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I know you. After all these years, I’m familiar with what you think, how you operate, what you eat and how you play. And it makes me proud. As Dick Vitale would say, we’ve got pretty good situational awareness. We’re all over CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and have downloaded news, podcasts, blogs and a host of other methods for staying on top of what we think is important. It’s pretty neat. That’s why it shames me to have to tell you this. You have not paid attention to and are unaware of the single most dangerous affliction to hit this country and your profession … possibly forever. Care to guess what it is? Anthrax delivered by a demented al-Qaida operative? Try again. A dirty bomb delivered by some guy the president and attorney general held without charge for three years and then indicted for staying at the Taliban Hilton? I’m sorry. A plot to poison our children forever by making them watch George Hamilton and Master P on “Dancing With the Stars”? Well, we’ve got some great parting gifts, including a home version of our game, for you. It isn’t any of those things. It isn’t Hurricane Katrina or the hypothetical tornado the Weather Channel blew through downtown Dallas (and my office) a couple of Sundays ago. It isn’t even a bird flu epidemic leaving millions dead or clucking. It’s BlackBerry deprivation syndrome, known at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by its ominous acronym, BDS. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in Loving County (population 64 — “Sal-yute!”), you must know that the company that makes the BlackBerry lost a patent infringement suit not long ago to the company that claims to own the rights to the program, which makes that highly addictive staple of 21st century technology work. That company has threatened to slap an injunction on the BlackBerry folks, forcing them to take all of the infringing products off the market. And that would mean your BlackBerry would just … go dark. You might still be able to play “Brickbreaker” or something trivial like that, but send e-mails, surf the Web and do all of the things we are truly addicted to? Gone. Your BlackBerry would become a black hole, a useless appendage only good for giving you a pain in your side when you wear it while sitting in a coach airline seat. What could be more frightening? Now we won’t be able to turn away from people we don’t want to deal with in order to check e-mails. We’ll have to interact with dinner companions, listen to tedious speakers in meetings, talk to dates, significant others and spouses, and find other technological devices to show others that we’re totally kewl. Like I said: frightening. If you think you’re alone in being frightened of BDS, you’re wrong. This guy Fred I know at the CDC, who agreed to cooperate if I agreed not to tell you that his last name is Karpinsky, smuggled out an internal memo, which gives readers some idea of how seriously our government is taking this. Let me just give you a little excerpt to digest:
We have designated the most likely population response to BDS as The Fish Kill Scenario, in which sudden loss of access to BlackBerry devices will have a number of highly deleterious consequences. For the great majority of users, BlackBerry deprivation will result in a cluster of symptoms ranging from low-grade bewilderment and stupefaction at having to communicate face-to-face to what we call Spasming Opposable Thumb Syndrome (SOTS), in which users sit in a nearly vegetative state spasmodically using their thumbs to press random keys or fiddle with the trackwheel on their instruments in the hope of making contact with someone else via their now deactivated BlackBerry. We estimate that approximately 75-80 percent of all attorney users will contract SOTS within the first two weeks of deactivation.

I also should note that a CDC supervisor commented, “And this is bad why?” in the margin of the memo. But good, bad or indifferent, this nation is going to be ready. Just listen to what else the CDC memo says:

Recognizing the threat that BDS poses, the National Security Agency, acting under the authority provided by Congress in the post-9-11 resolutions, has instituted a BlackBerry surveillance program in which it monitors transmissions from Treos, PalmPilots and other non-infringing PDAs in an effort to locate terrorists who may be hoarding those devices in order to exacerbate the crisis. Within hours after the BlackBerry devices go dark, Special Forces using Predator drones will conduct precision strikes to liberate the caches of stockpiled devices. We also are establishing a National Palm Pilot Reserve, from which we can release quantities of operational PDAs back into the community and so keep access manageable. In an emergency, manufacture of PDAs in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area safe from IP lawyers, is under active consideration. In the event of continuing shortfalls, however, the Department of Homeland Security has authorized CDC and the BlackBerry Emergency Management Agency (BEMA) to take over drug rehabilitation centers and methadone clinics until a suitable therapeutic alternative can be found. At these clinics, BlackBerry-deprived addicts will be allowed limited weekly therapy in which they can use another PDA to prevent or minimize further withdrawal and permanent Level 4 SOTS.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I find all of this intensely comforting. It’s great to know that our government is actively out there preparing for this upcoming crisis for once. And I’d tell you more about how comforting it is, but I left my BlackBerry in the other room, and I’ve just got to nip in there for a minute to check my e-mails. See you at the clinic. Tom Alleman, a shareholder in the environmental and insurance industry practice groups at Winstead Sechrest & Minick in Dallas, has named his BlackBerry, “My Precious,” which pretty much explains why his opinions aren’t necessarily those of the firm, its clients or Gollum.

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