legacy building efforts become as if one there. And I offer this next series installment here, with that vision in mind. And like everything else in Xi’s planning, this all at least appears to revolve around his historical narrative-grounded China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦), as I have attempted to analyze and discuss that in this series.

China can quite legitimately claim to have one of the oldest and certainly richest histories of any land or peoples on this Earth, with Paleolithic and Neolithic antecedents to that, going back much farther still. In fact some of the earliest hominid fossil finds known, outside of Africa, can be found in China.

The earliest traces of pre-human hominids to have been found in all of East Asia have been found in China, prominently including early Homo erectus fossils and tools. Fossilized remains of Yuanmou Man as a case in point example of that, have been found in Yunnan province in southwest China that have been dated back to 1.7 million years ago. Stone tools from Xiaochangliang in the Nihewan Basin of the Hebei province in northern China have been found that date back to 1.66 million years ago.

China’s Neolithic Period, might arguably be said to have ended in approximately 2070 BCE with the founding of the Xia Dynasty by Yu the Great when Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him. And the Xia Dynasty was succeeded by the Shang Dynasty (also called the Yin Dynasty) which is said to have ruled from 1600 BCE to 1046 BCE, to be followed by the dynastic complexities of the Zhou of 1046 BCE to 771 BCE, the Western Zhou Dynasty, the Eastern Zhou Dynasty and finally the Warring States Period with that ending in 256 BCE. I end this brief, terse timeline with that, including it here to help put what follows into a clearer perspective.

I have mostly focused on the history of China in this series, as it has transpired since the late Ming Dynasty (which lasted from 1368 to 1644), and particularly from the Golden Age of the Qing Dynasty on towards the present. But for purposes of this posting and to put what I would write of here in a more proper perspective, I would begin with the age of the Zhou and with some selective references to events that preceded that.

Let me clarify a point there, of current import, and certainly where an historical understanding might shed light on today’s Xi Jinping and his plans and his actions. I have discussed his China Dream in what might be considered starkly simplistic terms, focusing on what has to be seen as the compelling positive of the Qing Golden Age, and on the equally compelling negative of the years and in fact Decades of Humiliation that followed that. Xi’s historic vision selectively draws on a much wider span of China’s long history for its sources of justifying support. So when I delve into earlier history than I have been here, I do so facing Xi’s vision and his Dream there too. And that noted, let’s begin earlier than the age of the Zhou in its varying forms, to put that complex span of years and its events into fuller perspective.

We know the China of its Neolithic and earlier ages from the few remnants that have endured the ages to this time and that chance has brought to discovery and awareness. The earliest dynastic accounts of China that are offered as early history there can best be considered a blend of factual historical record, and of myth and legend. And archeologists, anthropologists, linguistics experts, historians and others are still trying to separate what might be considered more historically validatable truths, from legends and culturally defined and defining stories as collectively form those earliest dynastic narratives.

The fact of earlier history there cannot be denied, as remaining structures from the Great Wall and particularly from its earlier predecessors prove. Much of the Great Wall itself date to the time of the Ming Dynasty and late in this narrative. But portions of defensive walls that were incorporated into that massive structure clearly date back much further. They remain as validated parts of China’s past too, including sections of the Qin Wall of Qin Shi Huang: the First Emperor of China, who ruled from 220 to 206 BCE, ending the Warring States Period in the process. And some of the defensive wall remnants that still remain date back at least to the seventh century BCE. But I begin this posting’s narrative for the most part with the Zhou and late in that complex era and with the Warring States Period in particular.

• China has faced strife and challenge and throughout its lands, and throughout most if not all if its history. To put that assertion into longer-term perspective, I just cited defensive walls that the people of what is now China built, starting at the latest in the initial Zhou Dynasty and probably well before that. (Note: still earlier earthen wall and stone-reinforced earthen wall barriers were almost certainly constructed before then, but little if any of that remains.)
• And much if not all of the impetus for that centuries and even millennia long effort came from the outside and particularly from the North with threats of foreign invasion and conquest.
• The Warring States Period and its history show how much of this conflict has always come from within what we think of as China too. And the nation that we now know as China came into being as a unified presence through conquest, and ultimately as a product of force.

A significant part of what is now the geographic heartland of the People’s Republic of China, came together as a single nation state out of the conflicts that arose as the Warring States Period, as is more usually dated as having taken place between 474 BCE (or thereabouts) and 221 BCE when Qin Shi Huang is said to have unified China, making him China’s First Emperor. This was a period of intense conflict among and between what began as seven distinct smaller, at least nominally separate and independent states: the Qin, Chu, Han, Wei, Zhao, Yan and Qi. And importantly for purposes of this narrative, it marks only one period of division, conflict and consolidation that China and its diverse peoples have undergone, leading up to the more unified single state that we know of as the China of today.

• This is crucially important if we are to truly understand the China of today. It has been and it continues to be shaped by a combination of competing, compelling forces: one oriented towards division and differences, and others oriented towards creating order and constancy out of all of that.
• I will turn to and discuss the voices and forces of unity and stability that have made a more stable China possible as a nation, in upcoming discussions, only citing one of the more important factors there in passing and by name for now: Confucianism and its system of piety, and of the relationships that define that within that belief system. But I will hold off on that until later in this series.

For here and now I note that I have focused more in this series and its historical narrative, on the China that emerged from the downfall of their Qing Dynasty’s Golden Age, as conflict coming both from within and from outside the nation began to overwhelm its government and its overall societal order as well. The Qing Golden Age, as personified in the reigns of its two greatest rulers: the Kangxi Emperor and the Qianlong Emperor, became the Great Qing in fact and not just in official title because of the stability that they created and built from. They ruled over China during auspicious times; but the seeds of the Years of Humiliation and of the downfall of the Qing and of Imperial China as well, took initial root during the Golden Age itself – which is why the collapse of that Golden Age could take place so quickly and begin so significantly, so soon after the Qianlong Emperor’s death in 1799.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will turn to and focus on the issues and questions of stability and constancy, and both as they have arisen and been challenged throughout China’s history and as Xi understands them and as he seeks to impose them on the China of his day. In anticipation of that, I will simply note here that if the Golden Age of the Qing was in fact golden, it was because its rulers of that period could build and develop during a period of at least relative calm, and of at least controllable discord, and with their forces prevailing and under terms that did not significantly challenge the center, as for example when they expanded their empire along its western frontiers. But as I noted in passing above, the seeds for a downfall of this surety of calm and stability, can be found in the core practices and policies of that same Golden Age and its system of governance. And I will discuss a few of those points of consideration in my next installment to this, with that including a discussion of how the imperial government communicated with and worked with their provincial government officials but left all direct contact with more local government officials and with the people of China as a whole to them. And I will discuss the fact of and the consequences of their having and maintaining two monetary systems: one locally used and relied upon that was copper based, and the other nationally required and certainly for tax collection purposes that was based upon silver. The dynamics between these basic decisions and their consequences proved to be telling.

My goal for this overall historical narrative has been and remains one of building a foundation for more fully understanding what Xi Jinping is doing now and how, as he deploys modern technologies in an attempt to create a perfect surveillance state out of his China. And I will delve into that emerging reality too, as this series progresses.

Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 18

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 11, 2019

This is my 18th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-17.)

The primary topic that I raised and discussed in Part 17 of this, was market and consumer-sourced and related data and the ever-expanding need for it in a competitive marketplace, and particularly as businesses do business in an interactive online context, and one that includes both gorilla and viral marketing: marketing campaigns that are novel in form and that create uncertainties from that, and that are both at least significantly shaped by market-sourced participants – people from outside of the marketing business itself and who cannot be expected to hew to that business’ established market-facing message. And I concluded that posting by posing at least the first of a set of challenges that this raises, that I stated I would begin to address here. And I begin doing so by repeating them:

• I have been writing here (nota bene, in Part 17) of the need for more and more data, with more and more variable types of it to fill their database fields. And I add here a corresponding need for all of this data to be more and more accurate and more and more real-time up to date too.
• And augmenting the number of such variables (and the data accuracy for what populates their database fields) does in principle mean an increased and improved capability to analytically study a consumer and potential consumer base in finer and finer detail, parsing it into progressively more refined demographics and sub-demographics and in ways that would lead to more effective business decisions and of all types.
• But the more data types that would be called upon and used in any given such analysis or set of them: the more variables that would have to be coordinately analyzed in making use of this data, the larger the numbers of consumers that data would have to come from, in order to achieve sufficient data set sizes so as to make the requisite statistical tests that would be used, even just mathematically valid.

I would suggest approaching the issues and challenges raised there, and particularly in the last of those three bullet points, by stepping back and asking precisely what this data would be used for, at least in general terms as would apply to essentially any businesses in essentially any business sectors or industries. And I begin by stating a point that I would at least hope would be obvious:

• The only data that would offer real value there, is data that correlates by type with the likelihood of desired transactional outcomes that those customers might enter into. Ultimately, the only data that really counts here is data that can be used to predict completed sales and that can be used in marketing and sales efforts, so as to improve the odds of those completed transactions happening.
• And within that set of constraints, the only data-to-outcomes correlations that really matter are ones that arguably represent explicit cause and effect relations, and ideally at least, ones that can offer predictive value.
• When considered in these terms, marketing is all about creating and delivering messages in the right way to the right people, as they are at least categorically identified from the demographics they are presumed to belong to, that will increase the odds of those favorable outcomes predictions being realized in their subsequent behavior.

And with that I frame this data use, and the data selection and filtering that would enter into making that possible, as a multiple-step process. And for purposes of this discussion, I will collapse that down to a stereotypic two-step representation. And I begin that with seemingly simple correlations analyses.

• Significant observable correlation, linking the occurrence of two conditions, events, outcomes, or circumstances does not in and of itself show, let alone prove causal connection between them; correlation does not imply causation.
• But a carefully arrived at determination of a lack of apparent statistical correlation (with a correlation coefficient value that is at least close to zero in value), can be construed as offering presumptive proof that they are not causally connected and that any co-occurrence that does appear between them is likely a result of more random chance than anything else.

With that noted, I cite what is probably the single commonest, and most telling mistake that people make when carrying out correlation analyses, and certainly when they seek to combine factors that individually do not offer high enough correlation coefficient values in and of themselves to reliably predict some test factor under consideration, but that might offer such value together – when they (potentially) predictively co-occur. To take that out of the abstract, consider as a possible set of factors that might together, highly correlate with a sales transaction being completed. And for this example, consider that an online storefront visitor is a repeat customer who has made at least other types of purchases from a business in question in the past. And add to that, that they have a store credit card from that business. Note that these factors: these circumstances would of necessity be correlated to each other as it is unlikely that anyone would get a store-branded Visa, MasterCard or other credit card through a business if they were not already a customer there who has made purchases from them.

Even with the correlational overlap that that purchasing history to credit card account occurrence would involve, that would have to be accounted for when arriving at a true overall correlation with the likelihood of a next purchase going through, these two factors might offer predictive value for what would come out of a next visit to that business’ online storefront website. But let’s assume, as often proves the case, that no overtly obvious single factors come to mind or to analytical models as previously developed, that would highly correlate with whatever test factor a business would like to be able to make occurrence predictions about. So a statistician there, or rather someone using a statistical analysis software package there, starts to “throw stuff at a wall and see what sticks.”

They look through their data fields and start running lots of single factor to single factor correlations to see what if anything seems to connect with the test factor they want to be able to correlate to. And they find a whole bunch of them that individually show correlation coefficients that are on the order of 0.02 to 0.05 (2% to 5%) in value. And when they combine them, they collectively seem to predict a 0.87 (87%) correlation to their targeted test factor or condition. So they can really effectively, highly reliably predict a set of conditions and circumstances where that factor: call it X is going to occur, and as desired by the business, simply by running the numbers for that perhaps large number of carefully selected input variables! No!

• Low value correlation is more suggestive of random noise and random chance in a system, than anything else. And dumping a lot of random co-occurrences into a box together and adding glue, does not change that and either individually for them or collectively across the set of them.

And with that, I challenge a basic assumption that I built into the three repeated (and at least somewhat expanded) bullet points that I began this posting with, carrying them over from Part 17. Or to be more precise here, I have just challenged several such assumptions here starting with:

1. An implicit assumption that simply tossing more data and more types of data into the statistical analytical mill that you would use, will automatically and of necessity yield more and more precise and more and more operationally and strategically useful insight,
2. And an assumption that simply acquiring and accumulating more and more data and for the sake of that more and more, will of necessity make a business-held or business-accessible big data repository more and more valuable to it.

I will begin addressing those two points here, with a cautionary note that applies to both, for anyone who might assume that I am going to take a more automatically limiting Occam’s Razor approach here (or even a still-more limiting Occam’s Procrustean Bed approach.) New and novel, and the disruptively new in particular, challenges both of those numbered points for how they would be addressed. And to tie this back to this series as a whole, that is precisely where marketing approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing enter this posting’s narrative. And my goal for the next installment to this series is to at least begin to address all of that. Note: this will of necessity call for my more fully discussing causality too, which I will categorically parse out as being direct or indirect, and absolute or situational.

And with that offered and as a first here, I conclude this series installment with an anticipatory note as to what will follow it, doing so with the precise same wording that I offered at the end of the last installment to this series and for the exact same purpose again – and even as I complete a posting that has in fact been addressing those issues already.

“My goal for the next installment to this series is to begin with an orienting discussion of these points, and how they arise as valid sources of concern. And then I will discuss data evaluation at the trade-off levels of knowing what of a set of possible information held, holds the most value and would offer the most actionable insight in a given situation: in the course of developing, running and evaluating the outcomes of specific marketing campaigns. And I will also discuss how this opens doors for third party data providers to enter this narrative and very profitably for themselves.”

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 41 – the jobs and careers context 40

This is my 41st installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-40.)

I have been discussing a succession of workplace challenges in this series, since Part 25, that all explicitly call for effective communications and negotiating skills and that all involve jobs and careers issues and how best to manage them. And as a part of that ongoing narrative, I have been discussing in detail, a sixth and final example here, that includes within it all of the first five for its overall complexity:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that type of circumstance.

I began discussing this negotiations requiring scenario in Part 32, and then turned to consider specific negotiating approaches and issues that arise in such downsizing contexts in Part 37. And to round out and complete this initial orienting background note for this posting, I offered in Part 38, a list of six specific types of downsizing contexts: six particular situations that would bring an employing business to see a need to take such a step in the first place. And I have already discussed the first two of them in Part 39 and Part 40 respectively. And my goal here is to delve into the third of those example scenarios too.

And I begin this posting by repeating the basic bullet point description of the second of these scenarios as well as by offering the third of them, as the two hold some crucially important points in common, even as they each have their own more unique issues too:

2. Downsizings, while more usually driven by at least relatively straightforward revenue and expense imbalances (nota bene, as per example in scenario 1), can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for a current or emerging business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to retain the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees.
3. And a key driver (n.b. for carrying out a downsizing) there can be an intended and even vitally needed attempt to move beyond legacy and out of date, and both in what a business brings to market and in how it does that, where this would involve in-house redevelopment too.

Both of these example scenarios involve eliminating at least in-house, at least large portions of one or more specific functional areas of a business that it has more traditionally supported and maintained within the business, and that have generally been thought of as positively valued assets there – at least until emerging circumstances and a consequential reevaluation of their finances started a review and analysis process that led to a decision to eliminate or outsource them. And the basic default in both of those scenarios would be the elimination of a significant number of otherwise valued and appreciated employees, who would have simply been kept on, absent this.

That addresses similarities and areas of overlap. But to turn this discussion in the direction of the very real and significant differences that can be found between example scenarios 2 and 3, let’s reconsider my possible negotiations example from Part 40 with its scenario 2 job retention negotiations approach (which I strongly recommend you’re reviewing here.)

That example approach might in fact work and particularly for a member of a function team that is facing downsizing, who has at least lower level managerial experience as well as hands-on experience and expertise there. And if they have worked with third party providers already, and have performed well at that, and with recognition of that included in their annual performance reviews, the employment retention argument that I offered there would become that much more viable and that much more likely to succeed. But it would and in fact could only work in an outsourcing context of the type discussed there. It would not work, and certainly in and of itself, if a functional area was going to be phased out and discarded without any real replacement, or at least without any that its current employees have any experience or training in, in an example scenario 3 context.

That downsizing-driving example: elimination of obsolete systems and the downsizing of employees who have worked in them, is almost certainly the most difficult and challenging of the six that I would discus here in this series, for actually negotiating continued employment there. This is where “transferable” in transferable skills, and experience become both the most important and the most difficult to convincingly argue a case for. And at least from my experience and according to my understanding here, this is where stretch goals as worked towards as next step forward consequences of annual performance reviews, and added tasks agreed to and carried out to help meet unexpected needs, might make all of the difference – if anything can.

• In a scenario 2, outsourcing situation, negotiating successfully to be retained as an employee is probably going to be at least somewhat grounded in what you have been doing on the job already, where something of an experience base from that type of work is still, most likely going to be needed in-house. And expanding out from there in what you can effectively claim that you can do, might in effect seal the deal for you’re being retained as an ongoing in-house employee.
• But in a scenario 3 situation, work experience and even deep expertise in what is about to be dropped and downsized, is going to be seen as a pronounced negative. And the employees who work in that area who are more new-hire than experienced pros might very well face a better chance of being retained because they will be in a better position to argue a case that they are not stuck in a now-obsolete rut.

And this brings me directly to Plan B planning, and thinking through and preparing for second choice options and possibilities. And I begin that from an example 3 perspective and with younger, new hire employees and with older, deeply expert and experienced employees in mind: employees who are still starting out and those who face downsizing because the work that they have done long-term at a business is going to be eliminated for being part of its past – but not of its future.

• Younger employees, and particularly ones who have only recently finished their formal schooling, might or might not be able to transition from a more entry level position in the “old”, to one in a “still to be maintained, and in-house,” if not an entirely “new and cutting edge.” This option is not in most cases going to be available to employees who have in effect come to define that Old, from their long years carrying it out and successfully so.
• Think in terms of what you would like to achieve coming out of any negotiations here and in terms of what you would prefer not to see happen from that too. But set that wish list approach aside too, so you can more dispassionately think through what its possibilities would entail and require, and both from you and from your employer. And think through what would and would not realistically even be possible there.
• A younger employee who is well liked and who is seen as being a quick learner might, for example, be given an opportunity to gain some new training to remain viable as an employee there, at least as on the job experience development in what amounts to a probationary period, trial retention. But their more senior counterparts from the Old would probably not be afforded this type of opportunity, and certainly for anything like more formal training program participation, unless they pursue that possible new path forward on their own and pay for it themselves too. And even then, this would probably not mean their being retained as an employee at their current place of work. It might only offer them value when seeking out employment elsewhere.

What, dispassionately, should these more experienced and probably older employees at least think through and prepare for as a Plan B option? Negotiating possible early retirement packages, has to at least be considered there and even if many employees in that situation do see simply ending their work lives as more of a negative than a positive.

Remember: retiring from one job and even from one long held, should not automatically mean never working again, and even just part time. Thoughtful planning, with an open mind is important here, and with family discussions included as necessary. But with that offered, I have to acknowledge that I have only addressed the two extremes of what might be a much larger and more inclusive group of directly affected people, leaving out employees who are not just starting out on a jobs and careers path but who are at least chronologically not approaching what might be considered a retirement age either. What of employees caught up in this type of downsizing who are also caught in the middle there?

They and their circumstances are most definitely where this third example scenario proves itself to be particularly challenging. And that brings me to the issues of severance packages.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will discuss the fourth downsizing scenario example as originally offered here in this series’ Part 38:

4. All of this noted, in reality downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever other reasons that the managers who they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.

And I will discuss severance packages from the perspective of that downsizing scenario and in the contexts of the first three of the examples that I have touched upon here too. And in anticipation of that narrative, I add here that I will also reconsider and further discuss the all-important issues of timing and preparation in all of this.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 18

This is my 18th installment to a series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-17.)

I have been developing this series in part in terms of specific historically and current events-grounded case study examples, with relevant more-general considerations included there as called for. And from a case study perspective, I have focused for the most part on Russia and the history of what is now that nation in this, since Part 13 (with a somewhat longer digression into more general principles and issues, added into that narrative as Part 15.) And to bring this orienting note up to date for where I am in offering this series, I devoted Part 17 of it to an at least initial orienting discussion of what I have come to see as the Putin Defense Policy and its underlying political and military doctrine. And I offered that in the context of also offering a cautionary note to the West as well.

I ended that first step introductory note to what could easily be a larger and more inclusive discussion of Russia’s current and emerging combined-use approach to conventional and cyber-capabilities in defensive and offensive systems, with a brief discussion of a fundamentally basic tool for strategic and tactical military planning, and how the emergence of cyber-capabilities and cyber-assets, of necessity change how that tool would be used and its findings interpreted: basic correlation of forces calculations.

I chose this example for two reasons: it really is basic to overall strategic and close-in tactical planning and execution, that forces be maneuvered into position and used where they would have the greatest impact and where they would hold relative strength advantage wherever possible. But this is also one of the key areas where the disruptively new and novel of cyber-warfare and its capabilities, skews all such calculations, compromising all such planning and execution – if only more traditional, conventional forces-oriented approaches are used in thinking about correlations of forces available and deployed.

I begin this posting’s line of discussion with the last words offered in that immediately preceding paragraph: “forces available and deployed.” And I begin addressing them by repeating a bullet pointed note that I offered at the end of Part 17 that in fact serves as a beginning point for this posting’s discussion too:

• “Any conflict or potential conflict, and any use or possible use of force that in any significant way or degree includes use of cyber capabilities, automatically renders the theater of operations involved, global. And it is never going to be possible to meaningfully calculate correlation of forces or force symmetries or asymmetries or any related measures for such contexts if this simple fact is not taken into account and fully so.”

How do my above-noted four word phrase and this bullet point connect? There are in fact several answers to that. And I begin this posting’s main line of discussion here by at least briefly addressing the most traditionally obvious of them.

Conventional military doctrine and all of the correlation of forces and related calculations that would go into its planning, are predicated on an axiomatic presumption of supply chains and logistics, and a need to bring assets physically to where they would be needed and with all of the supplies required for them to be operationally effective. But all possible and potential cyber-assets that are available, or that could rapidly be made so, are in principle at least, more ubiquitously available as a matter of course. And they have to be considered to be automatically and reliably so available, and certainly when attempting to determine a possible adversary’s potential force levels and their distributions and accessibility.

When electrons travel at close to the speed of light in a vacuum and electromagnetic transmission, through the air or through fiber optic cable do too, physical distances that such signals would cover, effectively collapse down to zero. The only meaningful counterpart to distance as a limiting factor that command, control and communications signals (or any other weaponizable information flows) face in this context, are to be found in:

• Bandwidth limitations and
• Where signals would have to push through noisy channels, with message redundancy and similar measures needed to allow for that.

Effective cyber-capabilities can be brought to bear wherever there is sufficient bandwidth available to use them. And when key transmissions can be more surreptitiously, proactively sent in advance of any overt action, even bandwidth restrictions as a distance surrogate, become moot.

Distance and physical position do not matter from a more strictly cyber-conflict perspective; bandwidth and ability to find the most effective physical, cyber or combined, vulnerabilities to exploit, mean everything. And “available” and “deployed” can and do become one, and certainly in the hands of any command, control and communications systems and their leadership, that would make effective use of their available cyber-forces.

And with that, I peel back the layers of the onion here, one more level by moving on to raise the question of what military assets even are, in a cyber or a mixed cyber plus conventional context. And this brings me to the question of dual-use technologies. And it also raises the issue of how the most effective cyber-weapon capabilities in a nation’s arsenal need not even actually be in their arsenal at all; they can be overtly owned by and seemingly fully controlled and managed by others.

In anticipation of what is to come here, I will discuss those issues and symmetrical and asymmetrical forces and conflicts and how they are being fundamentally redefined here too. And then I will turn back to reconsider the Putin Defense Policy and its underlying political and military doctrine, in light of the general issues and principles that all of this raises. But before doing so, and as a continuation of my Part 17 cautionary note, I offer the following point of observation: a point of judgment that I would assume even just a casual study of history would show to be too likely to be true to safely overlook, and essentially ever.

• Generals and Admirals and their political leaders, where they have them, all too often prepare to fight the last war, no matter how long ago it took place … and precisely because they do not and seemingly cannot recognize, acknowledge or understand the nature of the New and of disruptive change.
• But next wars essentially always bring such changes with them and both for the weapons and the tactics and strategies that a new adversary would bring to bear, and for the contexts in which they would do this.
• And ultimately, victory at least usually goes to whichever side can learn to both embrace and advance the New and the disruptive in their thoughts and actions, and the most quickly and effectively.
• (And it is the foot soldiers and their naval and other enlisted counterparts, and it is civilians who pay the bulk of the price for the learning curves that all of this brings. But that is food for thought for another posting and series.)

Look to the carnage of World War I and its insistence on both sides in sending so many to their slaughter in Western Europe’s trench warfare, with machine guns and tanks and chemical warfare, military aircraft and their guns and bombs and more, as that generation’s glimpse at what the disruptively new and novel can mean in a next military conflict! And for a single, more focused example here, consider the aircraft launched torpedoes that were used when Japan attacked the US forces stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941, bringing the United States into what became a truly globally involving World War II. Traditional thinking and all of the policy and planning that came from it, resoundingly said that such weapons were not possible – even as warnings were offered that they were and that they were being developed, built and deployed. I offer both of these examples as cautionary note warnings as we see an emergence of and at least a proof of principle test use of this generation’s disruptively new and novel here, in cyber-weapons and cyber-weaponizable systems.

And with that, I turn to consider

• What military assets even are, in a cyber or a mixed cyber plus conventional context,
Dual-use technologies and the evaporation of boundaries there, and
• Locality and ownership and how the most effective cyber-weapon capabilities in a nation’s arsenal need not even actually be in their arsenal at all.

Let’s consider the first of those bullet points and its issues by considering what is probably the single most basic, fundamental question here; what is a cyber-weapon? And I begin addressing that by sharing two references:

• Sanger, D.E. (2018) The Perfect Weapon: war, sabotage and fear in the cyber age. Crown Publishing.
• Kello, L. (2017) The Virtual Weapon and International Order. Yale University Press.

And I begin here by offering two comments on these books. While both authors sought to offer both accurate and up to date narratives on the issues and the threats faced in an emerging cyberspace connected world, with an emerging weaponization of its capabilities as a part of that, both should be viewed as snapshots in time, and with the flood of new and disruptive continuing on for all of that. And Kello is still very much correct when he argues the case that our understanding of the larger implications of all of this, is still “primitive.” And so are our built in assumptions and presumptions as we seek to proactively plan and prepare for what is possible in a cyber-weaponized and a cyber-militarized world, and where that can be used against a nation’s own population as a means of control, as readily and fully as it can be used against outside nations, or against outside organizations of all types.

• Question: What is a cyber-weapon?
• Answer: Any cyber-tool or capability that can be used to connect and share information, can be used as a weaponized capability (where the ability to share information has implicit to it, a capacity to block it or to share carefully drafted disinformation too).

Consider conventional military weapons; there are very few if any examples of them that could be cited that arguably might or might not actually be weapons or that might or might not have been designed and built for use as such. A machine gun, or an aircraft-launched bomb are, to take that out of the abstract, weapons. And that is all they are. But in a cyber-context, essentially anything there can be weaponized and the only restriction to that is that it actually work as an effective cyber-capability or resource at all.

Dual use technologies are ones that can be used in a peaceful civilian contest, or in a more explicitly military context and in support of military action. Traditionally, this type of determination has been hardware-based and at least relatively straightforward – even if controversial at times. And to cite an example, precision low light image intensifiers, as used in night vision goggles, can be used by soldiers and special forces troops in night or other low-light, poor visibility combat operations. Or they can be used by search and rescue personnel in civilian contexts and as essential life saving tools there. This means gray area determinations, as for example when a foreign buyer seeks to purchase access to cutting edge technologies that are deemed to be dual-use in nature, where sale of military equipment or technology to them might be blocked for national security reasons. But if a tool or its underlying technology works and is cyber, it is essentially automatically going to be dual-use, at least in principle. And a consequence of this, is that almost nothing cyber is treated as if dual-use in practice. Cutting edge artificial intelligence technology is one of the few exceptions there, as of this writing.

But the third topics point that I am addressing here and its challenges of locality and ownership, render much of the above moot. Facebook and Twitter and more: essentially any and all of the globally impactful online social media sites, can be and are weaponized and used and on an ongoing basis and both by national governments as they seek to spread their weaponized messages, and by more private sector organizations and groups too, as they develop and disseminate theirs too.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will add one more piece to this puzzle, with a reconsideration of symmetrical and asymmetrical forces and conflicts in a cyber contest. And I will turn from that to further discuss the Putin Defense Policy and its underlying political and military doctrine in light of these considerations. And in anticipation of that, this will of necessity mean my addressing the power vacuum that United States president Trump has created, as a path forward for Putin and others to take advantage of, and by cyber as well as more conventional means. I will discuss Russian incursions into the Ukraine and Trump’s effort to extort the government of that nation to help him attack his political enemies in the United States in that context, and Trump’s decision to pull American forces out or Northern Syria, enabling Turkey and Russia to in effect carve up that entire region as their new spheres of influence now.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 3 and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

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