Saturday, January 21, 2017


Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: thank you.
We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people. We are all part of one Union not part of one effort and Mr. President, with all due respect, we are not close to uniting on your solutions to our challenges.
Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come. Come on Mr. President, what you mean is that you will be proxy for the people and do what you can to determine the course of America and the world (for better or for worse)
We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done. What job exactly, Mr. President?
Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Nice gesture, but in sharp contrast with what follows
Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People. You’re sure that’s what you want to do? It looks more like you want to monopolize the power for yourself so that you can exercise it in the discretionary distribution of favors to your supporters
For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Incorrect, the rewards have gone to the privileged few inside and outside of government
Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.
Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.
No doubt the political system has failed, for decades now, to address the many challenges the nation faces but big business, including yours, has wanted it that way and has benefited handsomely, more so than the political establishment. Inaction, obliviousness to the Peoples’ interest, not greed has been the establishment’s misfeasance
Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. Can’t think of many celebrations or victories on capitol hill
That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you. It does not feel like my moment. Just a new sheriff in town
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. 
This is your day. This is your celebration. You mean ‘the check is in the mail’?
And this, the United States of America, is your country. Although, of course, we may jail or deport you if you don’t do as I say
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. What you really mean, Mr. President, is that you want a free hand to deal directly with the people without interference by that pesky thing called Congress
January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. And you are their strawman even though less than 27% of the people voted for you?
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. They will probably be deported or in jail
Everyone is listening to you now. Yes, in equal parts fanatically or with trepidation and distaste
You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before. We have seen populist movements throughout history and find it hard to name any that changed the world for the better
At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Citizens as opposed to ‘its residents’ much less humanity in general
Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. Just like the rest of the world
These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public. Only the righteous?
By the way, Mr. President, can you only speak in tweetable sentences?
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. You make a believer out of your many sceptics if you can make this all go away in your term as President; have you thought on who to blame when you fall short of making a difference?
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. If you say so?
Let your word be heard all through the land from the South side of Chicago to where? From Sea to shining Sea?
We are one nation – and their pain is our pain.  Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success.  We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. E Pluribus Unum!
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. Legal residents and undocumented aliens be damned
For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; Not exactly confirmed on Wall Street
Subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; We are spending more on our military than the next seven nations (including China and Russia) combined
We've defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; Don’t tell our border agents
And spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. You got a point there; so please don’t lead us into any new misguided military adventures with your blustery rhetoric
We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon. You must then be the exception that confirms the rule
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind. You are about thirty years short of trying to alter the course of globalization, something you have personally benefitted from in your business
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world. Or did it go to the privileged 0.1% you belong to?
But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future. You had 76 characters to spare in this tweet
We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. Can’t wait to hear what it is
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. Don’t keep us in suspense
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. And second, and third etc. It is all about US
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. You know, it almost sounds believable if you had said ‘some American workers and ‘some American families’. But you said you wrote the speech yourself, so let’s dismiss it as an editing oversight
We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.  Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. A historic first! You really see trade as a zero-sum game, don’t you?
I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down. We will remind you of that promise in four years, if not before
America will start winning again, winning like never before. Better than in WW I and WW II?
We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders.  We will bring back our wealth.  And we will bring back our dreams. How about some nightmares along the way?
We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation. That we can do if we don’t kill our economy with misguided trade policies
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. Get the lazy bastards off their duffs and let them have the jobs usurped by Mexicans or let them build the wall
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American. Even in the Trump organization?
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We will not blame Putin, Kim Jong-Un or Assad if they place their interests first
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow. You mean the gold faucets in your dwellings and planes?

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth. Mr. President, you are already 70 years old; how long do you plan on being the Commander in Chief?
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. Like by waving a magic wand
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. Or greed, avarice or bigotry
The Bible tells us, “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Mr. President, it has not happened in recorded history
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. And, of course, not vilify those of different persuasion
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. In this speech, you make a real strong effort to unite us, Mr. President
There should be no fear – we are protected, and we will always be protected. If you say so; just don’t tell the children of Sandy Hook or the people in the Twin Towers
We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God. Mr. President, come on, you can do it on your own as you promised in your campaign
Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. ‘We’ as in pluralis majestatis?
In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.
We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action – constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.
The time for empty talk is over.
Now arrives the hour of action. Your sentences are getting shorter. Running out of steam?
Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done.  No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. All it takes is a fearless leader and visionary
We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. If you say so, Mr. President
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, (thought we are already 16 years into it) ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, (and global warming), and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions. Hail to a nationalistic America
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag. Whatever happened to the blue blood of privilege?
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator. You want to change that too?
So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:
You will never be ignored again. We may spy on you, shoot at you, lock you up or deport you, but we will not ignore you
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
Together, We Will Make America Strong Again.
We Will Make America Wealthy Again.
We Will Make America Proud Again.
We Will Make America Safe Again.
And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again.
You sure make it sound as if we are a basket case. You have your work cut out for you Mr. President. So much to do and so little time to do it. Better put some family members to work. And smart that you did not separate yourself from your business, you may need something to fall back on.
Thank you, God Bless You, And God Bless America.


Sunday, January 15, 2017


The Senate confirmation hearings for members of Donald Trump’s national security team have shone light on the thinking not only of the candidates for these high level and high impact jobs but also of the Senators serving on the committees in charge of the confirmations. Of course, there was the usual political grandstanding in the process, from both sides of the aisle. Softball pitches from Trump supporters like Ted Cruz and pointless narratives from liberal democrats like Kamala Harris. It strikes a casual observer like me as unreal that none of the interlocutors can resist to use a large part of the allocated microphone and TV camera time for the purpose of explaining at great length what their beliefs are in the arena of national security, rather than probing what the candidate’s views are and how they may translate into policy for the new administration. Either way, the process is valuable because it forces an in-depth evaluation of the nature and the risks of the threats to national security we commonly recognize.

The picture that emerges from this public national security review is unsettling in more than one way.
The voices for a larger investment in our military are strong and politically irresistible given the growing awareness of national security threats posed by terrorist organizations and animosity from the governments of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. But we are already $20 Trillion in debt and we are already spending more on our military than the next seven countries (including China and Russia) when ranked by military expenditure. Defense spending is, at 20% of federal expenditure, the third largest line item in the federal budget, after social security (23%) and healthcare (25%). So, the question needs to be asked: “are we spending our tax dollars on the right assets?”

Many voices, including Ike Eisenhower and Robert Gates, have alerted against the inertia inhibiting the required flexibility in adjusting military asset allocation according to the changes in security threats against our nation. The power of the military-industrial complex is well documented and Congress can be relied on to always wanting to spend more on the military without ever taking anything that is arguably obsolete off the table.

The Senate confirmation hearings have repeatedly, and from all corners of the committee table, asserted that we have the best and most powerful military in the world. And that is undoubtedly true in the conventional sense of warfare, but are we not already constantly and sufficiently confronted with the limited usefulness of our existing military assets in defense of the most serious threats to our national security? What use are our soldiers if we have already accepted that we can’t put ‘boots on the ground’ in the fight against ISIS, Al Qaida or Al-Shabaab? What use are our tanks and artillery when drones can do the necessary dirty work? How many nuclear strike instruments do we need when we can’t imagine a war in which nuclear weapons are used that will not inevitably lead to complete annihilation of humanity? Our helplessness in spite of our military might was most painfully exposed on September 11 of 2001 when we could not find a convenient target to retaliate against and ended up settling for a war with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein in which we are still embroiled today and which arguably has increased the threat of terrorism by Islamic jihadists.

We cannot determine with precision what kind of military we need, without first determining what threats we want/need to defend against. That is, assuming that we certainly should not build and maintain a military for offensive purposes.

There is one area in which we need clarity of intent. That is how far America will go in defending its allies against aggression from its neighbors. After the fall of communism, America and its allies have chosen to surround Russia with NATO member states, leaving only Belarus and the Ukraine as buffers between the West and the East. What if, to divert attention from domestic and economic failures, Putin decides to ‘liberate’ a corridor to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic? Much like he has done with Crimea on the Black Sea. What kind of military will NATO need to credibly defend against such adventurism and what does America need to contribute to this defense? How reasonable is it to design a US military first and foremost to deal with these types of aggression against our allies? Trump is right in openly questioning how much of the burden we should carry in the defense of territory far outside of our borders.

The hard question behind this is to what extent we can rely on the deterrent of an effective threat of nuclear retaliation against a conventional attack. The Russians are, logistically and in terms of conventional forces, much better positioned to prevail in clash around the Baltics than NATO is. Will they speculate that the USA will not risk a full out nuclear war if they force their way to the Baltic with conventional forces? And, if that is the hypothesis, does that justify the current composition of the American military forces and the further build-up that is now proposed by Trump and congressional hawks? Aren’t we much better off equipping our European allies to defend their own territory with weaponry and technology that would be strong enough to deter the Russians from any further expansionary adventures?

The same questions and answers apply to South-East Asia and China’s approach in the South China Sea.

Ultimately, our decision makers ought to go by the premise that our military might is of no use, a very expensive redundancy, unless it can be directed against the primary, existential, threats against our national security. And I would argue that in our world of today there are three such existential threats that loom far ahead of Russian or Chinese aggression. All three are hard to predict, hard to control and hard to defend against:
1.       Terrorist use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons
2.       Cyber-attacks against our communications systems and infrastructure
3.       Self-defeat of our democracy
If these are the most severe (and likely) threats against our national security, we have to come to the uncomfortable conclusion that the asset allocation in our military, as a core component of our national security infrastructure, is hopelessly out of alignment. At its core, it is built for intervention and retaliation rather than prevention. All the hardware in the world and all the ground troops do nothing to prevent any of these three existential threats from haunting us. And our defense fails if we failonly onceto preempt or intercept an attack in either one of these three threat categories. The weapons we need most in the fight against existential threats are intelligence, technology and uncompromising value systems.

America is paying a price for its success in building the richest, most advanced and powerful nation of all ages. In the process, it has become the target of global envy, hatred and sabotage. And, paradoxically, the more advanced our infrastructure and systems have become, the more vulnerable we have become as a society. I call this the ‘wealth paradox’: the wealthier a nation becomes, the more vulnerable it becomes to destruction. Just think about the havoc that would be created if, as a result of a coordinated cyber-attack or the deployment of strategically placed 'dirty bombs', our communications systems would be rendered inoperative. Ever seen a lame duck? America without power, data access, internet access, account access, traffic control would not be a powerhouse for long.

There is also a ‘weaponry paradox’: the more destructive weapons become, the less deployable they will prove to be. Nuclear weapons provide no preventive or preemptive power against either of the three existential threats America is now faced with. Our existing military serves one primary purpose: to keep our adversaries from attacking the United States or its allies with military means (like Japan did at Pearl Harbor). Given our capacity to retaliate with exponential force, that scenario, an offensive strike by an adversarial nation, has become less and less plausible. But, if our communications systems go down, will we know who launched the cyber-attack and are we going to retaliate with our existing weaponry arsenal, including nuclear weapons?

The third existential threat may be the most serious of them all. Will we be looking in the mirror before too long and exclaim: ‘I have seen the enemy; it is us’? Half the nation seems to be thinking that way already. That is how divided we have become. The Trump ascendency to the throne, that gave us the confirmation hearings in the Senate, is likely to only exacerbate the division to the point that it could easily become a threat to democracy and our republican system. The weapons we need to deploy against this threat are not military at all. The best defense here is, as so often, offense. Offense against inequality and discrimination. Offense against abuse of power, crime, corruption, greed and avarice. The richer a society becomes the better equipped it is to become a ‘just society’. America has yet to live up to that potential and the longer it delays the more imperiled it becomes. America today is much like Mr. Scrooge from Dickens’ Christmas Carol, before he became chastened by the appearances of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come.

To fend off the existential threats against its national security, America would be well advised to rethink and reorganize the means of defense it needs to deploy and to fund that defense by a matching budget reallocation. Will the new administration and the Congress be up to the task?