The Strangelove Memo – Inkstick – Inkstick


Words: Steven Kelly
Pictures: Logan Weaver
“You can’t feel like an imposter if you’re busy being a rock-star.”
Roe repeated her therapist’s mantra. She was out of her element, and going out on a limb.
Andrew, the editor freelance journalists loved to hate, was right, though. Roe’s article would be clickbait gold. She didn’t have to like that he was right, but she had to admit she needed the clicks — and cash — associated with an exclusive scoop that exposed the extreme lunacy of conservative echo chambers. But Roe, the freelance journalist editors couldn’t help but love, was also right. If Mateo’s memo was real — and if it involved the people he claimed — the real story went deeper than clickbait.
The title of the memo was intriguing:
Averting Crisis: Patriots Must Restore Demographic Balance to the Electorate.
The subject matter was epic:
Shifting voter demographics in key battleground states will preclude an electoral college victory by a Republican nominee from 2024.
The problem statement was framed in a way that could only be described as frightening:
Patriots must therefore take immediate action to restore demographic balance to the electorates of key battleground states.
The recommended action was unimaginable:
A mass casualty event centered in densely-populated urban areas of key battleground states will produce the desired demographic restoration.
Roe was sure there was some there there, but she only had 72 hours before her deadline to convince Andrew.
“Rowena!” A distant voice shouted from across the room.
Mel insisted on calling her by her full name. Roe insisted on Roe with everyone else, on account of Rowena generally being an old lady’s name. Specifically, though, Rowena was the name of her polygamist great-great-grandmother. Roe was more manageable, even if everyone assumed the nickname was a savage reference to Roe v. Wade — which it wasn’t.
“Melanie!”
Roe insisted on calling Mel by her full name.
“Oh my God!” Mel said as she went in for an appropriately aggressive hug.
“I know!” Roe cheered.
The two friends toasted the end of the pandemic, and chatted optimistically about the developing new normal.
“I’m loving the new glasses,” Roe said.
“Yeah, I broke my old pair during the third lockdown at home on the Vineyard — thanks Mom and Dad!”
“I hope they still do those brussels sprouts for happy hour.” Roe was down for the brussels sprouts at Lucy’s Lookout anytime.
“Yaas.”
Roe thought she caught the bartender’s eye.
“Two PBRs and a brussels sprouts to share,” Roe said, taking the initiative.
Roe was mistaken; the bartender’s attention was fixated on the tall server standing over Roe’s shoulder. Ten minutes passed until Roe and Mel were allowed to order.
Lucy’s Lookout was just as perfectly bougie as they remembered. Fortunately, for Roe, the service was just as slow, which gave her ample time to get Mel’s take on the memo.
“You’re serious about this?” asked Mel.
“You’re still at the DOJ, aren’t you?” Roe insisted.
“In the Public Relations Office.”
Mel wasn’t necessarily convinced, but one look from Roe was all it took.
“Well then, let’s set up a meeting with my boss to see if he can point us in the right direction.”
***
“Of course, mainstream politicians wouldn’t entertain something like this in a million years. The people behind this memo are obviously radical extremists, but they’re talking about the murder of thousands of innocent people here. It only takes one crazy person to make this a reality,” Mel insisted.
Roe was impressed. Mel was fearless with her boss.
“I can’t do anything about it. Mel, we’re so far out of our lane…,” Peter said, drifting off.
“Pete, this isn’t the hot-take of a nut job in a Meetbook group chat,” Mel said.
Mel looked over at Roe, who understood this was her shot.
“She’s right, Pete … er, Mr. Bechdel,” Roe started. “The author demonstrates a high degree of professionalism. We have a concisely framed problem statement and a sophisticated analysis. It looks scary real. I mean, look at the conclusion,” she continued, pointing to the relevant paragraph: “A low-yield neutron bomb will produce the desired demographic change, while minimizing economic consequences and public outrage.”
“This is the work of a serious political operative, and it’s addressed to an ultra-right-wingmega donor,” Roe insisted.
“Lordy, I don’t know,” Peter let out a deep breath, “Maybe there’s something there.”
“And PR could be a part of stopping it, Pete. Just think about that,” Mel noted, raising her eyebrows.
Peter’s body language shifted dramatically as he adopted a pensive pose.
Roe tried to maintain her composure, but she was betrayed by a steadily growing smirk.
***
Mel held the door for Roe and gave her an approving glance as she entered the sixth-floor conference room where Peter was mid conversation with an old colleague.
Roe knew she was beyond mantras.
“Kamala Harris! Kamala’s my celebrity crush,” Peter declared to the man seated across the conference room table.
“I can see that….,” the man agreed, noticing the new arrivals.
“Ladies, this is Wesley Wallace,” Peter continued without skipping a beat, “Wes, may I introduce my colleague Mel and her longtime acquaintance, Rowena.”
Wes looked at Mel a little sideways, as if to say, “I would’ve guessed Rowena was you, and Mel was the White girl.”
Mel chose to ignore the microagression.
Just then a well-dressed woman — probably mid-career — entered the room.
“Assuming, for argument’s sake, these are serious individuals who have the right connections and adequate funds, could they even get their hands on a neutron bomb? What’s that, some type of a nuclear bomb?” the attorney questioned with a growing sense of urgency.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Wes said, gesturing to the new arrival, “I looped in Tiffany Riser from our National Security Division, since she would be the attorney liaising with the folks over at the FBI.”
“What do we have?” The attorney sensed there was some weirdness in the room, and — not wanting any part of it — she decided to move things along.
Peter spoke for several minutes, attempting to convey the salient points of his earlier conversation with Mel and Roe. He never really arrived at the point, though he clearly acknowledged — twice — that he knew he was not in his lane.
“Bottom line, we’re handing over…seeing as how Peter and I are way outside of our respective lanes a domestic terror lead that appears worthy of investigation,” Wes concluded on Peter’s behalf.
“This memo seems kinda out there,” the attorney noted.
“The premise is outrageous, but the document, given its content and its context, is meant to be taken seriously. For example, we can infer from the memo itself, from a PR perspective, that these aren’t amateurs. They’ve done a complete PR assessment. They’ve done the research, obviously. They’ve anticipated the public’s response and have strategized about how they can get ahead of it. This is a legit memo, coming from the PR space.” Mel stated, making eye contact with the attorney.
“Why is this coming from the PR office again?” the attorney wondered without looking up from her notes.
“The memo was received from a well-placed Republican aide, turned leaker, who gave a copy to a journalist of his acquaintance,” Mel answered.
The attorney lifted her head, revealing a furrowed brow.
“And the journalist,” Mel hesitated, pointing at Roe, “brought the memo to the closest, well, person of her acquaintance — me — working near law enforcement, given that I work here, at the DOJ.”
“Yes, the leaker, Mateo, said he couldn’t take the memo to the FBI because he didn’t think anyone would take it seriously without more. Which is why he revealed some background information for me to investigate and, well, expose,” Roe added.
The attorney appeared unmoved.
“A billionaire — known for flirting with radical views — funded the far-right, fringe think tank that helped to produce the memo. They worked on it with a yet-to-be-identified political personality, who was supposedly in cahoots with some white-nationalist-types. Everyone knows the think tank is full of crazy people, but Mateo says even they pushed back against the memo’s recommendation, or at least they did until their benefactor intervened—that’s why the think tank’s name isn’t anywhere on the memo. Anyway, it’s long been whispered that the billionaire has ties to white nationalists. I discovered extensive ties to that community in general and found evidence that from 2001–2005 he attended gatherings of a group that later evolved into the Ancestral Ascendants, a domestic terrorist organization.”
Roe quickly darted her eyes toward Mel to catch a glimpse of her vibe. Their eyes met for a fraction of a second, then Roe immediately turned her attention back to the attorney. In that short moment Mel confirmed that Roe was slaying it, and Mel knew that Roe knew it too.
“And I checked up on the billionaire’s son-in-law as well. He’s ex-military and he’s rumored to have ties with the Custodian-Covenantors, a secret organization of white supremacists within the military, who’ve sworn to uphold a radical, far-right agenda above the Constitution. The DOD won’t confirm the existence of this group, but my DOD source maintained that rumors about the faction were rampant throughout the armed forces.”
“Assuming, for argument’s sake, these are serious individuals who have the right connections and adequate funds, could they even get their hands on a neutron bomb? What’s that, some type of a nuclear bomb?” the attorney questioned with a growing sense of urgency.
“Exactly, it’s a type of nuclear weapon that causes a lot of radiation without a big explosion. The idea is to kill people without destroying infrastructure,” Roe explained.
“Jeez, that sounds like something we would have banned in like the ‘80s, right? I mean, I don’t know, I was in junior high at the time, so,” the attorney observed.
“Keeping it 100, I didn’t think nuclear weapons were still a thing since the Cold War,” Mel quipped.
The attorney let out a deep, drawn-out breath.
“Okay, next steps if we’re going to pursue this,” the attorney started. “We’ve got to have buy-in from all relevant stakeholders — the AG, FBI, DOD, DOE/NNSA.* We’ll need to reach out to socialize this with everyone, but we’ve got to have concrete facts before we can set up meetings,” she cautioned, looking in the direction of Roe and Mel.
“I’ll circle back to my DOD source for leads on the nuclear arsenal — I need to dig up more anyway to get buy-in from my editor.”
***
“What do you have for me, Counsel?” Judge Matheson never saw a need for pleasantries.
“Thank you for accommodating us on such short notice, your Honor,” Ms. Riser began.
“Uhhuh,” grunted the judge, in the affirmative.
“I have the warrant request, which is supported by a sworn affidavit. Our Affiant is Special Agent Chuck Stan. His affidavit incorporates the troubling memorandum by reference, which I will read into the record, if I may.”
“Proceed.”
Averting Crisis: Patriots Must Restore Demographic Balance to the Electorate
Problem statement: Shifting voter demographics in key battleground states will preclude an electoral college victory by a Republican nominee from 2024.
Background: The long-predicted electoral Armageddon has loomed over Republicans for an entire generation. As anticipated, immigration trends have resulted in an increased number of Democratic voters. Further, as the Silent Generation die off, they are being replaced by Millennials, who skew liberal, even by Democratic party standards A shift of this sort in the electorate threatens the continued viability of our movement. Though mainstream Republicans have failed to embrace many of our policy goals, which they view as extreme or radical, their party is not entirely unsympathetic to our concerns. Since Democrats will undoubtedly oppose our entire agenda, it is incumbent upon us that we address the shift in electoral demographics.
Republicans have heavily relied on voter suppression to counteract these demographic trends. This strategy has been remarkably effective, and thus far we have managed to stave off disaster. These efforts notwithstanding, our best data suggested that voter suppression would become ineffective in 2032. Political analysts have developed numerous strategies to counteract the demographic shift. All existing strategies have been created with the 2032 time frame in mind. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has dramatically altered the time frame for all of our models.
COVID-19 infection rates and death rates have been disproportionately high in counties that vote Republican. The disparate impact of COVID-19 widened  after the FDA approved the release of three vaccinations, due to vaccine hesitancy. Vaccination rates have been significantly higher in counties that vote Democrat. As a result, COVID-19 deaths have been highly disproportionate in counties that vote Republican. Data is sparse as to the exact width of this partisan divide. However, it is clear that. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the electoral outlook in the key battleground states of Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, where victory for the Republican nominee is unlikely.
Conclusion: Patriots must, therefore, take immediate action to restore demographic balance to the electorates of key battleground states.
Recommended Action: To restore demographic balance to the electorate — and allow for future Republican presidential administrations — willing patriots must detonate low-yield neutron bombs in the following urban areas: Miami-Dade county (FL), Wayne county (MI), Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties (OH), Philadelphia county (PA), and Fairfax county (VA)
Analysis: A  low-yield neutron bomb is ideally suited to meet the stated policy objectives. The neutron bomb equals the destructive power of other conventional and nuclear devices. Yet, due to its unique design, the weapon minimizes possible negative effects to our nation’s economy and psyche. These benefits are the result of the unique design, as described below.
First, the blast radius of a neutron bomb is relatively small. Unlike other nuclear devices that are designed to emit an enormous blast wave, the so-called “cleaner” bomb creates an intense neutron burst, which increases damage due to radiological effects while reducing damage cause by the shockwave, thus minimizing damage to vital infrastructure, which is left largely intact. As a result, the neutron bomb causes less economic damage in terms of repair costs and production loss (due to repair times).  
Second, the damage from a neutron bomb is less visible than that cause by other weapons of mass destruction. As referenced above, the weapon leaves existing infrastructure largely intact. Moreover, unlike chemical weapons or other explosive devices — which have an immediate effect — the majority of damage caused by a neutron burst takes several hours to unfold. The majority of victims will die in hospitals or their homes, rather than the blast site. Due to the reduced infrastructure damage and delayed loss of human life, the American people will  be exposed to fewer burning buildings and dead bodies, which they associate with tragedy. The images in the media will not reflect the true extent of devastation. Absent scenes of widespread carnage, it is unlikely Americans will grasp the full extent of devastation, which hopefully will minimize public outrage.
The judge sat back in what had to be a very expensive chair. The attorney wondered how much money judges were allotted for decorating their chambers.
“Okay, we’ve got a memo from an anonymous, unhinged person.”
The judge looked across the desk — also obviously expensive — with a prompting gaze.
“Your Honor, the memo contained indicia of authenticity, based on the apparent level of professionalism and sophistication.”
“Fine,” the judge said.
“The author is known in the memo only as Dr. Strangelove, Attorney-at-law. As noted in the affidavit, Special Agent Stan was able to identify the anonymous author as, INDIVIDUAL 1.”
The judge’s eyes widened while looking down at the file. The surprise was evident.
The attorney felt the momentum swinging in her favor.
“I’d ask the Court to take judicial notice that INDIVIDUAL 1 is a well-known, well-connected, political operative and television pundit, who has worked extensively as a policy advisor to elected officials.”
The judge nodded in the affirmative.
“The Affiant further identified INDIVIDUAL 2 as the recipient..”
“Right, this is the billionaire linked to these extremists,” the judge interrupted. “I assume I can take judicial notice of the public statements and disclosures you’ve cited here, and that they give rise to….”
“Probable cause, yes, that INDIVIDUAL 2 is sympathetic to the cause of the Custodian-Covenantors and that he is funding the criminal conspiracy.”
The judge read on while the attorney and her entourage waited in silence.
“This white nationalist military faction. You’ve provided adequate background here, I guess, but help me out here, Counsel. I need help understanding the details you’ve outlined on these neutron bombs — nuclear bombs, it looks like — we built in the ’60s and ’70s. You’ve referenced some treaties that suggest we — er, the US armed forces — no longer have them. Are any of these still around today? Could any of these crazies even get their hands on these?”
“We don’t know, your Honor. That’s why we need the warrants,” the attorney confidently concluded.
***
Roe immediately spotted Mateo on the far side of the coffee shop.
“He’s early. This is new.” Roe joked.
“Is this the leaker?” Mel inquired.
Roe nodded her head yes.
“How d’ya know him again?” Mel asked.
“Co-ed volleyball.”
“You’re still doing that?”
“It’s starting up again in a few weeks.”
Mel gave an exaggerated eye roll.
“So is this a co-ed naked sitch?” Mel asked.
“No, volleyball is our relationship. We’re like low key volleyball besties, though — we’re on a whole other level when we play together,” Roe said.
“Okay, I’ll be over here. When you’re done with your debrief,” Mel said.
Roe walked across the coffee shop toward Mateo. He looked uncomfortable, as usual. After ten years in Washington, DC, he remained incapable of fitting in, which, for him, was a source of pride. Mateo caught sight of Roe and his forlorn face lit up, revealing a rare genuine smile.
“Ugh, he’s still stupid hot,” she thought to herself. Roe had wondered whether he maintained his good looks during the pandemic madness. Apart from being uncommonly good at volleyball, being tall, dark, and handsome was really the only thing he ever had going for him.
“Hey there, stranger,” Roe said.
“Good to see you, Roe,” Mateo replied.
“So, anyway, when asked for a comment on my pending article, INDIVIDUAL 2 responded with a cease and desist letter. Mateo, I need to know, are you married to this whole anonymity thing?”
“Pumpkin spice, for Mel,” a disinterested voice was heard from behind the counter. There was no discerning which barista made the half-hearted holler. No matter, Mel waited until the baristas were otherwise occupied and snuck her order off the counter — she knew she was shamefully basic when it came to coffee. There was, however, nothing basic about Mel. Far from it.
Mel carried her seasonal latte and sat at the end of an otherwise empty table. She immediately pulled out her laptop to check for the status of Roe’s comprehensive deconstruction of what people were calling, “The Strangelove Memo.” Mel repeatedly pressed the refresh key, waiting for the article to be published. She was so focused on the story’s release that she forgot about her latte, which was now lukewarm — and awful.
A figure entered the periphery of Mel’s vision. She aborted her drink mid-sip, which truthfully wouldn’t have been any better hot.
“Mel, this is Mateo.”
“I’m the leaker,” Mateo declared with an overly confident grin.
“That’s a weird flex, Mateo,” Mel quipped.
A chime rang out from waist level. Each of the three dug into their pockets for their phone.
“It’s me,” Roe beamed, “It’s online.”
*Acronyms: AG: Attorney General; FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation; DOD: Department of Defense; DOE/NNSA: Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration
Steven Kelly is a former attorney who now works in public policy. He enjoys writing fiction, especially short stories, in his spare time. This is his first published piece.
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