The possibility of war

I remember being scared as a child about the possibility of nuclear war. We had drills in elementary school, hiding under our desks when a siren blew, and I remember when people were building fallout shelters and stocking them with canned goods. I also remember the Cuban missile crisis, when the possibility of a nuclear exchange was suddenly very real.  (My father, a military officer, told my family that he may have to “deploy.”)

Since then things have calmed down a bit, but I fear that they’re worsening. You might be aware that a few days ago The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the “Doomsday Clock” a half minute closer to “midnight” (nuclear Armageddon and the end of humanity), so that it’s now 2½ minutes until midnight. That’s only 30 seconds farther away than its closest point: 2 minutes until midnight in 1953, when both the US and the Soviet Union tested H-bombs. As CNN noted:

The group cited US President Donald Trump’s “disturbing comments” about the use of nuclear weapons and views on climate change among other factors, including cyberthreats and the rise in nationalism, that have contributed to the darkened forecast.

“The board’s decision to move the clock less than a full minute reflects a simple reality: As this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the US president only a matter of days,” the organization said in a statement.

The emblematic clock had remained at three minutes to midnight for the past two years.

In a statement released earlier this week, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said it was taking a number of recent developments into account.

“A rise in strident nationalism worldwide, President Donald Trump’s comments on nuclear arms and climate issues, a darkening global security landscape that is colored by increasingly sophisticated technology, and a growing disregard for scientific expertise,” were among them, it said.

Now that Trump is President, I’m worried about two potential conflagrations that could lead to war. The first is with Iran, as I think some of Trump’s people are spoiling for a war with Iran, and the saber-rattling we’ve seen in the last two weeks is unsettling. Such a war could potentially bring in Russia on the side of Iran, as they are strategic partners and Russia has supplied a missile defense system to Iran.

The other possibility is a flat-out war with Russia. That’s the possibility discussed by Tom Nichols, a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S.’s Naval War college, in the video below. Nichols is a conservative, and no fan of Obama, but he’s not a fan of Trump, either. (He’s also an undefeated five-time Jeopardy champion.) If you click on the screenshot below, you’ll go to a three-part interview with him on various topics, including why Americans distrust the media. The most interesting part was the third (click on “Part 3” at lower left of the site you reach by clicking on the screenshot): a five-minute discussion on what Russia may do with Trump at the helm.

Nichols thinks that because Putin isn’t all that savvy, but is bellicose, and because Trump has repeatedly denigrated NATO, Putin may test NATO by “pushing” at member countries like Poland or Estonia. Since we and other countries in the alliance are sworn by treaty to defend NATO countries that are attacked, that could lead to war. And Nichols, who is no slouch, is worried that that possibility could escalate naturally into nuclear war: as he says, that could either “shake apart” NATO (see Jeff Tayler’s piece in Foreign Policy on how NATO would bridle at a full-fledged response to a Russian attack on a small country), or, worse, escalate into a third world war.

Regarding the nuclear threat,  Nichols notes that “The Russians have said that if they get into a jam they can’t get out of with conventional weapons, they reserve the right to use nuclear weapons to ‘de-escalate’ the situation—shock everybody into their senses. So yeah, nuclear weapons will come into play I think a lot sooner than they should, and it’s a very unsettling possibility. ”


If you want to see what a war with the Soviet Union would be like if it erupted over Iran, watch this chilling two-hour BBC docudrama, “Threads,” depicting a nuclear attack on Britain in 1984. If it doesn’t shake you, you’re made of stone.


h/t: Grania


  1. GBJames
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Scary stuff.

  2. Stephen Knoll
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    don’t forget China & the South China Sea or North Korea whose leader gives Trump a run for his money on the loose cannon scale

    • Aelfric
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      I tend to agree; I think those behind the throne tend to be spoiling for war with Iran and China, and not necessarily in that order.

      • Cindy
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink


        China wants Taiwan.

        Their economy is also weakening, and that could lead to trouble down the road.

        • eric
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

          Yes, that could be another flash point. Similar to Putin-Eastern Europe, the Chinese might decide Trump will have a weak response if they militarily take over Taiwan, leading to war. I’d qualitatively rate nuke use in that case as higher probability than them being used in the Russia scenario, but lower than use against Iran.

      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        “Bannon, a former U.S. Navy officer in the Pacific, can be heard discussing the South China Sea on his radio show in March 2016 — months before he officially was elevated to the top of Trump’s campaign.”

    • Posted February 7, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I’m worried about the petulant child with a pompadour having nuclear weapons. I’m also worried about Kim Jong Un.

  3. Cindy
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I am confused about Russia.

    The media has been saying for months that Trump is Putin’s puppet. That Putin literally hacked voting machines and paper ballots to get Trump elected.

    So much conflicting info from the media. I don’t know what to believe anymore.

    • busterggi
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Donald is a puppet for Putin but Vlad never realized how tangled up his strings are.

    • jwthomas
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Believe nothing and you can’t go wrong.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      There is no evidence of hacking (though a few monitors reported some oddly skewed local results). But as I understand it there is strong evidence that Russian operatives did feed various nutty rumors about Hillary into social media to get the Twittersphere all hyped up. I think too that there was fake news about Hillary that was also started by individuals in this country, so it is hard to assess how much Russia really affected the outcome. There are too many variables.

      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        So instead of a knowledgeable, politically savvy, strong woman (despite what some think of her), we ended up with a know-nothing pussy-grabbing, blustering male who talks in sound bites and tweets.

        And, now Bill O’Reilly of Fox News called Putin a “killer” on his show with Der Drumpf yesterday, and the Russians want an apology.

        Lots of us have not forgotten our fear of the coming end of the world by nuclear bombs: the bomb shelters, the hiding under school desks covering our necks to protect them from flying glass, the survivalists stockpiling at homes or cabins in the woods, the Cuban missile crisis, the awareness that there could be no escape for you and your family by any method if you lived in a city as large as Los Angeles. And the children of that age are now elderly and unlikely to be able to protect ourselves. Most of us citizens of a certain age know more than we’d like about that fear, and the continuing adverse impact of bomb testing over 60 years ago on the Marshall Islands, Nevada and elsewhere. Our soldiers involved in those tests and the Marshall Islanders, if they haven’t already died, are still suffering radiation related illnesses and the land is still poisoned (if it wasn’t blown out of existence). We have not kept our promises to care properly for either our soldiers or the Marshall Islanders as we should have. Remember the shocking nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the devastation wrought on the people and city. Go to the museum in Hiroshima. Talk with a survivor. Read books and study the history of our use of nuclear weapons. We must do whatever we can to prevent nuclear war again.

        • rickflick
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          Putin as “killer” undoubtedly refers to his habit of assassinating critics in Russia. Just now there is a dissident leader in a Russian hospital trying to survive a second attempt to kill him via poisoning.

        • Jay
          Posted February 7, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          Obama was a terrible negotiator with Iran (as he gave away everything, including hundreds of millions in secret payments– secret until he got caught). They were completely unafraid of him, and now are pumping that money into regional terrorism.

          I don’t see Hillary as any better.

          What is needed is someone who can cut a deal while protecting his side’s interests.

    • somer
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      Trump has one good cabinet appointee, The Defence Secretary, General J. Mattis who is firm for NATO and against Russia but also a hawk on Iran (which is an ally of Russia and in 2015 got an advanced missile defence system from Russia). Otherwise Trump is pro Russia and has economic interests in Russia. Bannon is a religious nutter, ex navy who thinks the Christian West needs to have a showdown with forces ranged against it externally and internally: Russia, China, the whole Islamic world, liberalism. He is useful to Trump who balances him against a Republican machine man.

      From his statements and articles about him it seems to me Trump is more interested in looking powerful that actual outcomes, which is dangerous, and he absolutely does not believe in building up or supporting global understandings, institutions and norms of common interest that encourage stability. Hence Bolton, Bannon etc. He’s a social darwinist who thinks he can solve everything on bilateral “deals” where the US uses its supposed overwhelming global economic might to encourage a good outcome. In contradiction to this Trump can’t resist tough talking about US military capabilities – apparently he’s a great admirer of Kissinger and believes in Detente with a relevant great power probably whilst demonstrating devastating military strength periodically on smaller fry who step out of line – also as an indicator of willingness to act. Plus he has expressed admiration of dictators for quite a few decades now. He thinks he can combine this with an economic focus as he sees it and his own haphazard sense of “he deal”.

      Trump does a lot of tough talk on beefing up the nuclear arsenal (it has just been modernised so more powerful under Obama), and Mattis and other serious military people think if anything it should be slightly slimmed in components or numbers of missiles. Add to that his short attention span, disrespect for experts and for governmental process …

      And we know just recently Trump has responded on Friendly Fox to comment on Putins penchant for political assassination “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
      Mr Trump said he respected President Putin and would prefer to “get along with him”. He says Putin will help quash “Islamic terrorism” except that Iran, Syria and Russia first fuelled Sunni terrorism to smash the back of the democracy movement challenge to Assad, to set Sunnis at each others throats, threaten Saudi (via backing Houthis in Yemen, not that Im condoning Saudi bombing) and snatch territory in Iraq and elsewhere.

  4. Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    99.9999% of the World Population doesn’t want anything to do with Nuclear war, or any war really, but the .0001% who have the control over those weapons are seriously considering using them, because political BS. Literally squabbling and posturing over imaginary lines. That’s never a good ratio. At least cities that have a Trump hotel can be assured that they won’t get hit by American nukes.

    I’ve never seen Krauss look so grim.

  5. Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I thought that might get a mention, especially given Bannon’s comments that came to light a few days ago, the comments by US ambassador to Japan yesterday, and the increasing war of words.
    China is obviously going to have a major role in the dynamic of any potential war the US may get involved in.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink


    • dallos
      Posted February 7, 2017 at 1:34 am | Permalink

      “Filmed over two years in the Marshall Islands, Japan, Korea, China and the United States, The Coming War on China reveals a build-up to war on the doorstep of China. More than 400 US military bases now encircle China in what one strategist calls “a perfect noose”.

      Bringing together rare archive and powerful interviews, Pilger reveals America’s secret history in the region – the destruction of much of life in the Marshall Islands, once a Pacific paradise, by the explosion of the equivalent of one Hiroshima every day for 12 years, and the top secret ‘Project 4.1’ that made nuclear guinea pigs of the population.”

      It doesn’t seem to me that the only problem is Trump.

  6. Greg Geisler
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Your fears are not unfounded. Here are a couple recent articles that won’t make you feel any better:

    Former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Arguably the most knowledgeable person on proliferation:

    And this piece by Eric Schlosser in the New Yorker:

  7. eric
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Nichols thinks that because Putin isn’t all that savvy, but is bellicose, and because Trump has repeatedly denigrated NATO, Putin may test NATO by “pushing” at member countries like Poland or Estonia

    I could definitely see Russian incursions into Eastern Europe. I suspect, however, that the outcome “NATO shown to be ineffective” is a much more probable outcome than “NATO gets into a drawn-out conventional ground war stalemate with Russia,” and that both of those are far more likely than “NATO forces get into conventional ground war with Russia, starts winning, Russia nukes them.”

    I am much more worried about Bannon and Trump deciding to nuke Iran as an alternative to fighting a war with them, and things escalating even more from there.

    In terms of doomsday clock, I have my own; I’m going to watch for a cascade of sudden resignations among our top military personnel. That, IMO, would be an indication that Trump has ordered DOD to do something incredibly foolish.

  8. Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I have the same fears, and will definitely check out the links to get a bit more expert insight on it.

    The situation with Iran is escalating very quickly given Trump’s campaign rhetoric and verbal trashing of the U.N. Iran deal, Obama’s weakness, etc. Couple that with the horribly implemented attempt at shutting immigration down and Iran’s recent missile testing, and I see this as a potentially imminent problem.

    Russia is more of a wild card. I have thought about them potentially trying to flex some muscle in Europe just to see if Trump is serious about his anti-NATO claims. I can equally see Trump and Putin joining forces, certainly against ISIS, but at this point I don’t think we can put anything past Trump, including siding with Putin again European allies.

  9. Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    We had drills in elementary school, hiding under our desks when a siren blew

    I never understood the reasoning behind these drills. In what scenario did the powers-that-be think that hiding under a flimsy desk would be effective in escaping nuclear bombs (or for that matter, regular bombs)?

    • David Duncan
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      If the detonation is far enough away hiding under desks may protect from falling items such as masonry and light fittings.

      A friend who grew up in Omaha (the Soviets second highest priority target after Washington DC,) recalls the drills at school and her fear. (SAC HQ was just out of town.)

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        I grew up not far from Offut AFB and you could be right (years ago) but really, what difference does it make where you are on that priority list. SAC no longer exist and the missiles are not, nor were they ever located at Offutt. It is very likely you would be best blown to bits right in the beginning of a nuclear war. I would say her fears were…fear itself.

        • Mary Sheumaker
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          Growing up in Omaha, I always found it comforting to think that we would be completely blown up right away because of Offut AFB.

          • colnago80
            Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

            Nikita Khrushchev: After a nuclear war, the living will envy the dead.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

              There you go. That Nikita was a shifty guy.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

              I maintain that Khrushchev was the hero of the Cuban Missile Crises. He was man enough to back down & probably saved us all from a terrible existence, or in my case, never being born (which would have been good given that the world had gone to shit anyway).

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

                The Rooskies didn’t see it that way, since they deposed him a year later, while he was on holiday in the Caucasus.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 6, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

                Which makes him an even bigger hero in my eyes because he probably knew that’s what they’d think of him. You know, showing weakness to the evil capitalists and all.

      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        It was more a propaganda exercise than teaching practical measures for surviving a nuclear holocaust.

        The idea was to scare you shitless so you’d think you needed nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

        • Posted February 6, 2017 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

          A member of my family married a Russian women and, as a result, semi-regular contact with the Russian community has really hit home that there was as much propaganda on one side of the fence as the other.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Probably it was more of a “Let’s be seen doing something” kind of thing. Like the TSA 😀

    • busterggi
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Hey there, we had damned good solid desks back then, in fact I still have mine (really).

      The only weakness was the inkwell.

    • Kevin
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Ignorance and fear. The whole exercise must have felt tremendously scary.

      On a lighter, positive note, that generation who had to endure such drills, is probably angry they had to go through such abuse at young age and would much rather do without nuclear weapons.

      • busterggi
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        But then we wouldn’t have Godzilla so its not all bad.

      • busterggi
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        But then we wouldn’t have Godzilla so its not all bad.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        “Ignorance and fear” — wasn’t that Trump’s campaign slogan?

        Shoulda been.

    • eric
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      In addition to Dave Duncan’s point, there was probably some value in training the kids to respond very quickly and do what the teacher said in an emergency. Once you’ve got them listening, you can use that for bomb threats, earthquakes, shooters, gas release, etc..

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Trump makes lots of people want to hide under their desks.

      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        It’s Putin that makes me want it, Trump just enables it.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          Those of us who have to live with Trump’s toxic fallout in country wish we had hazmat suits.

          • Posted February 7, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            I’d recommend putting protective goggles when watching a Trump speech.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Of course, for anybody in the blast radius, it’s entirely moot.

      But nuclear bombs have very wide-ranging effects, with most of the footprint escaping immediate destruction. That’s not to imply that the area that’s immediately destroyed is small; just to note that, huge as it is, it’s a small proportion of the total area affected.

      And in those not-immediately-destroyed areas, your chances of survival are much better if you prepare as for a tornado. You don’t want to be outside; but, inside, there’s a good chance the roof will fall on you. Under a doorway arch or a table (etc.), you’re more likely to survive the building’s imminent collapse.

      Even for those far enough away to be outside the shockwave, you don’t want to be looking at the detonation. There’s the immediate threat of blindness, and exposure to line-of-site radiation discharge. Inside, under a desk, your eyes are safe and you won’t be getting an instant sunburn.

      Of course…all this assumes that surviving the blast is a good thing. Those who do survive may well, and with good reason, envy those at ground zero. Even those well over the horizon may get inescapable deadly-within-hours radioactive fallout…and even those on the other side of the planet will have to contend with economic catastrophe that makes the Great Depression look like a picnic, at the very least.

      …not to mention that any “limited” exchange of nuclear weapons is all but guaranteed to devolve into global thermonuclear war in a matter of hours. That’s the design premise behind MAD and the modern nuclear treaty landscape.

      I make it a point to not worry about what comes after nuclear war, and not to worry about such a war itself. There’s no point, nothing constructive to be done. Do you worry about how to be the lone survivor of an airliner crash in the middle of nowhere? If so, you’ve missed the point.

      I’d like to think that there’re enough sane people between Drumpf and the ignition relays of our nuclear arsenal that no amount of determination on his part can destroy the world like that. Of course, that’s far too precarious a position for the world to be in…but I’m pretty sure everybody in the military has watched Dr. Strangelove and understands what it means and what’s at stake, and remember that they’ve sworn fealty not to the Resident but to the Constitution.



      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        I wish I could be like you and not worry. Yes, I totally worry about how to survive an airline crash and yes how to survive a nuclear holocaust. I woke up today worried about how to coach someone on Agile and now I’m worried about slow death from radiation and starvation.

      • David Duncan
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        During a “crisis” in about 1973 Nixon put US forces on a higher level of alert. I seem to remember reading in Time magazine that a bigwig (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?) in the US DoD sent out a circular reminding everyone that launching nuclear weapons required confirmation from others, it was not an action that the president could take unilaterally.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          My understanding is the nuclear launch code must be confirmed by the Secretary of Defense. The SecDef is limited to confirming the authenticity of the command to prevent an accidental launch. He has no authority to countermand the president’s decision or to second-guess its wisdom.

          • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

            He also has a duty to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to only obey legal orders.

            Most scenarios being tossed out for when Der Drumpfenfurher might open the Football would unambiguously be even more illegal and unconstitutional than the now-suspended immigration orders. Let’s not forget that only Congress can declare war — and if a nuclear first strike isn’t an act of war, what is!?

            Also, don’t forget: we’re all rank amateurs at this. The officers in command graduated with honors from their respective academies, where these sorts of things are often the focus of rigorous academic investigation. Everybody in the chain of command, with the likely exception of Señor Smallinpants himself, has put a lot of thought into all this — and a rash and unexpected order for a first strike or too-hasty escalation is the first scenario they’ve slept on. They all already know exactly what they’d do in such a case — and, whatever it is, the end result in their contingency planning is not a mushroom cloud.

            Mr. Tinyhands likely imagines he can get around such intransigence with a chorus of, “You’re fired!” But the guys from West Point et al. are as far past those opening moves as a grandmaster is beyond Ruy Lopez.



            • Ken Kukec
              Posted February 6, 2017 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

              Ain’t gonna be much time for debate, Trump starts punching in the code. If there’s one thing people in uniform respect, it’s the chain of command.

              Still, it gives me a bit of cold comfort to know that, should it comes down to it, it’s Mattis in the Pentagon and Flynn in the White House, rather than vice versa.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      The point was to make you afraid.

  10. Michael Morenko
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    All this gives the evangelicals yuge hard-ons. A war in the Middle East that eventually draws in Russia, NATO and, the U.S. has been the narrative that has fueled their Jesus’s returns/Apocalypse wet dreams that they’ve had for decades.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16)

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Threads scared the crap out of me when I watched it in the 80s. It was far more realistic than the American nuclear holocaust drama that came out at the same time.

    I thought I’d never have to worry about nuclear war again but here we are.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Been reading the wonderful essays of Lewis Thomas again lately. Back in the 70s, he was really worried about nuclear proliferation, even tho folks seem to have forgotten about it since them.

      The links Greg posted are absolutely chilling.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      The US film was The Day After. Not bad but a bit soapy.

      The Tories tried to put it on the Video Nasty list which shows how politicise that scare was.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Two hours of melodrama; six minutes of really big booms.

        • Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          There’s a great scene in The Americans (a series about Soviet agents living in the USA during the Reagan years) where the families of the spies and their CIA neighbour are watching The Day After which I found more moving than The Day After itself

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 6, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I remembered that from The Americans. That show makes me remember a lot of things from the 80s – especially the cars. Where did they get all those 70s/80s cars for the series? I was about the age of the spies’ son during the 80s.

            • eric
              Posted February 7, 2017 at 6:19 am | Permalink

              Hollywood film lots may be the undiscovered secret museums of the US. They keep a lot of old stuff from pretty much every (modern) era, just for use in historical movies and shows. As well as designs for the stuff they don’t have but want to remake.

              As long as you don’t mind that what’s under the hood/in the walkman/material of the clothing may not be all that authentic.

              Though I don’t know how much of their “stock” of old stuff may become a victim of the CGI revolution.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        I think British just do apocalypse better than anyone writing/creating film in the English language. For some reason, they have a real knack for it.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

          Might have something to do with living in “Airstrip One.”

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 6, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink


        • stuartcoyle
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          They remember the blitz.

      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

        An early work by the director of Star Trek II – The Wrath of Kahn, slso featuring Bibi Besch.

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      There was a black-and-white movie, The War Game, made in 1967 and showing the aftermath of a Soviet nuclear attack on England. Produced by the BBC and British Film Institute for television, but never shown on TV (“deemed too incendiary for home audiences”, says Maltin’s Movie Guide), released instead as a movie. Earned a Best Documentary Academy Award. I remember seeing it as an undergraduate student. The NZ censors rated it “R-18” (no admission to persons under 18), a rating usually reserved for movies with heavy (for the times) sexual content. Definitely scary, even deep down in the Southern Hemisphere.

      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Directed by Peter Watkins.

        It’s out on Blu-ray in a double disc set with the same director’s Culloden.

  12. TJR
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    A few weeks ago I suggested that 20 years from now we would be watching one of the BBC documentaries “Vladimir Putin: A Warning from History” or “Donald Trump: A Warning from History”.

    Someone at the BBC evidently had the same thought as the series I was referring to “The Nazis: A Warning from History” is being repeated on BBC4 now. Its excellent and chilling, very much in the style of “The World at War”.

    One bit that always stuck with me was an old white-haired German gentleman saying how Hitler looked at him, and that he saw the beautiful side of Hitler, and nobody can take that away from him.

    One of the best examples I’ve ever seen that some people really do believe in their charismatic leaders, no matter how insane.

    As a recent Nick Cohen article put it, the problem isn’t compulsive liars, the problem is compulsive believers.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Oh yes, people will tell you the same about Putin or L Ron Hubbard. Charm is real. For me, I find the older I get, the faster charisma wears off when I meet people.

      • TJR
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        “I never trust anybody who puts so much effort into his effortless charm”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink


    • Charles Phillips
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      “The Nazis: A Warning from History” was a fantastic series – it is repeated from time to time and never loses its impact.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        Last time I saw it I was struck by the number of parallels between Hitler and Trump. It’s not something I like to mention because comparing anyone to Hitler is lazy, especially because most people don’t really know the actual history, but there are several things that are very, very similar.

        • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

          I am struck more by parallels between Hitler and Putin.

          “In both cases, you’ve got a kinda-elected dictator who has successfully stoked powerful ethno-nationalism to remain popular, while bringing the economy back from the dead after a huge national defeat, and focusing attention on the fate of your co-nationals who have been cruelly left outside your borders by the last war.

          To fix that, you employ diplomacy, espionage, military power, threats, intimidation, and by far your best weapon is the unwillingness of your (actually far more powerful) adversaries to confront you in any sort of serious way. They fear conflict; you do not.”

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            As far as justification for war goes, I would agree with you. Hitler/Putin are close parallels.

            What I noticed was the way Hitler manipulated people, events, went about building support etc. Those things are all very similar to Trump. Hitler was even going to “make Germany great again.”

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Sadly, so does nazism or at least totalitarianism.

      • MorsGotha
        Posted February 7, 2017 at 3:01 am | Permalink

        Funny you should mention that. Its currently being repeated on the BBC, the first episode is available on iPlayer.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      We’re certainly in the “gathering storm” mode now.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Yup. Been thinking that for quite a while now.

  13. Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Speculations about the relationship between Trump and Putin are confusing.

    On the one hand, old footage shows Trump holding Putin in high regard and as having business ties to Russia. The Clinton campaign especially has accused the Russians of having their shadow hands in the election, citing good ties between Trump and Putin. They are even jokingly described as Trumputin as if they were a Hollywood celebrity couple.

    On the other hand, it is claimed that Trump and Putin were in conflict and we are in high danger. Though Trump is instable, dangerous and terrible for the USA, there also has been much hyperbole and exaggeration, as if reality wasn’t troubling enough. This makes it difficult to assess properly what the situation is.

    It looks like Putin and Trump go well together. Trump benefits from business ties to Russia, and his rhetoric of downplaying NATO soothes the Russian soul. Trump also fits the stereotype of a Russian oligarch, who likes to show his riches in gold, fur and kitsch. I think they get along just fine.

    In addition, “[t]he largest shipment of US brigades since the fall of the Soviet Union is arriving in northern Germany” (BBC) happened this January, just before Trump took over. And the Anti-Putin sentiment appears to be a theme on the Democrats side, who also accused the Russians of rigging the election.

    To me it looks like Trump is selling American influence, a currency hard to track, for personal gain and for the benefits of various billionaires and oligarchs, with Putin as a partner who has similar interests. Putin has to manage his hawks, too, but I don’t think he’s interested in doing something stupid.

  14. David Duncan
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    “You might be aware that a few days ago The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the “Doomsday Clock” a half minute closer to “midnight” (nuclear Armageddon and the end of humanity), so that it’s now 2½ minutes until midnight. That’s only 30 seconds farther away than its closest point: 2 minutes until midnight in 1953…”

    This defies credibility. Haven’t the people at BAS heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, where two out of three officers on a Soviet submarine agreed to launch a nuclear weapon at a US Navy ship that was depth charging them? A third officer, whose consent was also required, vetoed the attack.

    Many other incidents then could have led to nuclear war. In the early Eighties the Soviet leadership became convinced that NATO was contemplating a first strike, and several false indications could have lead to the USSR “responding” to non-existant US attacks:

    If BAS and Krauss think that the world is now closer to holocaust than during the above incidents then they have destroyed their credibility.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      They are looking at the general situation; those people obviously can’t be aware of incidents like the ones above that haven’t yet occurred. Your claim that they’ve “destroyed their credibility” seems grossly exaggerated.

      • David Duncan
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Sorry, but I disagree.

        I remember the palpable fear in Europe in the early Eighties about nuclear war, and how the Soviets nearly persuaded Europe to disarm, while they themselves continued to modernise their weapons. Fortunately Reagan and Gorbachev came to some sensible strategic arms agreements that reduced the threat.

        Krauss and the BAS know, or should know, about all these near misses. I’d ask them, and anyone else, if they would rather be living their lives now or during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

          One of the things the BAS says makes it worse now is Climate Change, which was known about back then but wasn’t seen the same.

          The BAS also talks about a rise in nationalism worldwide, and they’re right. It’s not just the US that has an extreme nationalist leader. Europe has dozens of similar movements. Trump is the worst because he has the most power, but he’s far from being the only one.

          And when Trump relies for advice on someone like Bannon, who believes the world order goes through a minor apocalypse every 80 years or so (the last was WWII), and this is part of God’s design, it’s extremely concerning.

          There is a dismantling of the world order that has prevailed since 1945, and we don’t want Trump, Bannon, Putin, and Kim, along with China and Iran deciding what happens next.

          The next big battle between the opposing forces will be the French election. Basically it’s eventually going to end in a run off between Marine LePen’s ultra-nationalists and those who believe in European cooperation. At the moment it looks like the European fans will win, but no one believed Trump could win either. Still, at least the electoral college can’t screw up France.

          • Cindy
            Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

            From what I understand, Chinese nationalism has only been growing…

            And lest we forget, China is still illegally occupying Tibet. I think that estimates are that there are over one million dead Tibetans thx to China’s war of conquest…

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

              Yep. The Chinese government consciously promotes nationalism. It’s government policy. They do all sorts of things like sponsor television documentaries that extol China’s history and heritage. Of course, there’s a lot to be proud of. The bad stuff just doesn’t get mentioned.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 6, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                They don’t say too many good things about the US either. My dad’s friend is married to a Chinese woman and when her parents visit they are full of misinformation but the refuse to watch anything but Chinese TV via satellite.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          Maybe that’s why it’s never been more than 17 minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock.

          The world’s never been short on reasons for concern over nuclear war.

      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        To be honest, I’m far more concerned with the more likely climate change disaster than nuclear war.

  15. Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering where a reasonably safe place might be … since I’m retiring in a couple of months. Have to make plans to gather my children and head for the hills.

    Never thought I’d have to worry about nuclear Armageddon again but hey .. we live in interesting times.

    • David Duncan
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      In “The Day After” the Yukon and Tahiti were suggested.

      Unlike BAS, I think the risk is much less nowadays than thirty years ago, when the US had over 1000 ICBMs and quite a few submarine launched missiles with multiple warheads that encouraged a “use ’em or lose ’em” approach. Now many ICBM silos have been imploded on both sides and the US decomissioned the Peacekeaper, a 10 warhead ICBM that, like the submarine launched Trident II, were counterforce weapons with extreme accuracy.

      I would not want to live downwind of F. E. Warren, Malmstrom or Minot, but North America is much safer now than in the Cold War.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      There aren’t any safe places.

      Nuclear war, even the limited kind, will, to use a Drumpfism, “totally destroy” the global economy. Trade, investment, supply lines…everyting will all come screeching to an halt. And if you think we’ve got refugee crises now, you’ve seen nothing.

      …because those supply lines include both fuel (gas / diesel) and food production. Next time you’re at the grocery store, take note of how much of your food comes from farther away than you could hike with it before it spoils. Without refrigeration, of course.

      All in all, think of the Great Depression coupled with the Dust Bowl. One single bomb would probably have about that much impact on the global and affected regional economies. Each additional bomb would add on proportionately. There’re tens of thousands of bombs that could be detonated, with odds overwhelming that it’d either be fewer than enough bombs to count on one hand or all of them that that get set off, with no middle ground.

      Those with “man in the mountain” fantasies of how they’ll be okay because they’ll live off the land? Fearful idiots. Even if they’ve stockpiled enough of whatever they think they need to be self-sufficient, they’ll not have any chance against the millions of starving people in the cities spreading out everywhere looking for something to eat. Damn few of their spiritual forebears had much luck making it through the Great Depression, and those who did lived today’s stereotypical lives of poverty and misery. And thinking that you’re the last chosen one who’ll somehow escape it all is even more idiotic in the extreme, bordering on something deserving of professional mental health services.

      Nuclear war is unthinkable in a very literal sense, in two key ways. First, in that it’s so bad that you don’t even want to pretend to seriously contemplate it as a reasonable solution to whatever your perceived problems might be. And, second, in that there’s no point in thinking much about the aftermath, because the aftermath is indistinguishable from the afterlife.



      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        perhaps … but preparing for it gives me something positive to do in the face of all the failures to prevent its occurrence.

        • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          There’s far more that you can do to make the world a better place that waste your time trying to figure out how to live in Hell after you’ve survived Armageddon.

          You can make music, plant a garden, learn more about the Universe and spread that knowledge, help heal today’s sick and wounded, participate in sports, be productive in a not-totally-worthless job, and so much more.

          If The Button gets pressed, life for everybody becomes nasty, brutish, and short. If a bomb goes off on the airliner, everybody on board dies a painful and frightening death. If a drunk runs the red light, you’ll be trapped in the car until you burn to death.

          Unless you’re in a position to prevent The Button from being pressed or bombs from getting on the airliner or drunks from driving, there’s really, truly, nothing further you need to know, nothing else constructive for you to do.

          If you’re truly passionate about it, become one of those whose job it is to prevent such tragedies. Otherwise…

          …well, put it this way. Do you worry about all the other endless things that could wreak havoc on your life? Do you panic at the thought of all the sober-but-texting drivers on the road, worry that maybe some disgruntled worker poisoned your Tylenol, contemplate the relative likelihood of dying from radiation poisoning from a medical X-ray or whatever you’re being screened for?

          No. Life’s too short to waste on such nonsense. Worry instead about what you’re going to have for lunch — would you rather eat the leftover meatloaf as is, or turn it into a meatloaf sandwich?



          • Nancy
            Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

            Thank you Ben – This thread is freaking me out. I’ve been sick the last few days and all I’m doing is surfing the net. Thanks for calming me down a little. Well, your post and some xanax calmed me down. I’m going to listen Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass now……….and just breathe.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Basically it’s like The Road plus radiation sickness.

    • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      One rule of thumb is to make sure you are south of the equator. All the trouble spots are in the north, and everything at those latitudes will get fallout. Atmospheric mixing between the north and south temperate zones is very slow, so fallout will be much less on the south side of the globe.

      • Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        That didn’t help Gregory Peck in On the Beach

        It’s fifty-fifty whether the last message from the USA will be a coke bottle tapping on a telegraph machine or a deranged pumpkin Twatting his final threats at the Lizard Peopke.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Might wanna try the Antipodes.

      That’s where Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner hung out on the sub awaiting their fate in On the Beach.

      And in “Political Science,” Randy Newman promised:

      We’ll save Australia
      Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
      We’ll build an All-American amusement park there
      They got surfin’, too!

  16. Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  17. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Whenever stupid people, who are in charge, say stupid things, it should make everyone uneasy. Trump as president is just a very scary thing, even without going into the geo-political discussions concerning other countries.

    Two things I got from the conversation with Nichols – Don’t vote on facts, which is something the media and the internet and TV seem to think is the way to settle things. It is the same reasoning that tells the creationists to teach to kids both and let them decide. The other is this “unearned self-esteem that seems to be the trend. A few checks on the internet and I can be an expert with an opinion on just about anything. Or I heard it said 50 times so I know it is true. Not many, at least on this site, pretend to be Jerry Coyne on evolution but many become experts on history and politics and many other subjects of interest. Having an opinion is fine, but lets not let a little knowledge go to the head.

    There are many experts involved in determining the movement of the dial on the doomsday clock so I am just likely to go with what they do than John Doe on the internet. As said in the post, if they are concerned, we should be concerned.

  18. Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Emerson wrote, “though no checks to a new evil appear, the checks exist, and will appear.”

    I like to think the ACLU, WA and MN are but the first of those checks and that Donald Trump will be prevented from committing the heinous acts of which we know he is capable.

  19. skiptic
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Why is climate change listed as a threat in the same category as nuclear war by the Atomic Scientists? Is there evidence that the outcome of global warming will actually be as catastrophic as global-scale nuclear war? Sorry, but I just don’t see it.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I would think global warming is far more likely than nuclear war. The military, in fact looks at global warming and weather conditions and does planning based on these things. It is very much an igniter of war – fights over water is considered very likely in our future.

    • barn owl
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Read Christian Parenti’s Tropic of Chaos (or any number of similar books now available), and the geopolitical threats derived from climate change might be more apparent.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      What Randall said. Climate Change is actually more dangerous because so many in the US in particular (because of the Republicans) don’t realize what’s coming.

      For example, literally billions rely on the summer meltwater from the Himalayas to survive. There are more and more people in the region all the time and less meltwater. Battles over water are coming.

      I can’t remember the exact figures, but something like 70% of the fruit and vegetables consumed in the US come from California. They rely on the water from the mountains to their west, which have less snow every year. Yet the GOP mocks water conservation efforts in the state.

      The deserts of central and northern Africa are growing by millions of hectares a year. Battles over water are looming there too.

      Even in NZ, which has plenty of water and which exports well over 90% of the food it produces, there are passionate arguments over water rights. Climate Change has meant more and more areas facing drought conditions each summer and left some farmers struggling.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        That’s because they live near Canada and they figure they’ll just force us to give our water or occupy us. It’s a common fear among Canadians TV dramas have even been made about it.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          Interesting. I didn’t know that.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

          You should be so lucky that all we do is take your water.

          In David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest (1996), the Organization of North American Nations (ONAN) creates the “Great Concavity” in southeastern Canada, into which our hazardous waste is daily launched by catapult.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 6, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

            Well that will get us back for sending our garbage over the border by truck.

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      I’d suggest that the answer to this is to realize that the temperature on the surface of Venus is sufficient to melt just about any of of our common metals, and also to realize just why this is so.

  20. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    If you can find it, watch the mini series “On The Beach” based on the book by the same name. The poor author of the book went mad in fear of nuclear war.

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Nevil Shute (Norway, to give him his full name), the author of “On the Beach”, died of a stroke suffered at home while writing another novel.

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Agreed on the two sources of concern.

    Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn (who himself demonstrates the usual indicia of right-wing paranoia — including Antisemitism, a predilection for conspiracy theories, and bellicose religiosity) has issued his amorphous, half-baked warning to Iran that it is “on notice.” The Iranians are unlikely to back down, especially since they are not in violation of their treaty obligations. And Trump, with his fragile ego, will not be able to stand still for criticism that he’s hypocritically failed to enforce his own “red line.” We could soon be (to mix equestrian and chess metaphors) off to the races with no endgame in sight.

    As to Russia — WTF is up with Trump and Vladimir Putin? I originally dismissed the pee-tape allegations out-of-hand (except as to their rich vein of humor); I still do. But it’s become increasingly apparent that Putin has some form of kompromat on Trump, who apparently will not criticize Vlad under any circumstances.

    When Trump refused to release his tax returns based on the unsubstantiated and bogus basis that they were under audit — how would release of the returns prejudice Trump in his audit anyway? — I assumed there were four possible reasons. The returns might show: 1) that he had paid no federal income taxes; 2) that contrary his his contentions, his charitable contributions had been meager; 3) that he wasn’t nearly as rich as he claimed; or 4) that he had substantial financial ties to Russian oligarchs. Given that, in light of investigative reporting done during the campaign, the first two are all but given, that leaves 3 and 4. Number three seems less plausible, since Trump could bullshit his way around a tax return and still claim to be super-rich, making reason #4 the likely suspect.

    That, and concerns over the ongoing federal investigation of the Trump camp (especially former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Gen. Flynn) for coordinating the “election hack” with Russia, seem the most likely reasons for Trump’s Russian reticence. The danger is that Trump will be so slow to confront Putin (who has grown increasingly bold as to the Ukraine and Baltics), that when confrontation finally comes, as even it must, it will take deadly form.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      I’ve often thought #4 was the most substantial reason. How could he avoid doing business with Russian oligarchs if he is doing international business? There is a sordid link here I suspect. If only wikileaks released THAT information!

      • dallos
        Posted February 7, 2017 at 2:09 am | Permalink

        “Readers will recall that in the run-up to the 1996 presidential election in Russia, opinion polls put the pro-western incumbent, Boris Yeltsin, in fifth place among the presidential candidates, with only 8% support. The same polls showed that the most popular candidate in Russia by a wide margin was the Communist Party’s Gennady Zyuganov. Moved to desperation by the numbers, well-connected Russian oligarchs suggested just cancelling the election and supporting a military takeover, rather than facing a defeat at the polls. Neocons in the West embraced the idea–all in the name of Democracy, of course. In the end, though, Yeltsin and the oligarchs decided to retain power by staging the election.”

      • somer
        Posted February 7, 2017 at 5:09 am | Permalink

        little Julian Assange fancies himself as a global political lynchpin holding the West to account and happy to be manipulated by Russia. Like Trump he’s paranoid and has a fragile ego and people around him think he’s the Messiah.

  22. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    The likely hood of nuclear accident is always a possibility, probably far greater than a full blown nuclear war. We have had many close calls with military weapons in the past 50 years and they have lots of documentation on this. B-52s that crashed with nuclear weapons or accidents at missile sites and so on. That is why eliminating as many as possible is the right thing to do. More weapons, more possibility of accidents. The military puts nuclear weapons on fighter aircraft, something that most people do not know. However, never has any fighter left the ground with Nuclear weapons on board. That is just not going to happen, unless we are in Nuclear War.

    • David Duncan
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Not only are more weapons bad in themselves, but the way they were deployed was scary.

      If I have a Peacekeeper with 10 * 400kt warheads then that is a serious threat to as many as 10 Soviet SS-18s, which might have as many as 100 warheads between them. Hence the temptation to launch-on-warning (“use ’em or lose ’em”). Now, with the Peacekeeper decomissioned and Minuteman IIIs carrying only one warhead each, the temptation to try a first strike is greatly reduced and the fear of a disarming first strike is less.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Not sure how you calculate all of that but the items you speak of are only the first strike or part of the first. The subs are also in there and then you have all the airplanes. If you can only blow up everything 10 times instead of 25 it is hard to call it reduced fear.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Also false alarms. We have had them recorded as late as 2010 & those are the ones that have been reported!!

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Yes, long ago in my military days we had a thing called Victor Alert (VA). We would do two days on, two off behind double wires with the planes ready to go. We would have drills every once in a while, probably to check if we were still there. We had to go fast as possible to the planes and that was the drill. We never even started the engines except special occasions but you always wondered. Otherwise you ate, played cards, watched free movies and escorted people in and out. Very boring work. But we had our own cook – that was the best part.

  23. Chris Barron
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    What worries me is Steve Bannon and his belief in The Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe. Time had a good article on this in the most recent issue.

    “…when Bannon began to argue that the current phase of history foreshadowed a massive new war…’well, look, you have the American revolution, and then you have the Civil War, which was bigger than the Revolution. And you have the Second World War, which is bigger than the Civil War…'”

    The article goes on to describe how Bannon is predicting a major “shooting” war in the Middle East, and maybe with China.

    Now he’s whispering in 45’s ear. It seems like Bannon considers himself some kind of modern day apocalyptic prophet, who happens to have the tools at hand to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    This all sounds very familiar… Oh yeah, ISIS basically wants the same thing.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Bannon is on record as fancying himself a modern, right-wing V.I. Lenin whose plan is to “destroy the state” and replace it with something else.

      With what else? An ethno-nationalist state that will, in conjunction with a reconstituted Russian Empire, rule hegemonically over the “lesser peoples” of the world is as good a guess as any.

  24. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I checked the records on the Doomsday clock, and was surprised to confirm that its closest-to-midnight setting was not during the Cuban missile crisis. In fact, it was not that ‘bad’ at that, the closest time we ever went to all out nuclear war.
    I think it is because the time-keepers were in their basements, scared sh*tless.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s because, in the early days of the cold war, once the Soviets had “the bomb” (especially the powerful thermonuclear H-bomb) an all-out nuclear war seemed all but inevitable.

      By 1962, there was at least a rudimentary understanding about how our two nations might go about avoiding a full-fledged nuclear conflagration. In the immediate aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this system because more formalized with measures such as a partial (atmospheric) nuclear test-ban treaty and installation of the so-called “hotline” between the Kremlin and White House.

  25. Pliny the in Between
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    There’s another equally scary scenario. We don’t like to think about it but a key component of American Democracy is that the military has always defended the Constitution. Civilian control over the military is a great concept that only works because the military consents to be governed. What happens if their leadership is confronted with a draconian choice – follow the volatile Donald or do the sensible thing. That sets up another kind of ‘Genie out of the bottle’ no win scenario.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Well since the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the National Security advisor have both been taken off Trump’s national security team (except on an as necessary basis), but Bannon has been added, I’m very concerned indeed.

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        With you there – makes me wish I’d followed through on a plan we had 15 years ago to emigrate to NZ but I read and watched ‘On the Beach’ too many times.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink


          I’m not sure anyone would bother with sending a nuke in our direction. Besides, too many of them want to come here to escape.

          In the last 8 years our population has increased massively by immigration. While most come in to fill skills shortages, there are a few who basically get in because they’re rich. A lot are from Asia, especially China, though there are plenty from the rest of the world as well. USians are well represented too.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted February 7, 2017 at 5:03 am | Permalink

            Back in 2000, after a hugely enjoyable month spent touring NZ, I spent a couple of years studying the immigration rules to see if I could find a way to join you there. Sadly, I did not have the requisite skills, a family member already there, or about £1m in cash (as I recall), so here I am, still in Scotland. I envy you your climate, which in the event of a nuclear war would probably be even more attractive. 🙂

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted February 7, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

              The rules and skills required change regularly. It’s worth checking again if you still want to come here. I’m sure you’d be an asset!

              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted February 8, 2017 at 3:55 am | Permalink

                I’ve even less money now, and pushing 70, so sadly no chance. I just gave myself a treat and listened to Hayley Westenra singing Pokarekare ana this morning. Why does that song always reduce me to tears?

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

                She’s got a particularly lovely and moving way of singing it.

                I’m sorry we won’t be adding you to our numbers. There should be a criteria like “good blokes” or something.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        I think it was the Director of National Intelligence who (along with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) had his status downgraded on the “Principals Committee” of the National Security Council.

        The National Security Adviser’s status remains the same.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

          Yep, you’re correct. I get all the names mixed up.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 6, 2017 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

            Figures. D.C. is famous for being awash in alphabet soup. 🙂

  26. bonetired
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    In 1978 General Sir John Hackett, a quite remarkable soldier and scholar (he was a visiting professor of Classics at, IIRC, UCL), wrote a “future history” where the Soviet Union attacked NATO and invaded Germany. They stalled due to dogged NATO defence and, in order, to force the West to the negotiating table, a single megaton bomb was exploded over Birmingham, UK.

    The description of the attack and devastation that such an explosion would cause to a city of 1,000,000 people was extraordinary and scary. The book was extremely influential and was read by Carter, and more importantly, Reagan and was, in part, behind the expansion of the US Navy in the 1980s.

  27. Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    For those who can make it, I encourage visiting Canada’s Cold War Museum, even if it is a terrifying experience. I’ve been twice, and it was just as unsettling the second time. It is housed in a shelter meant originally to preserve government (sort of cabinet) and some of the bureaucracy, but even seeing things like the short list of allowed ministers – and them alone, etc. is distressing.

    Also, listen to the hibakusha, I think it is important. (Some of their words are on display at the CWM.)

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      The Diefenbunker! I was never a big Dief fan but he was probably who Canada needed back then. He balked at falling in the line with the US during the Cuban Missile Crisis and eventually told the US to get their BOMARC missiles out of Canada.

  28. Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I remember seeing Threads as a kid in the 80’s. It haunted me. By comparison, The Day After was more like an action movie.

  29. phoffman56
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    To me it is rather surprising to realize that a non-trivial number of apparently intelligent people seem only now to be thinking that the grave threat of extinction to many, perhaps all, of land dwelling species would be a consequence of electing this moronic menace to get his pudgy little paws on the thermonuclear button (and, for that matter,to also do major damage concerning climate change).

    A rough estimate (about 60 million votes for each and about 50% voter turnout) gives about 180 million eligible USian voters who couldn’t be bothered (or much worse) to keep this dork out of the White House. That’s much worse clearly than the 500 million or so Muslims ready to murder (or encourage the act) of apostates to their superstitions. And we even had Clinton hold-your-nose-voters who just couldn’t wait till after the election to weigh in with their quite valid criticisms of some of her character and actions in the past.

    To non-Usians, many like me would think: they made their bed, so let the USians sleep in it–that is, with respect to all the ways he will screw up only the U.S. But extinction of the human species tends to be of interest to more than just USians. Other matters, such as economic disasters not just in the U.S., would be of little interest at time t if there will be no more humans at t+1.

    Maybe it’s been already pointed out, but children all over the world will die much more ‘pleasant’ deaths if they’re at ground zero than the ones who come out from under their desks to die after an agonizing few weeks of radiation sickness.

  30. Darren Garrison
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget Australia.

  31. Nick
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    For those interested in the history of nuclear weapons and the people involved in taking us to the edge of the cliff (but not over it), I highly recommend Dan Carlin’s latest Hardcore History podcast: The Destroyer of Worlds.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      I have not read it but most surely it will include some on good old Curtis LeMay. He was the first guy to run SAC when the air force got started and he was a scary son of a bitch. He was always ready to bomb whoever needed bombing. Just read the history on this guy if you want to get scared.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        LeMay was also the guy on the Joint Chiefs who was pushing for an invasion of Cuba, with the concomitant likelihood war with the Soviets, during the 1962 Missile Crisis.

        He was also (not coincidentally) the vice-presidential running mate in 1968 of George Corley Wallace, the last populist candidate for the US presidency to win electoral votes until D.J. Trump.

  32. Vaal
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m far more fearful about war than I have been since I was a kid – constantly worried about nuclear war – in the 70’s/80’s.

    And it stokes my growing fury at the unfathomable idiocy of those electing a man as ill suited as possible at this moment, for keeping the world safer.

  33. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Takes me back to the days of my youth. We didn’t bother with emergency drills – there was no point. We were in the overlapping blast zones from a multi-megatonne device on either of the foreign nuclear bases within cycling distance.
    My first after-school job was with a manufacturer of plastic pot plants and nuclear fallout shelters.
    When is the Beloved Leader going to test his next missile?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Where in the heck are you?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        I cycled to Molesworth to join the protests the day after my 16th birthday ; Greenham Common was some miles further and around an hour more on considerably nastier roads.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 6, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

          You don’t say. I was in the general area long time ago, at RAF Lakenheath for more than three years. Right along the A11 if I remember correctly. When you say foreign nuclear bases are you referring to Molesworth & Greenham?

          Hey Ken…I now live in Kansas.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted February 7, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

            Yep. Moley, being the more local, I was trying to find my way into the iron mining tunnels that ran under the site. An emergence of protestors from the bowels of the earth would have been …. disturbing ? … for the nuke guards.
            (The entrances were well sealsed in the late 1950s, and the miners I talked with knew their jobs. Both propping and not-talking. )

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto; that’s for sure! 🙂

  34. Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I visited Hiroshima several years ago and the experience has stuck with me like nothing else in my life. No one should be in a position to handle nuclear weapons without having visited Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and I mean really visited.

    Yes, go to the museums and look at the monuments, but also walk around the city. Go to the anonymous alley where a humble copper plaque marks the exact spot where the bomb exploded overhead. Touch the old-growth trees that were shipped in from other Japanese cities to revitalize the city and get it back to a sense of normalcy, a surprisingly poignant attempt, as citizens did not want all trees of the same young age, planted after the bomb – too much of a constant reminder. Ring the Peace Bell alone, and stand there as the dark sound literally shakes your body, deep inside, and then dissipates away into nothing. Watch the city thrive in present day, still under the constant shadow of its past, trailed everywhere by a rainbow of peace cranes.

    In my opinion, a sincere visit should be a prerequisite of the highest office in any country with nuclear weapons.

  35. Rick Graham
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    The “Doomsday” clock is just a prop, and its advance or retreat reflects nothing more than the decision of a group of people with an agenda. It’s a measure of liberal hysteria, not Armageddon.

    The same media attacking Trump for making stuff up is now excitedly reporting that a bunch of scientists have moved the imaginary hand on an imaginary clock half-a-minute closer to an imaginary apocalypse.

    • Rick Graham
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Where were all these alarmed journalists when the clock’s keepers moved Doomsday’s countdown from six minutes to midnight to three minutes to midnight during Barack Obama’s presidency?

  36. Posted February 6, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    So we’re supposed to believe that Hillary would have protected us from nuclear war? I don’t think so. In the first place, she wanted to establish a no-fly zone over Syria. Did she think the Russians would just roll over and say, “OK?” Something that insane is a perfect recipe for starting a nuclear war. Since when do we dictate what happens in the airspace of sovereign states with governments recognized as legitimate by the UN?

    Obama did his best to poke a stick in Russia’s eye every chance he got. Moving tanks, troops and missiles into the face of another state armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons is not a great plan for averting nuclear war. There is no evidence that Hillary would have discontinued that policy.

    As for NATO, Trump has rightly pointed out that it has long outlived its usefulness. In fact, it should have been scrapped after the demise of Communism. It’s another perfect tool for bringing on a nuclear holocaust. What would have happened if Putin had lost his nerve and attacked Turkey for the insane act of shooting down a Russian plane over Syrian airspace that had violated its territory for a grand total of 17 seconds? We would have been bound by NATO to come to Turkey’s defense. What then? A nuclear war in defense of Erdogan? Quite possibly.

    Ukraine? In a direct provocation to Russia they deposed a President who had been chosen in an election that was generally recognized as fair. There was less than a year to go until the next election, when they could have legally voted him out of office. As far as I am concerned, they made their bed. Now they should lie in it. It is hardly in our interest to risk a nuclear war over Ukraine, another fact Trump is perfectly well aware of. Hillary not so much.

    Throw in Hillary’s incompetent and, in fact, criminal antics with classified information on her personal server, antics that the media did its best to bamboozling the people into believing didn’t matter and were insignificant during the whole campaign, and I know where I stand when it comes to the nuclear danger. I feel a lot safer with Trump.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Every one is just thrilled to know where you stand. Please sit down.

      • dallos
        Posted February 7, 2017 at 2:41 am | Permalink

        I always realize that I’m wrong if someone
        just says “Shut up” or “Sit down”.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 7, 2017 at 5:55 am | Permalink

          Don’t you think asking one to sit down is a bit better than to shut up. Also, for some, sitting down is much more likely.

        • Posted February 7, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

          So Bannon’s “Shut up” comment to the press tells you what exactly?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 6, 2017 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      Is that you, Vlad?

      (Boss, looks like we’ve been hacked by the Russian GRU and FSB — “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear” in spook-speak.)

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 6, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        And he feels a lot safer with Trump? I’d feel safer with a bucket of rattle snakes.

  37. Steve Kern
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    While I appreciate the comments about war, I think that Part I of the broadcast is an excellent explanation of how we got “trumped” in the first place. I believe that the explanation Mr. Nichols gives is operative in the religious arena as well. Many people think they know more than they know, and they misunderstand their opinions as knowledge. Surprisingly, he says that at some level, they know they are wrong. (Again, I think, similar to religion) Why is this? Things are too good. We may need a depression, pandemic, or war to shake people out of their certainties, and to become desperate enough to know they need to rely on experts.

  38. W.Benson
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Can anyone remember the Merry Minuet?

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted February 7, 2017 at 5:15 am | Permalink

      Remove the dot in “youtube” for the link.

  39. reasonshark
    Posted February 7, 2017 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    Well, at least you didn’t end up with President Hilary “she’ll cause WWIII” Clinton, am I right? 😉

    • W.Benson
      Posted February 7, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Unfortunately you are right. It will be less costly (IMHO) to correct Trump than it would have been to clean up after Hillary.

  40. friendlypig
    Posted February 7, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I remember this Threads programme the first time round, it certainly raised the public perception. Perhaps the most interesting thing that came from it was that the Soviets wanted to buy the programme to highlight the potential danger. Once they realised that in this scenario they were the instigators, and that any fallout that didn’t drop on the UK would be blown back across the USSR they lost interest. Whether the programme helped with the arguments for nuclear disarmament or not isn’t known.

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