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

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"No, but it's the joker in the deck, sir. Once atmospheric ozone is destroyed, it's over. We could have an accidental nuclear war with a lot of ground bursts as Russia and the U.S. try to lose the other's ground-based nukes before they are used. Ground bursts release nitrous oxides, which destroy the atmospheric ozone; once that happens, only cockroaches and nocturnal insects will be around in ten years."

"You paint a very gruesome picture, Ed Cowan," Harry said grimly-but with his usual sincerity.

"Yeah, I know, but it is just reality... if we continue to fly into the future by the seat of our pants."

Obama asked quietly, "So you are ah... sticking with nukes as number one, population two, today's economy as number three, disparity as four, and the environment as five. Ah... how is the environment a problem?"

"A good question, Mr. President-Elect, but a quick correction. Those five problems are the top five, not because I say so, but because they are-- until you refute them. As for the environment, we have become so powerful-and numerous... numerous as a species--that almost everything we do threatens our fragile environment. Just returning to and maintaining the moderate temperature on Earth that promoted ten-thousand years of rapid human development will be a constant major problem from now on. That's global warming, of course, but other environmental problems make our fragile environment the Master of Ceremonies problem that never leaves us, that we always solve only in degree."

"Do I understand you correctly then, that global warming is only a part of problem number five?"

"Yes, but what causes global warming? The greed-driven market economy causes global warming. So it's caused by three but is part of five."

"He's got an easy answer for everything, sir, and I haven't found any loopholes yet," Harry said to his boss, then threw a challenging grin to me.

"Easy to say, but not easy to enact!" I said in my own defense.

Obama looked up from a paper in his hand and said, "I take it from your comments about ground-based nukes that you think those weapons should be the first to go, to eliminate?"

"Yes and good thinking. Eliminate all ground-based nukes in all nuclear powers, and preemptive strikes loose their appeal. Go sea-based."

"Mainly subs?"

"Sure, but also ACCs and cruise-missile cruisers as we all reduce."

The new President was nodding his head in agreement as someone handed him another paper. He read it and handed it back with a slow nod.

"There was one other point that you raised last time, at that excellent lunch we had in LA," he continued as he nodded a thanks, and after I nodded back, he said, "Your attack on the powers that be, the billionaires who are created by our economic system, was based on that Malcolm X quote. I was... ah, intrigued by that quote... and ah, the fact that you tried to use it to argue that we are all equal human beings. Right?" I nodded. "And in that fact, that we're all humans first, lies our equality. So, ah... all of our institutions are here to serve all of us, not just the elite. Right?"

"Yes, and I'm impressed by your memory."

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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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