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My Lunch with President-Elect Obama--The Meeting in the Annex

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"Well, convincing the American people would be the first. Disarmament is the lead albatross of American politics.

"Well said," I agreed and, speaking to him continued, "But it won't stay that way. Why? You read the book, so you know about EMP?" He nodded yes but looked skeptical. I looked at Obama, patiently waiting. "Do you, sir, understand how truly dangerous the fact that the USA has an 'off' switch is to everyone living here?"

"Yes," he said quickly, "but let's not discuss that now. I'd rather talk about ah... the savings. How do we come up with such big savings?"

"We're estimated to spend $775 billion in 2009 for defense; $142.8 billion goes for procurement and $78.6 billion goes to R&D and T&E, testing and evaluating. We knock those numbers down a third over each of three years as we stop buying new weapons and make those we have operate better. The people laid off will be encouraged with incentives to join the renewable civilization and make truly green products. So the $78 billion for RDT&E today is zip by 2013. Some laid-off personnel will be our members of the UN disarmament process, monitoring disarmament in other nations. So instead of spending $275 billion on procurement and R&D in 2012, we'll be spending $50 billion on procurement. Research, development, testing and evaluating will be a thing of the past. With a smaller military, we have less operation and maintenance... cuts across the board. Except for one."

As Harry Eisen asked, "What's that?" Obama said, "Veterans Administration," and I nodded.

"Yes, the veterans. Lord knows they need it and are long overdue. And can I ask you sir, what do you think about problem number two?"

"I think it is as controversial as problem one. How do you propose to convince people that they need to... ah, not multiply and prosper?"

I saw that one coming and was pulling my cup and thermos out my briefcase. I opened the thermos and poured out half a cup of water.

"See this cup. It's now half-full of water, which represents humanity. So half-full, that would be Earth in about 1500. I now fill it to carrying capacity, the amount of water I can carry without spilling. Think of it as the number of people that Earth can support while also sustaining the extremely rich flora and fauna with which we were blessed. That point probably occurred in about 1900. Nineteen hundred, before my parents were born, and Earth had already reached its maximum human population if we were to sustain our richly endowed planet. In my opinion!

"Gentlemen, the reason the nuke-tipped arms race is number one and population two is this." I drank half of the water. "Nuclear war. Earth now half-full again. Four billion killed in the war. See why it's number one?"

I paused to pick up the thermos and poured as I continued, "But we haven't had a real nuclear war... yet, so let's get it back to the present, which is over-flowing. Is it full yet? Huh?" I continued filling the cup that now overflowed onto the carpet. "Full yet?" I stopped pouring. "It's only water; out there it's semen and eggs making babies. Get the point: it doesn't matter what it is; everything has a limit. Doesn't it, sir?" I was looking right into Obama's double life-size eyes five feet away.

"A point well taken, indeed," he conceded. "Back to the top five again. You say human greed is number three-greed expressed as the corporation. Couldn't you argue that it is our top problem; corporate greed has been driving the whole process."

"Yes and no, Senator. Call our economic system, the market economy as it is today, our number one problem, and you, the new President, have four over-riding emergencies." "Wait a minute, four? The list is growing!"

"Yes, four. Two immediate emergencies: GWB got away with treason on 9/11/01, yet he has dictatorial power for another few weeks. Two is a humongous financial problem-a total financial collapse in your first month in office. Three, the nuclear-tipped arms race, which could immediately trump all problems, and four, the population problem, which compounds all other problems. Then we have the real number three, our current economic system that you call greed, disparity at number four, and the environment comes in at five. Then there is the joker in the deck, ozone depletion."

Eisen was shaking his head with a doubting smile on his face, and I heard Obama sigh.

"So ozone is now a very serious problem too?" he asked wearily.

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Ed Cowan attended high school and the University of Texas in Austin, getting his BA in English in 1964. In 1965 he moved to Vermont, became a writer, and spent ten years, most of it on the staff at Montpelier High School after manning a fire tower (more...)
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