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May 20, 2008

McCain Targets Obama
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:20 AM * 249 comments

Republican John McCain accused Democrat Barack Obama of inexperience and reckless judgment for saying Iran does not pose the same serious threat to the United States as the Soviet Union did in its day. The likely GOP presidential nominee made the criticism yesterday in Chicago, Obama’s home turf. “Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment,” McCain said.
McCain has proved beyond the shadow of doubt that he’s delusional. It’s intuitively obvious that Iran does not pose the same serious threat to the US as the USSR did in its day. By several orders of magnitude.
Comments on McCain Targets Obama:
#1 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:32 AM:

...

(Speechless.)

Senility is the only reasonable explanation. McCain, for one, should know that there's a slight gap between "might be able to produce an atom bomb in 2-10 years" and "has a well-developed strategic capability with over 30,000 warheads, including the world's largest force of H-bombs mounted on ICBMs".

#2 ::: GiacomoL ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:32 AM:

Uh, "the same serious thread" should have been a threaT I guess :)

#3 ::: GiacomoL ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:37 AM:

Charlie @1: scaremongering worked a threat for Republicans for more than a decade. If anything, this attack is banal and old... exactly what you would expect by yet another warmonger WASP grown up during the Cold War. The soon we get rid of that generation, the better...

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:41 AM:

Isn't McCain, like, about a hundred years old and no longer capable of learning new tricks? [/s]

That's the impression I have of him. (No insult to genuine centenarians is intended. Including, especially, the 100-something year old Crow woman who was there to see Obama yesterday, as they adopted him.)

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:46 AM:

Coming soon, The Iranian Candidate...

#6 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:55 AM:

Either delusional or willing to pander to a "base" that is, no matter how delusional it makes him look.

#7 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:56 AM:

By the logic that Iran is a direct nuclear threat to the U.S., shouldn't McCain argue that Russia (with its arsenal of ICBMs and bombers, and a vaguely hostile leader) poses an even bigger threat and America must bomb Russia right now for the sake of national security?

#8 ::: annalee flower horne ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:01 PM:

This seems to kind of confirm what Obama's been saying all along about how experience isn't very helpful if it doesn't come with good judgment, and how we're in need of a leader with a fresh perspective.

Because if you honestly can't see the literal and figurative ocean between Iran's and the USSR's spheres of military influence, you probably shouldn't be permitted near pointy objects of any kind--let alone nuclear launch codes.

#9 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:06 PM:

I think the Things Younger Than John McCain website is again relevant.

Favorites include

The Twelve Steps
Penicillin
The Lincoln Tunnel
Plutonium
Bugs Bunny
Dick Cheney!
Helvetica

#10 ::: martyh ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:16 PM:

When the United States begins weekly duck and cover exercises in all of its schools nationwide (knowing that it is a futile exercise, yet necessary to show some degree of control over our lives); when the populace as a whole begins building fallout shelters in their basements, and backyards, and neighborhoods, and stocking them with supplies for a month or more; when we sit in fear listening to the radio and/or watching the television for news updates regarding the blockade around Iran (figuratively speaking, that is) and wondering if this may be our last day, our last hour on earth -- then, and only then, will Iran be as great a threat to the US as the Soviet Union under Khrushchev. Where the hell was McCain in the '50s and '60s. . . certainly not in the United States!

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:22 PM:


Two questions:

(1) What is John McCain smoking and why hasn't it been banned yet?

(2) I wasn't in the US when Nixon was president, so I have to ask: Was he anywhere near this delusional?

#12 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:27 PM:

Fragano, in answer to #2: Not that I recall.

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:31 PM:

Tricky Dick? He was crooked as heck, but he wasn't batshit insane.

Also -- he had a sense of shame, and when required, for the good of the country, he resigned.

#14 ::: M ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:38 PM:

My dad is 83 and has Alzheimer's, and he can quite clearly see the difference between the USSR and Iran. WTF, John McCain, WTF.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:54 PM:

James D. Macdonald #13: I was under the impression that Nixon had a pretty clear paranoid streak and some rather odd obsessions (about Jews, for example).

#16 ::: wintermute ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:55 PM:

#8 ::: annalee flower horne

There's no literal ocean between Iran and Russia. I suppose you could count the Caspian sea, but it's tiny, and doesn't pose any kind of barrier between the two nations.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Caspianseamap.png

#17 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:59 PM:

The only question I have is whther this is effective as fearmongering; granted that people reading this blog are more likely to be concerned about a police state than a terrorist attack, we should keep in mind that this puts us in a minority.

So; does this actually hurt McCain's campaign? Or does being overdramatic about the threat of Iran make it look to the public like we need a 3:00AM candidate more than we need a reformer?

In any case, as with Bush's attempted appointment of Harriet Meyers, paving the way for an ultraconservative judge that got through, does this set McCain up for less opposition when he starts bashing Obama's policies in earnest?

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 12:59 PM:

Nixon never threatened to nuke countries that weren't actually threatening us, as far as I recall, and he knew what diplomacy meant. He wasn't entirely sane (that 'enemies list' was one symptom), but he wasn't really delusional.

#19 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:08 PM:

When McCain says this, he is saying to authoritarians, "I believe in your worldview, I validate you, please vote for me and I will protect you." The reason he does this is that it works for authoritarians. That it is delusional is entirely beside the point.

There's nothing Obama can do to "beat" that, in the minds of those McCain is addressing with this, because Fox News has already anointed McCain. By the laws of succession, McCain is their Leader; all that remains, in their minds, is to force the rest of the country to acknowledge it.

The crucial question is: how many people are those people? They're a minority, yes, but they're vocal. And if Obama would win, they'd grumble, but they'd "respect the Office" and they'd go along, just as they did under Clinton.

I honestly don't know how to defang this virulent meme, but don't for a second doubt it exists. Yes, there are lots of people who hear McCain say that, and pump their fists because it makes them feel part of the winning team. It doesn't matter if it's true. It really doesn't. Think of it as verbal primate dominance display (which it is) and it will all make sense.

David @17 - I don't think we're in the minority any more.

#20 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:15 PM:

As villains go, Nixon was a complex -- even tragic -- figure. (How many other US presidents have had an opera written about them?) Our present-day batch, McCain included, have all the depth and complexity of a set of paper dolls. Evil paper dolls, granted, but still flat and flimsy when you stand them up next to their predecessor.

#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:30 PM:

The Republican base is the 27% of the electorate who think Bush is doing a good job. That's 7% who genuinely think he's doing a good job, and 20% who can't reliably tell you who the president is.

#22 ::: annalee flower horne ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:32 PM:

wintermute @16: I said "spheres of military influence," as in, there's a literal ocean (the Atlantic) between what the Iranian military can reach and what the USSR's military could reach in its day. Sorry for the confusion--my wording was a little obscure.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:34 PM:

"There is an old Vulcan proverb: only Nixon could go to China."

#24 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:34 PM:

PJ Evans #18, & others about Nixon: I've read that Nixon used a ‘Madman’ tactical manoeuvre (there are other references). D'you think you'd need to be just a touch unbalanced to do that?

OTOH, I reckon that to want to be POTUS enough to actually seriously run, and, even more, to succeed, you'd need to be slightly more than just a touch unbalanced. (The same goes for PM of Oz.)

#25 ::: wintermute ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:37 PM:

Annalee:

Ah, that makes more sense. Apologies for the misunderstanding.

I'm just so used to people completely misusing "literal" that I didn't stop to tease out an actual correct meaning for it. I'm literally burning with embarrassment ;)

#26 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:39 PM:

What I find baffling about this is the assertion that we should not talk to the Iranian government because it poses as big a threat as the USSR did. Even if the comparison were true, it would be an arguement in favor of engagement, not against it.

After all, we did hold regular diplomatic discussions with the Soviet Union, and these were pretty much essential to avoiding hostilities on several occasions. Imagine what might have happened if Robert Kennedy hadn't been talking to Ambassador Dobrynin during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's not a pretty picture.

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:41 PM:

*throws water on wintermute*

#28 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:45 PM:

When considering the willingness to use those weapons, one has to consider that the Iranians just might pose a greater threat especially because of the fanaticism of those in power. Granted, it may be a show only to secure a base of power, but one has to wonder how dedicated the Iranian power structure is to that fanaticism.

Sadly, Saddam got off too easy for causing the Iranians to revitalize their military after the fall of the Shah.

#29 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:46 PM:

Tom @26: Do you really expect the party that f***ed up the Middle East to be logical?

Wasn't it Churchill who said, "Better jaw-jaw than war-war?"

IMVHO, talk is better than military action, as the former usually doesn't cost anywhere near as much as the latter...

#30 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:46 PM:

Michael Roberts @#19:

And if Obama would win, they'd grumble, but they'd "respect the Office" and they'd go along, just as they did under Clinton.

Are you being sarcastic? Ok, I'm not American, and I was pretty young at the time, but that's not how *I* remember the Nineties.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 01:47 PM:

Mez 24: It was a MADman strategy. MAD was a "balance of power" doctrine, Mutual Assured Destruction, the idea being that you just have so many nuclear weapons that if "either" side starts a nuclear war "both" sides will be completely destroyed.

And then they put MEN (hormonal creatures that we are) in charge of it. Madness indeed, but not self-described as such.

My quotes above are because of course not every nation was an ally of either the United States or the Soviet Union, but everyone in the world would have been killed by the MAD war, had it begun. It was a scary time; I remember hearing as late as the 80s that something like a third of gradeschool children in the US "believe they will die in a nuclear war."

#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Debra Doyle #20: As epitaphs go that one's brilliant.

#33 ::: annalee flower horne ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:07 PM:

wintermute @25: no worries-- I'm right there with you on the misuse of "literally."

And here's a usage question (actual question; not being a smartass): is "literally burning" correct when referring to a burning sensation? As far as I'm aware, that's the actual medical description of the symptom--hence creams and whatnot that treat "itching and burning." But it does conjure up images that would warrant Xopher's bucket of water.

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:08 PM:

James D. Macdonald #21: YOMANK.

#35 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:11 PM:

Xopher #31: I'm no expert, but I don't think that anything like the whole world population would realistically have died in the aftermath of a full-scale exchange between the US and USSR. I gather there would have been a godawful number of people dead, especially in the two main targets and those downwind of them, ugly (but probably very hard to predict) global climate effects, and a worldwide rise in cancer rates and such for many years to come. But ISTR that more energy has been released by big volcanoes and meteor strikes than both sides had in arsenal. God only knows what the survivors' societies would look like, though. Maybe some places would have come through pretty well, and others turned into someplace from which you'd voluntarily emigrate to North Korea or Sudan.

#36 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:13 PM:

I think Micheal nails it in #19.

I think Those People are watching their happy place -- where they go to be angry and self-righteous and to scare people -- go from briefly being the zeitgeist to being generally regarded as a malignant ploy.

#37 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Albatross @35: I grew up in the UK. Until the end of the cold war, I never lived more than 5 miles from a strategic target likely to be on the receiving end of a number of H-bombs in the first exchange. The official UK government estimates in the 1960s were for 60% civilian fatalities at 6 months; by the 1980s, we were looking at 60% dead in the first hour, rising to 95% mortality (and possibly even complete extinction) at 12 months.

This sort of overkill probably went for Germany, the low countries, North-East France, Northern Italy, Poland, and just about everywhere in the likely theatre of ground combat. As the old joke put it, "how far apart are the villages in West Germany?" ... "About five kilotons."

Estimates for mortality in the USSR and USA were in the 50% to 70% range after 12 months. (Remember, not all injuries kill instantly, and we're talking about literally tens of thousands of warheads landing on those territories.) Small rural towns and smallholdings might come off relatively lightly, but cities would be ... well, think of what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans, square it, and apply that to every single city in North America.

Best estimates for a full-on NATO/WarPac exchange were for it to kill somewhere in the 600M-1Bn range directly, and for indirect effects to kill another billion people over subsequent years (environmental damage, radiation effects, climactic effects, total collapse of the global trade system, total collapse of the developed world economies, etc).

At least we now know, with 20/20 hindsight, that the Soviets didn't want to go there either.

And it's fairly clear the Iranians don't, either -- as witness the fact that they haven't gone all out to take down Israel at any point in the past 29 years.

#38 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:22 PM:

I find it hard to believe everyone "in the world" would have died even in an Apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the US and USSR. Certainly nearly everyone in the two countries would have died, but Australia? South Africa? South Pacific islands?

The novel "On the Beach" addressed this, but I don't think the wind currents and half life of fallout would have produced that kind of result.

Would have sucked to be in the Northern Hemisphere at that time though.

#39 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:29 PM:

Charlie #37: Yeah, the Iranians are clearly impossible to deter and unafraid of consequences. That's why they did their best to hide their nuclear program for so long, and why they apparently funnel weapons and training to their friends in Iraq and Lebanon rather than openly attack the US and Israel.

The whole Iran is the new Nazi Germany meme is delusional, but it's a consistent delusion. The neocons have been selling it for several years now, in their attempt to get public support for invading or bombing Iran.

The talking points about whether Obama should be talking about talking to Iran are another example of the way serious policy questions get turned into games in the US. (I assume everywhere, but the US is where I understand politics.) The real issue is how we should try to keep the Iranians from developing nukes (if we can), and whether there's some way to get some kind of minimally non-hostile relations between us. But that's hard to think about, complicated, depressing, and not subject to simple black hats vs white hats reporting, so what we get is this nonsense. (Perhaps next, McCain can criticize Obama for saying he doesn't care about the shape of the conference table.)

#40 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:30 PM:

John L: the USA and USSR were not the only targets that would have been nailed in an exchange. Virtually all the European NATO and Warsaw Pact countries would have been flattened -- smaller land area, denser population, likely to already be the theatre of battle for a conventional war before things went nuclear, and within range of both sides' tactical and theatre weapons (never mind the long-range strategic assets).

The effect of a US/USSR exchange would have been to destroy Europe at the same time, effectively ringing down the curtain on western civilization.

#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:34 PM:

albatross, I'm not sure how old you are, but I remember the "destroy the world n times over" statements, where n was a large two-digit number. They were saying that the US and USSR had n times the number of nukes it would take to put every bit of the surface of the Earth inside the blast radius of at least one of them.

Of course, they wouldn't be used that way. They'd be targeted on the US, the USSR, and their various allies (and probably on nonaligned nations that were annoying to one or the other power). Probably China too, so they couldn't swoop in and take over after the two "sides" got done killing each other. That doesn't leave much.

Anything that wasn't nuked would be lethally close to something that was. Anyone who survived would be killed by the radioactive dust clouds that would encircle the Earth. Anyone who didn't die of that would die eventually of starvation, because growing food on the Earth would no longer be possible (because of the occlusion of sunlight, never mind the impossibility of finding unpoisoned ground to grow on). And that's assuming that the "nuclear winter" theory was wrong.

At any rate, that's what we were taught. That's what I believed. If McCain wants people to believe Iran poses THAT kind of existential threat, he's got a long way to go!

#42 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:34 PM:

John @38: What you're not realizing is that both the USA and the USSR were going to be firing ICBMs at each other's allies as well.

So the bombs would be hitting all the NATO countries and the entire Soviet bloc. What the bombs didn't kill, the fallout and the resulting economic collapse would finish off.

Remember the US still exports a fair amount of grain -- what happens to those countries that are dependent upon US farmers for their bread when the breadbasket is radioactive slag?

#43 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:37 PM:

It's also worth noting that Nixon got to see a real war for his very ownself.

Most of the people who either swallow this, or rush to spread it (either for a living or free of charge) never have, and would, to steal a phrase from John Rogers over at Kung-fu Monkey, be running around "shrieking, eyes rolling and Hello Kitty panties flashing like Japanese schoolgirls* who have just realized that the call is coming from inside the house" at the propsect of actual risk. They're (to use a childish phrase) scairedy-cats, and they're using their tough talk and strutting to hide (they hope) that fact. Those worst thing you can do is fail to call them on it; putting them through rigorous and relentless questioning, mocking what they imagine to be the validity of their arguments makes them unravel pretty quickly.

In the case of someone like John McCain, I think it's a combination of Right-wing Authoritarianism and the fact that the only tool he's learned to use, so to speak, is a hammer. He is able to tell himself he has some understanding of warfare; his military background did not progress to the point where he would have be expected to do anything but fight when told to do so. He's never been expected to handle long-range strategic planning or to advise in that sort of capacity.

There are also those who have become a little too carried away with the American tendency to apply sports metaphors to warfare, and have forgotten that while you may have only one way to get to the Super Bowl, there's more than one way to handle an international situation.

Nixon was ready to talk tough for the sake of the base, and then to sit down and work out deals. He was able to grasp the consequences, both foreign and domestic, of failing to make deals. His flaws would fill books (and have done so and will do so) but any and all comparisons of him with his acolytes leave Nixon looking pretty impressive.

___________
*My apologies to all actual Japanese schoolgirls, and to all those who have been Japanese schoolgirls, who do not deserve in any way, shape, or form to be compared to American neocons, their mouthpieces, or the idiots buying and drinking their Kool-aid.

#44 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:37 PM:

Albatross @35: While true(ish), volcanoes and meteorite strikes commonly happen somewhere else. A lot of nuclear weapons, especially second strike weapons and tactical nukes in Europe, would have been used on our most populated areas. (Towns and villages in West Germany-as-was were an average distance of the radius of effect of a 10 kilotonne weapon apart; "tactical" weapons typically go from 5 kilotonnes to 500 kilotonnes.)

#45 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:39 PM:

Ahhh, Charlie and Xopher:

SNAP?

#46 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:41 PM:

The Soviet Union had plans to attack us, possibly with nukes(1). Iran has plans to attack us, possibly with nukes(2).

Threat(USSR) == Threat(Iran). QED.

Makes perfect sense to me...
</sarcasm>

(1) but more likely to attack our allies with their 3-1 superiority in armour, and their 10-1 superiority (and known willingness to use it up) in manpower. But, you know, the best defence to that is "invade and we'll nuke you", and so they had to have an answer to *that*, and...

(2) no, I'm not going to give suggestions.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:41 PM:

Lori: Yes, I think so.

albatross, we had no intention to dogpile. Sorry.

#48 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:45 PM:

Me @44 & Charlie @37: A kilotonne here, a kilotonne there, and pretty soon you're talking real damage.

#49 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:47 PM:

Albatross and John, may I plead Air Force Brat, and RPGs? I grew up with Civil Defense pamphlets in the house, duck-and-cover drills at school, and spent a good portion of my time at college discussing what would be the best direction to go if someone did push that button?

My apologies for the pile-on as well...

#50 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Charlie @ 40: Yes, both sides' general game plan for Armageddon seemed to have been to fight a land and air war across Europe, and then for the loser to start the global thermonuclear war. I recall during the Cold War some American NATO general complained that German towns and villages were "only a few hundred kilotons apart". Not to mention that the US and USSR had both strategic (long-range) and tactical nuclear weapons stationed in various European countries, making them nuclear targets to the other side. (I'm not instructing you about that - just mentioning it to others who might not have thought about that part. It seems weird to think of people having not grown up with this history.)

I expect the world economic and distribution system would also largely collapse for a while, meaning that probably after an interval the survivors can't ship food across the world, and also probably some crop failures due to short-term climate change ("nuclear winter") - which, to address albatross's comment, has happened in the aftermath of Really Big volcanic eruptions like Krakatoa. So starvation would take a toll in a lot of food importing areas which weren't directly targeted, like parts of Asia.

In the end, I think one might have expected to see Australia, Brazil, and India become the new world powers.

Everyone in the world dies? Most likely not - that would take something like a Siberian Traps or Chicxulub-scale event. But a full-scale global nuclear war would likely have had a bigger effect than the Black Death did world-wide, and it would have been all at once rather than over a century or two.

#51 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 02:57 PM:

Oh, gee, and I see I'm late to the party too. Uhhh, can we just plead shared PTSD among Cold War kids?

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:03 PM:

fidelio @ 43...

Hello Kitty 40,000

Perfetcly work-safe, except to your keyboard or to your monitor.
(My many thanks to the MLer who first posted a link to this a few years ago.)

#53 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:19 PM:

It was a scary time; I remember hearing as late as the 80s that something like a third of gradeschool children in the US "believe they will die in a nuclear war."

Speaking as someone who was in elementary school at the time... *g*

I believed (quite sensibly) that *if* there was a nuclear war, I would die. I lived 10 miles from Harrisburg, about 100 miles from Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Pittsburgh and NYC were a bit farther, but I was still well within a potential fallout plume. I was within 5 miles of a nuclear power plant, which also had to be targeted. And if the Soviets failed to use nukes on all of those cities, they were stupider than my 10 year old self could imagine.

I didn't believe that grownups would be silly enough to actually *fire* nuclear weapons.

And I was young enough that I thought the US Navy supply depot was a better target than Ft. Indiantown Gap. As an adult, I know that the fort is a better target, since it's a weapons test site. All in all, I did a fairly decent analysis for a 10 year old. I didn't worry much about destroy *the* world or not, since I understood that even if the adults weren't trying very hard, I would be dead. (I think I figured on severe radiation sickness, since I'd be too far from the local ground zeros to be vaporized)

#54 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:25 PM:

Clifford @ 51

Yes. I belong to that club too.
Duck-and cover drills in classrooms with vinyl-coated curtains. The desks didn't provide much cover either. (Taking cover in a hallway with glass skylights never made much sense, either.) The joys of living near a nuclear-research facility never pale, even some decades removed ....

#55 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:29 PM:

Sorry folks, didn't mean to dogpile.

(But I grew up five miles up the road from the Vickers tank factory -- where 90% of the British Army's armour came from, so a prime strategic target -- and ten miles from the intersection of the M1 and M62 motorways -- probably one of the four most important logistic road interchanges in the UK -- and ten miles or so south of Catterick barracks, a major army base -- and if you draw the overpressure rings for a 200Kt IRBM warhead around each of 'em, I was just about bracketed.)

I suspect half my generation have low-grade PTSD simply from growing up on Airstrip One. And when folks who don't remember what it was like to have a couple of thousand warheads pointed at an area about the size of Greater Los Angeles start talking it down, that tends to push my button.

#56 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:31 PM:

I'm too young for duck-and-cover drills as such, though they did use a book labeled "civil defense" for "tornado drills." No hiding under the desks; we filed into the hallway (no skylights, and the big windows were in the classrooms) and sat at the sides. I think we may have covered our heads with our arms, but the last time we did that (if we did) was about 38 years ago, so my memory of it is spotty.

Funny how the stupid lies about protecting yourself from nuclear attack turned useful when applied to tornados.

#57 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:32 PM:

I seriously doubt that India would be spared to become a replacement superpower.

#58 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Serge,

Don't forget Halo Kitty!

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Nancy C Mittens @ 58... Hmmm. "Page not found."

#60 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:41 PM:

Charlie Stross @55: I still occasionally have nightmares that I'm trying to get people to evacuate a city. I've never figured out what triggers them...

I was at a Pagan festival a few years ago, and many of the attendees were military, former military and EMTs. What the organizers didn't know is that the local volunteer fire department used the "nuclear attack" alert sequence to call the volunteers in for a run.

It's 7AM on a lovely sunny Saturday morning -- and the siren goes off. More than half the camp bails out of their tents wondering who the hell decided to start WWIII. The folks running the festival had an interesting time calming things down.

#61 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:44 PM:

Well, I did say I figured it would have sucked to live in the Northern Hemisphere if an all-out nuclear war had broken out.

For the Southern Hemisphere, though, times would have been tough for sure, but global human extermination? Nah; we're too adaptable a species to let a little thing like half a planet sterilized kill us off.

Comparing Iran to this kind of Armageddon, though, is the height of McCain-ish stupidity, and makes me wonder if he's in the early stages of Alzheimers already.

#62 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 03:56 PM:

I'm turning 30 later this year, so I was 10 or 11 when the Warsaw Pact fell apart, the Berlin Wall became an art project instead of a geopolitical reality, etc...

The early-80s paranoia really is a foreign territory to me, as a result. All those strange SF stories of the "OMG teh Soviets haz invaded America" or "we just launched all the nukes" themes rank somewhere only slightly above Orsen Wells' radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in terms of "scary things that should keep me awake at night", really.

McCain's as scary as the USSR, really line is likely to be met with "Remind me again what the USSR was?" from voters my age and younger...

#63 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:07 PM:

Wirelizard @62: By the 1980s, I'd been living with the awareness of "what if they drop the bomb" for 20 years. The older Boomers have lived with it even longer.

#64 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Nixon also negotiated with China, making him, in McCain and Bush's book (which they coauthored) an appeaser like Obama.

Nixon may have been many things but an appeaser to red China? Um, no.

#65 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:17 PM:

I remember "tornado" drills (and then came to Calif. for earthquake drills, hell we even had an earthquake once).

Honestly, I didn't expect to live to the age I'm at now. When my scout troop went camping, the leader took a transistor radio, "in case something happened." We all knew what "something" was, and I was uneasy for the entirety of the first trip I went on (I was 11).

The first time I noticed the nightglow of LA, I was half-convinced the city was burning from a bomb I'd not heard.

I don't know, from here, when the fears are different, how much that's affected me. I do know that terrorists don't scare me the same way; and somehow they seem to scare alot of "kids" (for want of a better term) in their middle twenties.

And shits like McCain are responsible for that sort of fuckwittery, so he deserves all the mockery and obliquy we can serve up.

#67 ::: P J evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:21 PM:

I've heard stories of people freaking when large-scale flash photography is being done. (This was at a time when St Ronnie was saying he didn't understand why people were upset about the possibility of nukes going off, because it didn't keep him awake at night.)

#68 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Listening to movement conservatives these days is actually kind of heartwarming. They're blaming the defeats of 2006 and the likely bloodbath in November on . . . nominees not being conservative enough.

I think McCain has bought into that. Even if he's only in it for the votes, that's enough to taint him beyond all hope for me. I'm worried that the fact he isn't [resentful whisper]you know[/resentful whisper] will make him the vote of choice for a large portion of Clinton fans, moonbattery notwithstanding.

#69 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:32 PM:

#53: "I didn't believe that grownups would be silly enough to actually *fire* nuclear weapons."

My take was the opposite. I knew that adults had already been, uh, silly enough to fire nuclear weapons at cities and that they would certainly do it again if they felt the need. So the lesson I learned was that the adults who were stupid, inhuman, vain, deluded, and malicious enough to contemplate doing it again were in charge, and those sane enough (on any side) to say that this was something so evil that it could never be justified were a tiny minority treated with contempt. This did not result in any great respect for the wisdom of adults. And yeah, I thought that nuclear incineration or radiation poisoning were pretty likely ways for us to go - not inevitable, just a decent chance.

Mind you, I didn't actually live on top of any military targets in Norwich (unless you count the Rowntree-Mackintosh factory, producing those vital chocolate war goods), but I assume that the Soviet plan would have included nuking all large-jet-capable airports in the UK, like, say, the one 5 miles north of our house. And failing that, RAF (USAF) Lakenheath & Mildenhall were 40 miles away - Lakenheath being a US F-111 base and (still) home to a US nuclear weapon stockpile, Mildenhall being a US air-refueling and surveillance base and at the time the European home of the SR-71.

But count me as another who thinks that extinction wasn't really a risk. The survivors of a nuclear war wouldn't exactly be facing a cheerful world the next day, but I have faith in the cockroach-like survival abilities of human beings.

Anyway, on the subject of Iran, the idea that they do or can ever pose any kind of serious threat to the US is so laughable that I also wonder about the faculties of someone who seems to be making this claim sincerely. If it's not sincere, then we should just take it as a proud boast that he intends to maintain the Bush tradition of making shit up about non-existent threats and then invading faraway countries at random, at spectacular cost, and with hugely counterproductive results in fending off the actual - significant but not existential - threat of terrorism. Thanks for the heads-up!

(Not to state the obvious. It'd be kind of nice if the press did some obvious-stating on this subject, wouldn't it?)

#70 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:34 PM:

Emily @53: I believed (quite sensibly) that *if* there was a nuclear war, I would die.

Ditto. grew up in Norfolk, VA home to the largest naval base on the planet. I'm pretty sure there was at least one warhead aimed directly at my house.

I had a minor respite form this for the 3 years we lived in GTMO, Cuba... na, I'm kidding! I had at least three nukes pointed at my head and one of them may have even been American. Once a year, everyone had to stay inside for a two nights in a row while the Marines ran around the base pretending the Cubans were invading.

And people wonder my my generation is addicted to antidepressants.

#71 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:37 PM:

A data point about what the US military believed would be the outcome of a nuclear war, circa 1968.

In the fall of 1968 I was sent on temporary duty to a large hole in the ground in central Pennsylvania*, where I joined the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in celebrating nuclear war games. Because of my job, I had access to the communication channels in and out, and got to see the daily sitrep that they posted. Approximately 36 hours after the beginning of the exercise, less than 24 hours from the launch of the first missle, they reported US civilian casualties in excess of 100 million (population at the time was less than 200 million). Because of the timing this could not have included deaths from either primary ionizing radiation or fallout, only from blast, heat, and direct exposure to X-rays and neutrons close to the blast. And the exchange of warheads wasn't yet finished, so more immediate deaths were to be expected. They didn't report estimates of deaths from ionizing bomb radiation or fallout, or delayed deaths resulting from the bombs and the immediate aftermath, but scaling up from the results of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and what reading I've done on predictions about nuclear war, I would be very surprised if more 20-30 million (perhaps 15%) of the civilian population were left alive after 3 months, and many of those would die of starvation, exposure, and disease in the next year.

As for the rest of the world, well, the JCS didn't much care enough to estimate it closely, but in that scenario, most of Europe and western Russia was already dead.

Please note that this sitrep stated that, given the figures, the US was "winning".

* Emily @ 53: If you'd been hit by a nuclear warhead in Harrisburg, it would probably have been one that strayed off target at Carlisle Barracks, 18 miles west. That being an extremely hardened site, I would be surprised if the Soviets planned to chuck less than 50 or 100 megatons at it, especially given the accuracy of their early ICBMs.

#72 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:45 PM:

Michael @19:
Remember that 50% of people are of below average intelligence, and somepercentage of the remainder are republicans. Do you realy beleive that a majority of the country understands what realistic odds for dying in a terrorist attack are? How those odds change when Iran has nukes? How they change when we are aggressively persecuting Iraqis?

These aren't simple isues, and a lot of people are convinced that "The muslims" want to kill us all. It's a good thing they don't know how many there are, or they would really freak out!

#73 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:45 PM:

Oh, are we doing target-size wars?

Since 1980 (when the saber-rattling was still going strong) I've been living in Hawaii on the same rock with US CINCPAC (central command and control for the Pacific fleet and all Pacific theater forces), Pearl Harbor itself (where nuclear submarines were and are based), and the nuclear weapons storage depot for the Pacific fleet (out at West Loch of Pearl Harbor.) That's not to mention an Air Force base, and a major Army base, and a major Marine and Marine Air Corps base. Some military friends told me back then that according to their briefings, the USSR had warheads with a total of at least 100 megatons targeted at various points on the island. I would not be surprised if Russia still does have a few missiles aimed here, "just in case".

At least it would have been pretty damn quick.

#74 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:51 PM:

One of the things that's a little scary about McCain is that he was a Navy pilot, which means his view of combat is quite different from the average groundpounder, and even from Army and Air Force pilots. Pilots often get a feeling of distance from the fighting (literally vertical distance, but a feeling of insulation from it as well), and Navy pilots come from a tradition of pushbutton war from a distance that has been largely true for the US since the end of WWII. I had hoped that his being shot down and taken prisoner would have moderated that viewpoint somewhat, but it seems not. I don't trust him to understand, or even care about, the military or diplomatic consequences of using unnecessary or excessive military force in the maelstrom we've created in the Middle East.

#75 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 04:56 PM:

Bruce:
The article in last Sunday's NY Times magazine, here, talks about how McCain's particular war experiences (never actually fighting in the thick of things on the ground) may have given him a different perspective on Vietnam and Iraq than the other senators who served in Vietnam.

#76 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:06 PM:

To give an idea of how dire things were during the Cold War... How many SF stories and/or movies were there with the premise that it'd take an outside force to keep us away from extinction? Remember The Architects of Fear?

#77 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:10 PM:

One of the things that's a little scary about McCain is that he was a Navy pilot, which means his view of combat is quite different from the average groundpounder....

He was a fucking Airedale. That means his brain doesn't function below 5,000 feet. As we surface sailors used to say of the fucking Airedales, it's a pity they're allowed to wear the same uniform we do.

#78 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:12 PM:

As asked back in the Who You Callin' "Terrorist"? thread, pointing to Teresa's fact-filled and prescient essay On Iran Basic(1)(2)

Don't they know any Iranian Americans?
There are about 300,000 Iranian-born people (60% now naturalized citizens) in the US, representing nearly 1% of immigrants here, and somewhere between 600k to 1300k Iranian Americans.

Have the talked to them recently?
Talked to them about how well this sort of rhetoric is going to help with getting a more moderate government voted in? [It was looking close back in 2006-2007] Thought about how well that last interference (with the political campaign) went for helping Iran and Iranians move away from hardliners?

While I can understand that the "Hey, we're thinking about bombing Iran. Your parents were born there, you've visited your relatives there several times. How do you think it'll go?" conversation could get awkward, it should be a necessary conversation.(3)

Because with 40k total Iraqis in the US (since the war, maybe 40K +700 1,000 now) I can see how they might never have met Iraqis other than that lying 'Curveball' source.

But Iranians and Iranian-Americans? The hardliners in the US have to be actively avoiding I&I-A's to have not been seeing that this rhetoric doesn't make any sense...

Hey.
Wait.
That seeming blunder by the administration, where it became public that the US was supporting the moderates, which helped the conservatives win, that was deliberate? Because they wanted the right sort of government around in time for the 2008 elections, because we need an enemy and China (400 nukes, communist gov't) isn't practical for that?

I. deeply. resent. the. way. this. administration. makes. me. feel. like. a. nutbar. conspiracy. theorist.

--------------------
(1) TNH: "Insofar as any other right-wingers are holding on to the “war with Iran” meme, I suspect it’s so they can claim afterwards that Iran was the big enemy all along, and the U.S. could have licked them and ended terrorism forever, but the Evil Liberals and Democrats wouldn’t let them do it."

(2) in which I'd put together some data on the likelihood of meeting Iranian-Americans (high, similar to Greek-Americans or Armenian-Americans) v Iraqi-Americans (low, similar to Icelandic-Americans)

(3) Not that it should make a difference. Still, during the 80's, when people said to me "We just need to bomb those commies" and I'd reply "I have relatives in those commie countries" then the wanabee commie bombers at least had the decency to shut up.

#79 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:14 PM:

Wirelizard @62:

McCain's as scary as the USSR, really line is likely to be met with "Remind me again what the USSR was?" from voters my age and younger...

That's depressing. Does that mean that a large segment of the voting public might categorize the old USSR as "As dangerous as Iran" because that's the way its being defined now?

#80 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:17 PM:

Avedon Carol points out he's wrong about Reagan getting hostages out of Iran by not negotiating too.

#81 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:21 PM:
When considering the willingness to use those weapons, one has to consider that the Iranians just might pose a greater threat especially because of the fanaticism of those in power. Granted, it may be a show only to secure a base of power, but one has to wonder how dedicated the Iranian power structure is to that fanaticism.
The "willingness" or lack thereof of Iran's leaders to use "those weapons" can be discerned from the fact that the Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa prohibiting the production and use of nuclear weapons.
#82 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:24 PM:

James @ #77, Airedale or member of the Brown Shoe Navy (scroll alphabetically).

I hadn't heard either term for a long time, but Airedale reminded me.

#83 ::: Ametatsu ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:39 PM:

James @79

I was born in 1991.

I could see the level of stupidity in a comparison between Iran and the USSR straight off.

Surely it's not that bad? Even people as young as me have picked up the vague idea that way-back-when, the USSR was BIG AND SCARY...and I'm pretty sure most of us realize Iran is not on that sort of level.

(I'm not the voting public you refer to, though...I'm English and nine months under voting age.)

#84 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:42 PM:

I think it's "funny" the way McCain talks about "sanctions" against Iran; instead of conversation.

Does he think China (with veto powers in the UN) is going to allow a large supplier of oil to be embargoed?

It's a recipe for futher isolating the US in the international arena, and I worry about the reactions of those who feel impotent as we fade from the stage as "the global superpower".

#85 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:50 PM:

James D. Macdonald @72: I'd say your depressing possibility is, well, possible, but the situation is (of course) more complex than that. Looking over my memories of 20-something students in recent years and to some extent agreeing with Wirelizard, I'd say that they fall into three large and overlapping groups: First, the ones who understand intellectually the difference between the USSR and Iran but who don't quite understand it emotionally; Second, the ones who don't really understand the USSR at all but who figure they'd better find out before deciding whether or not McCain has a point (hence the "remind me" type of question); and Third, the ones who think Iran, Iraq, and probably Afghanistan are all the same nation anyway and who couldn't locate the Middle East or any part of the former Soviet Union on a well-marked map. In my experience, that last group is the smallest and has its equivalent in all generations, but they do exist.

#86 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 05:51 PM:

Oops--I meant "James D. Macdonald @79," of course.

#87 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 06:33 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 77

I'd not heard the term "Airedale" before, but I've heard "Brown Shoe Navy". It's funny, I didn't meet many Navy pilots until after I got out of the service; I assumed they were pretty much the same as Army chopper pilots or arty spotters, or maybe Air Force zoomies. The thing about zoomies is that a lot of them spent time in close air support of infantry, where you might be flying at only a few hundred or a thousand feet so you can make sure to drop ordnance on the enemy and not on your own troops. This sort of flying leaves you vulnerable to small arms fire, which tends to make you think more like a soldier and less like a knight riding into noble battle.

#88 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 06:45 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 77, Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers)@87

I have a friend* who claims to have successfully convinced conversative military guys NOT to vote for McCain because he's a naval aviator.

*sub brat

#89 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 07:06 PM:

Remember, with Naval Aviators, below the rank of Lieutenant Commander they don't interact with enlisted folks. (Sure, they know the enlisted exist, and they see 'em prepping their planes, but they aren't giving them orders or writing their evals, or approving their leave chits, or inspecting their berthing, or otherwise dealing with them on a personal basis.)

"Brown shoe" refers back to the days (and this was a long time ago) when naval aviators did have their own uniforms (aviation greens) which had brown shoes (rather than the black shoes that real sailors wear).

#90 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 07:36 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @78: But Iranians and Iranian-Americans? The hardliners in the US have to be actively avoiding I&I-A's to have not been seeing that this rhetoric doesn't make any sense...

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, but -- that population is not at all evenly distributed. For comparison purposes, I'd met exactly one Jew before I escaped the Midwest and went to college, and there are five million Jews in the US. I wasn't actively avoiding them -- they just didn't live near me. I'm still not sure I know any Iranian-Americans, though I probably do. I can totally see how McCain's base, the people who think bombing Iran is a good idea, live in places such that there aren't any Iranians around who could smack them with a clue-bat.

(Really this goes for most minority groups -- non-white people, gay people, non-Christians, science fiction fans. They more or less didn't exist, or weren't at all evident, where I grew up. Frankly I like where I am now a lot better.)

#91 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 07:53 PM:

Kevin @90,

I wasn't being sarcastic. I do know, and should have written, that half of I&I-A's live in California. They're certainly not evenly distributed. (and in part I was doing a compare-and-contrast with the probability of them having met an Iraqi-American.)

However, one town where a well-educated group is going to be represented is Washington D.C. One list of prominant Iranian-Americans shows many living in D.C.

#92 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 08:07 PM:

I'm old enough to remember a time when nuclear war was a possibility--I was born in 1976--but it never scared me very much. This probably says less about my courage than it does about the degree to which I was off in my own little world. I just managed not to think about it very much. By the time I became politically aware I was hearing words like "glasnost" and "perestroika," and I had the impression that the USSRused to be dangerous--and was maybe still a little dangerous--but would soon settle down, get a steady job, and raise begonias or something.

Oddly, I recall first becoming aware of nuclear war from a strip in an old Peanuts collection where Linus mistook the first snowfall of the year for fallout. I had to ask my parents what "fallout" was. (There's also a Vietnam-era Peanuts sequence where Snoopy gets caught in a protest over "dogs being sent to Vietnam and then not getting back" and is tear-gassed.)

#93 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 08:17 PM:

Emily @ 53: I grew up in Lexington, MA, 3 miles from Hanscom AFB-as-was. And 15 miles from MIT.

I was certain I was dead. I just hoped that whatever hit the base was big enough to kill me instantly.

#94 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 08:26 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 79: The ones who think about the USSR at all know, intellectually, that yes, there was a reasonable chance they could help End The World, and that Iran is nowhere near as dangerous.

Wesley@92 nails it, pretty much: I think people my age and younger - the ones who started being policitally aware with glastnost & such - we lack the real visceral oh sh*t the world is gonna end in mushroom clouds twitch mentioned in this thread.

It's entirely possible to be (barely) voting age these days and grow up not just post-MAD, but post-glasnost. Russia's always been a dysfunctional quasi-democracy, prone to some sabre-rattling but too broke/disorganized/democratic to do anything beyond rattle.

#95 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 08:31 PM:

Kathryn #78, I live in Southern California, not far from "Tehrangeles", and the only Iranian-American I know is originally of Armenian descent and thus has a totally different perspective on geopolitics. (Incidentally a few of those people on Wikipedia's list appear to be of Armenian descent as well, based on their names -- the -ian or -yan ending is an indicator.) Additionally, I suspect there's a geographical bias in the distribution of the US hardliners in addition to the uneven distribution of immigrants you mention in #91, and that it will be away from the large metropolitan areas with large immigrant populations.

#96 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 08:36 PM:

Me @91 re: Kevin @90.

Looking at the map of foreign-born I&I-A in America (from link 1, post 78), the 20k (which is a floor, because they'll have families) in the DC-Baltimore metropolitan area equals 1 in 400 randomly selected people. In professional groups (engineers, doctors, etc) the rate will be higher.

#97 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 08:49 PM:

I was born in 1974 but due to books, still worried a fair bit about nuclear war as a teen (as a child, I worried about venomous snakes and leprosy, even though I lived in Canada. This was also due to books). Actually, I mostly worried about radiation sickness (Chernobyl happen during my lifetime, and I'd also visited Hiroshima as a 12-year-old): through college, I'd look around at buildings, trying to gage where I'd have to stand to be vapourized quickly and avoid the two weeks of agony.

#98 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 09:05 PM:

(throws water on wintermute)

What?? Everyone's doing it.

#100 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 09:38 PM:

This thread is making me feel old. Stop doing that.

When I was in high school, I was pretty sure the human race and possibly the world was doomed -- "Someone will set the spark off, and we will all be blown away! They're rioting in Africa, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah..." I remember the 1961 Berlin crisis, when Kennedy called up the troops and sent the Air National Guard to Germany, and we all thought there was going to be war. People who genuinely believe that the threat from Iran compares in any way to the threat from the USSR have bought wholly into Bush's War on Terror and clash of civilizations rhetoric. I believe there are fewer of those folks than there once were.

I still think the human race is doomed, though. (Grump, grump.)

#102 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 09:57 PM:

Apologies for all the pointing I've been doing.

I was born in 1975, and I remember being really annoyed at the people in power, but not really scared of a nuclear war. I was in NYC, so I would have been dead before I knew it, but there were no drills for it, and it was not an ever-present fear.

One of my exes (yes Serge, that ex) grew up in Buffalo, and was 5 years older than I am. He sometimes spoke of his fears of the world ending in a giant mushroom cloud. Of course, he believes the Book of Revelation will occur exactly as written, and we are in the End Times, so take that with a grain of salt.

#103 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 10:15 PM:

#21 James D. Macdonald: The Republican base is the 27% of the electorate who think Bush is doing a good job.

That "27%" fraction turns up again and again, in all sorts of political contexts. (E.g., Iit was just about the fraction of Americans who still supported Nixon when he was resigning in shame.)

One of the finest blog posts of the 21st century (Kung Fu Monkey: Lunch Discussions #145: The Crazification Factor) also defines "27%" as the crazy portion of the electorate:

John: Hey, Bush is now at 37% approval. [This was written several years ago...] I feel much less like Kevin McCarthy screaming in traffic. But I wonder what his base is --

Tyrone: 27%.

John: ... you said that immediately, and with some authority.

Tyrone: Obama vs. Alan Keyes. Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy. Batshit crazy. Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement. Hell, even like 5% of Democrats voted for him. That's crazy behaviour. I think you have to assume a 27% Crazification Factor in any population.

John: Objectively crazy or crazy vis-a-vis my own inertial reference frame for rational behaviour? I mean, are you creating the Theory of Special Crazification or General Crazification?

Tyrone: Hadn't thought about it. Let's split the difference. Half just have worldviews which lead them to disagree with what you consider rationality even though they arrive at their positions through rational means, and the other half are the core of the Crazification -- either genuinely crazy; or so woefully misinformed about how the world works, the bases for their decision making is so flawed they may as well be crazy.

John: You realize this leads to there being over 30 million crazy people in the US?

Tyrone: Does that seem wrong?

John: ... a bit low, actually.

#104 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Raphael @30 - no, I'm not being sarcastic, but don't confuse the actual authoritarian sheep with the wolves who manipulate them. The sheep grumble, but they didn't actually do anything. At most they can switch allegiance to a Limbaugh or a Bush -- but they must have an allegiance.

David @72 - what I'm saying is that the people we're talking about don't give a rat's patootie whether it's realistic or not; it's all code-words and pack recognition markers. By considering these people to be operating on a rational basis when it comes to their voting, you're not working with the right model.

I grew up in a Republican family in Indiana. My family are all intelligent people, and quite capable of parsing any of this stuff -- but it wouldn't matter. They would still have voted McCain. (The ones I'm talking about are mostly dead now, except my father, and he's leaning towards Obama. When he went to vote in the primary, he told the lady, "I've never done this before." She said, "Oh, the machines are no problem." He said, "No, I've never voted Democratic." She laughed.)

They would have voted McCain because he's on their side, you see. It wouldn't matter about the rest of it. On this level, this is what McCain is saying, and these people hear it clearly. You don't. You're still talking about rationality.

Again: that doesn't mean they're stupid. It doesn't mean they're ignorant (although they usually are.) But it does mean that you will never be able to change their opinion with facts, not without changing the people.

They are amenable to change. My uncle died three years ago, with a Bring the Troops Home Now sign in his front yard. (I was amazed.) My grandmother died last year, Fox News blaring -- but shortly before she died, she said, "That Barack Obama looks like a nice man." Wow. Of course, she thought George W. was a cleancut boy, too. But still.

Also, in re the other topic ongoing -- growing up in Indiana, I knew that if there was war, it would always be somewhere else. (They played that stupid Day After in school, can you believe it?) In about 2003, my father and I had a bit of an argument about Saddam Hussein -- my father claimed he was in fear for his own safety and mine, and that's why something had to be done. Even his wife, who was at Kent State in 1968 and is the "liberal" in the family (except for me) claimed to be in fear for the well-being of her daughter.

We all lived in Indiana at the time. I tried to bring home some sense of the size of the planet and the relative inability of a third-world dictator even to know Indiana existed, let alone physically threaten anyone in it. I failed.

But the seed I planted -- I think -- grew. I've had family members admit I was right. (Same damn thing happened a decade earlier when I was fulminating about Microsoft's shenanigans; you'd think they'd listen!)

I'm going to stop typing now and go back to work. Thank you for your support.

#105 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 10:30 PM:

A good rhetorical/pragmatic principle:
-- When your opponent says something delusional, imagine a mindset in which the statement makes sense. Know your enemy.

Here's the mindset:
-- The Enemy is Satan. It doesn't matter if Satan is working through Moscow or Tehran; he's just as dangerous either way. Since Moscow never blew up part of Manhattan (remember that in this mindset, all Muslims are just alike), Iran (Iraq, al Q, whatever, it's all the same) is necessarily a greater threat.

. . . . .

Please tell me we won't get another president who "thinks" like that. Tell me it's impossible. I really need to live in denial of the fact that things can always get worse.

#106 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 10:44 PM:

As far as what group turns up where:
The surgeon who did my mother's gall bladder surgery, in West Texas in the mid-90s, was from Turkey. As in, Turkish. He showed up for rounds - she described this - in jeans and cowboy boots.

#107 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 10:44 PM:

rm @105. It's impossible.

Oh, wait -- you meant, tell you that and mean it? Sorry. Can somebody else help here?

#108 ::: TimWB ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 10:56 PM:

Your source takes out of context.

From CNN:

McCain said Obama did not have an appropriate grasp of the danger Iran poses to the U.S.

"Senator Obama claimed that the threat Iran poses to our security is 'tiny' compared to the threat once posed by the former Soviet Union," McCain said during a speech in Chicago.

"Obviously, Iran isn't a superpower and doesn't possess the military power the Soviet Union had, but that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant.

"Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed," McCain said.

#109 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:04 PM:

TimWB
Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire

Not to the US, directly, unlike the USSR.
Are you aware that Khamenei has issued a fatwa forbidding the development and deployment of Iranian nukes? And that he's in charge there?

(BTW, I've heard that the McCain campaign is hiring trolls now. They get paid in points. What they can get with those points hasn't been clarified.)

#110 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:46 PM:

"It’s intuitively obvious that Iran does not pose the same serious threat to the US as the USSR did in its day. By several orders of magnitude."

To be fair, the USSR didn't pose the same threat the USSR was supposed to have posed in its day. Team B aside, even the conventional estimates were substantially inflated, weren't they?

GiacomoL @ 3: “scaremongering worked a threat for Republicans for more than a decade.”

Oh, it’s been a bit longer than that. Once you add to together the Cold War, the War on Drugs* and the War on Terra (after the War on Drugs started to lose public support), Republicans have been screaming about those scary furriners and traitorous Un-Americans for well over fifty years now. (I bet you could find similar rhetoric, probably about immigrants and blacks, going even further back.)

*The term was coined by Nixon in 1972, amidst the beginning of détente. It was revitalized by Reagan in the late 1980s, right after the wall fell. He also established the Drug Czar** we’ve all come to know and love.

**We always suspected their intense hatred of the Soviets was at least half jealousy, but really. They could at least try to be subtle about it.

Charlie Stross @ 40: “The effect of a US/USSR exchange would have been to destroy Europe at the same time, effectively ringing down the curtain on western civilization.”

Which is synonymous with the destruction of the entire human race how, exactly?

Gag Halfrunt @ 81: “The "willingness" or lack thereof of Iran's leaders to use "those weapons" can be discerned from the fact that the Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa prohibiting the production and use of nuclear weapons.”

Thank you. Far better said than I would have. (As if the Soviet leaders weren’t plenty fanatical about Communism? It’s not like religious people have some sort of monopoly on crazy.)

rm @ 105: “Please tell me we won't get another president who "thinks" like that. Tell me it's impossible. I really need to live in denial of the fact that things can always get worse.”

“Liberty, getch yer liberty right here, now selling for the low low price of eternal vigilance!”

#111 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:57 PM:

Doesn't matter. The media hearts McCain and his yummy BBQ dinners. If they didn't notice that half his campaign staff had to quit because they were lobbyists, they won't notice this either.

I'm giving money to the DNC, but I fully expect McCain to be elected this year in another squeaker of an election. (He'll get the racist and/or sexist vote, and that'll make all the difference.)

#112 ::: Noelle ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:01 AM:

Okay, coming from Canada and just catching the tail-end of the cold war fear, the comparison just sounds weird to me. However, after having lived in the Nevada for a few years and seeing an interesting cross-section of people, many younger than me and less well-educated, I can see them thinking: hmm, this is another country in the long chain of countries that envy us and want to destroy our freedom.

These are not people who had seen school past grade 12, if that. They sincerely believed that everyone wanted to live in the US and envied those who lived there. Even after 9/11.

So I'm wondering if this statement won't seem strange to them, perhaps it will instead try to paint the picture of another 'leader' in the long chain of republican 'leaders' who have been vigilant for america. Thoughts?

#113 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:24 AM:

M @#14: amen to that. My parents are both 81, and they have plenty of sense. They're lifelong Democrats but even if they weren't, they have a firm grasp on the difference between the USSR and everything else. And they remember the cuban missile crisis very well.

McCain's problem isn't that he's old, it's that he's hopped up on rhetoric and bullshit.

#114 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:35 AM:

BTW, I've heard that the McCain campaign is hiring trolls now. They get paid in points. What they can get with those points hasn't been clarified.

Points? Is that like Green Stamps?

Maybe they get a discount on their airline tickets...?

#115 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:36 AM:

All the earlier comments about the survival possibilities for the human if there was a nuclear exchange under MAD remind me of when I took "The History of the Atomic Bomb" in 1980. (A pretty cool class. We had an engineering student who was ex-RCAF who corrected the H-Bomb diagrams in The Progressive because parts were flat-ass wrong.)

Without dragging out my old notebooks and study stuff, and relying on what I remember, I can say the "southern hemisphere will be O.K." crowd is sadly deluded. I still remember the day the instructor came up with copies of the newsreel footage taken in Hiroshima the week after the bombing that the US Army hd kept classified for 30+ years. I remember heading home from class and spending the rest of the afternoon trying not to throw up. (And that was a small bomb compared to the USA/USSR stockpiles--we'll leave China out of it since their liquid-fuel missiles took a few days to fuel and could be killed on the pad.)

It's also why I freaking LOATHE the phrase "tweaking the Dragon's tail" which is close enough to "tickling the Dragon's tail" to give me the crawls. I won't go into why here: if you're interested do a search for "dragon's tail experiments" or look up Louis Slotin on Wikipedia.

Enough of that. Have the election results from Oregon come out yet?

#116 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 01:45 AM:

Lizzie L @ 114

Points? Is that like Green Stamps?

Now you're making me feel old. I remember when Green Stamps were actually worth something. Hard left off-topic: did you know that when S&H went out of the redemption business that they were sitting on $4 billion worth of unredeemed value? That's about $20 billion in current dollars. I've been wondering where that money was invested.

#117 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 01:55 AM:

Jacob Davies @ 69: And failing that, RAF (USAF) Lakenheath & Mildenhall were 40 miles away - Lakenheath being a US F-111 base and (still) home to a US nuclear weapon stockpile, Mildenhall being a US air-refueling and surveillance base and at the time the European home of the SR-71.

My dad was stationed at Mildenhall in the mid-Seventies, and I went to school at Lakenheath. For better or worse, I was completely oblivious to the danger.

#118 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 01:59 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ 115

In my 'teens, back around 1960 or so, I came across a book published by, IIRC, the Rand Corporation, on the effects of the detonation of a thermonuclear weapon on a large city. I was fascinated by it the way a bird is fascinated by a snake; it described the most horrendous effects in a dry, academic tone, using graphs and charts and formulae. There were chapters on the effect of air burst versus ground burst, formulae for the radii of different levels of destruction versus bomb yield, and estimates of the progression of deaths from blast, heat, primary radiation, and fallout over time.

Herman Kahn, who worked for Rand until he set up his own thinktank, used to call the work he did planning for nuclear war "thinking the unthinkable". I'd call it "advocating the unspeakable".

#119 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 03:50 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 118: "Herman Kahn, who worked for Rand until he set up his own thinktank, used to call the work he did planning for nuclear war "thinking the unthinkable". I'd call it "advocating the unspeakable"."

Is "advocating" the right word? It seems to me that detailing the horrifying and ghastly consequences of nuclear war would pretty discouraging to the sane. The insane--well, what are you going to do?

#120 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 05:16 AM:

Charlie @ 40: Virtually all the European NATO and Warsaw Pact countries would have been flattened

AFAIR it was told to the conscripts to the German army that their job was to hold the Red Army long enough so that the US could drop the bomb on both.

There were sarcastic top ten hits about how everyone would die horribly. And mandatory-reading children's books.

#121 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 05:52 AM:

He was a fucking Airedale. That means his brain doesn't function below 5,000 feet. As we surface sailors used to say of the fucking Airedales, it's a pity they're allowed to wear the same uniform we do.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: aircrew, while they have their uses, should not be allowed anywhere near political power. Navy pilots seem to be a particular problem...

In the US:
George W Bush.
George HW Bush. (N)
Tailgunner Joe McCarthy.
Charles Lindbergh.
Donald Rumsfeld. (N)
Randall "Duke" Cunningham. (N)
"B-1 Bob" Dornan.
Two of the Keating Five: John McCain (N) and John Glenn.

Elsewhere:
Hermann Goering.
Reinhard Heydrich.
Jerry Rawlings, dictator of Ghana.
Hafez al-Asad, dictator of Syria.
Hosni Mubarak, dictator of Egypt.

#122 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 06:20 AM:

What would a troll do with points? Don't trolls prefer blunt weapons?

#123 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 06:35 AM:

ajay @ 121: Well, yes, but George McGovern.

#124 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 06:37 AM:

ajay @121 -
I've said it before and I'll say it again: aircrew, while they have their uses, should not be allowed anywhere near political power. Navy pilots seem to be a particular problem...

Heinlein posited in Starship Troopers that the Sky Marshall (apparently the equivalent to the Chairman, JCS, or possibly CIC, if the position is split off from the civilian position) had to rise up through the ranks of both the Navy and Mobile Infantry to get the position - they had to have working knowledge, enlisted to flag, of both environments.*

The position of CIC does not require military experience (though many presidents have had it). But there is, I think, something to be said for requiring that flag officers (or maybe officers in general) have some idea about what the other services are going through.

(Then again, I'm the guy who manages to honk off zoomies on a regular basis, when I mention that I'm of the opinion that the USAF - perhaps less the space and strategic bombing elements - should be folded back into the Army, because they've forgotten that Air Superiority is a means, not an end).

*No OCS or military academies in Trooperverse, apparently, which might be a good thing, and either an accelerated promotion schedule even in peacetime, or an expanded life expectancy for those not killed in a drop, etc.

#125 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 06:49 AM:

#10 ::: martyh

Afaik, there was a lot of talk about bomb shelters, but very few were built.

#51 ::: Clifton Royston

I agree about generational ptsd-- it was a tremendous relief when the USSR went under. Even if a bomb was used for terrorism, a spasm war wasn't possible anymore.

#126 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 07:12 AM:

Born in 1960, grew up near a major USAF research base in TN. Always figured the USSR would have tossed a few missiles our way, just to make sure.

The Warsaw Pact's plan for a European invasion included heavy use of tactical nuclear weapons to blast through the defenses and to take out NATO airbases. Of course, then we'd respond in kind, they'd retaliate, and absent sane leaders on both sides, end up incinerating each other rather quickly afterwards.

The problem with their missiles, though, was they were both inaccurate and unreliable. They admit now that they didn't expect more than half to work when needed, and their accuracy was laughable; not so important when they are carrying 10-50MT warheads though, or aimed at soft targets like harbors/airbases/cities...

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 07:14 AM:

Nancy C Mittens @ 99.... coughgagsplutter

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 07:17 AM:

Remember the first Gulf War, when Bush Sr. compared Saddam Hussein's military to the Wehrmacht? I presume that he, having fought during WW2, knew this was BS, but it played well with the rubes.

#129 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 07:39 AM:

I live in Northern Italy. When I was six year old I realized that I was living at 6 km from a major commercial and industrial port, at 4 km from a huge petrochemical plant, at 2 km from an important railway interchange node, at 10 km from a (smallish) naval base, at 5 to 15 km from half a dozen large barracks, and at 25 km from a (smallish) NATO air base. That was just my neighbourhood, but my region (Veneto) was full of military bases. So I was never really confident on my survival chances in case of war.

#130 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 07:56 AM:

I want to add that I had it relatively good.
My parents where both activists in the Italian Communist Party and a nuclear war wasn't the scariest thing that could happen. After Greece '67, Chile '73, a number of fascist bombings in the late '60s and early '70s and with persistent rumours of coup plans and at least one aborted attempt, my parents were terrorized by the possibility of a military/right-wing takeover of Italy.
For all the '70s the first thing my father did in the morning was turning on tv and radio to be sure that they were still living in a democracy. For a while the local branch of the party maintained an always up-to-date and redundant telephonic chain to try to inform as many members as possible in case of a coup. I herd that there were also plans to help the most likely to be targeted local leaders go underground or flight the country before they were eventually rounded up.

#131 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 07:59 AM:

124: I've never been sure how practical that would be - depends on what age you would be when you reached command rank. If you got a corvette command at 30, then fine, go back and do infantry basic training. If it's 40 - could you really hack it as an infantryman?

The UK armed forces have a certain degree of this - naval officers are encouraged (it does their careers good) to do the All-Arms Commando course, which is a slightly milder and shorter (ten weeks) version of the training course that the Royal Marines undergo. Certainly it'd be a good idea for RAF aircrew to have to do something similar.

And my own if-I-ran-things belief is that a qualifying test for members of parliament should be spending a night in prison, a week in hospital, a month on benefits and a season in the armed forces... just to focus the mind on how things look from the bottom of the pile.

#132 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:24 AM:
Oh, it’s been a bit longer than that. Once you add to together the Cold War, the War on Drugs* and the War on Terra (after the War on Drugs started to lose public support), Republicans have been screaming about those scary furriners and traitorous Un-Americans for well over fifty years now. (I bet you could find similar rhetoric, probably about immigrants and blacks, going even further back.)
Indeed you can: they were called the Know-Nothings. Back then it was immigrants, Catholics and blacks. They eventually split over slavery and the anti-slavery wing joined the Republicans (where they were still nativist, they just thought slavery was going too far). (The pro-slavery wing, I guess, must have become Dixiecrats, until the Southern Strategy came along and recruited their ideological heirs into the Republican Party.)

Oh, and the KKK bears notable similarities to this position too.

#133 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:34 AM:

heresiarch @ 191

The punchline to a Fred Brown short story that specifically addressed the moral question of preparing for nuclear war applies here: "Only a madman gives a loaded gun to an idiot."

#134 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:40 AM:

ajay @ #121--Strictly speaking, Joe Mccarthy wasn't a pilot. He was a briefing officer, and flew some missions as an observer. He also later falsified the number of missions he flew so as to obtain a Distinguished Flying Cross. However, your general point stands.

#135 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:43 AM:

Heresiarch @110: where, exactly, have I said that an East/West nuclear exchange would have rendered the human species extinct?

Hint: you're attributing that statement to the wrong person. "Ringing down the curtain on western civilization", on the other hand, seems like a not-unlikely consequence of such an exchange, and is quite bad enough.

#136 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:49 AM:

ajay @ 131

a qualifying test for members of parliament should be spending a night in prison, a week in hospital, a month on benefits and a season in the armed forces... just to focus the mind on how things look from the bottom of the pile.

Precisely why I always gave Heinlein props for advocating that every officer have to come up from the enlisted ranks. Most military services try to balance an officer's instilled prejudices and feelings of privilege by having senior non-coms monitor and correct them; this only works with the less stubborn and bone-headed officers.

And re: airedales. Reading through this thread a few minutes ago I had an epiphany on why my hackles stand up and vibrate every time I hear about US Air Force Cyber Command: it's zoomies in cyberspace. The AF finally found the perfect push button battleground: they can't even sustain casualties except maybe for mild cases of RSI.

#137 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:50 AM:

It was Xopher's #31 that claimed a MAD war would kill everyone, I believe.

#138 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 09:12 AM:

If I follow the line of reasoning Cheney et al. employ in thier "Iran-is-a-terrible-threat" meme, it's all about the oil, and the Straits of Hormuz, and so on. Because Ghu knows that the Iranians couldn't seriously screw up passage through the Straits now without atomic or nuclear weapons at their disposal.

The big issue for the Cheney crowd is the control of oil resources, because they do admit (even if it's just to each other, in closed rooms, far away from the eyes and ears of the public and those ever-vigilant guardians of truth and the public interest[/sarcasm], the media ) that Peak Oil is real, and is now. The best thing they can think of to do to deal with it is to grab whatever's possible to grab and hold on to it in the face of all comers.

It says a lot about them, and their understanding of the world, that they can see this alternative, and yet find so little interest in pursuing and encouraging the development of alternative sources. See my previous remarks about only having hammers, and not knowing about other tools.

We've commented, at some length, about the awareness a lot of us grew up with, connected to the policies of MAD, that a cataclysmic nuclear war was a real possibility. Not only did Nixon go to China; he was at some pains to establish what he and his advisers liked to call détente with the USSR--and again, just as he was the only one who could have gone to China, he was among the few who could have gotten away with that policy. Certainly there were hard-liners in Washington (anyone remember the Alsops?) who looked upon both these efforts with horror.
Just as we remember growing up with the threat of destruction hanging over our heads, I think a lot of policy-making types my age and older (late 40s-on up) grew up used to working with a Great Enemy. All their plans, all their calculations, all their strategies are based on the principle of the Great Enemy; the USAF is even now resisting pressures to adapt its tactics and equipment to Fourth-Generation Warfare because they want to shape themselves as a weapon to be used against what they see as our next Great Enemy, China. If they don't have a real Great Enemy, they'll imagine one, no matter how ridiculous their candidate may seem to people who aren't prisoners of the Great Enemy meme. Their brains have adapted to having a Great Enemy, and whether they can't adapt them to another way of thinking, or they don't realize they need to change how they see things, the result is the same: they go out and get another Great Enemy. I think this applies to a good many members of the general public as well. We (in the US, anyway) grew up with a Great Enemy; we all knew who it was, and it shaped everything, sort of the way Jupiter's gravitational field tweaks everything around it.

So what we have here is a meme that needs to be dragged out into daylight, carefully dissected, and then disposed of in the appropriate recycling bin. I think I'd like to call it the James Jesus Angleton meme. One of the risks it presents is that you ignore actual damgers because you're fixated on the ones you've imagined; another is that make more enemies for yourself that you'd have if you left well-enough alone. Then there's the bit where you are so obviously operating in another reality that people get used to dismissing every thing that could be a threat because they don't want to be you.

#139 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 09:20 AM:

134: which is why I took care to say "aircrew" rather than "pilots". I should probably have specified fixed-wing; I have no animus against helicopter crews.

What's the difference between God and a Tornado pilot?
God isn't under the illusion that he flies a Tornado.

How can you tell a fast jet pilot?
You don't. He tells you.

What's the most distinctive feature of the noise made by a Harrier?
The loud whining sound continues after the engine has shut down.

#140 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 09:24 AM:

ajay@131 -
124: I've never been sure how practical that would be - depends on what age you would be when you reached command rank. If you got a corvette command at 30, then fine, go back and do infantry basic training. If it's 40 - could you really hack it as an infantryman?

It also depends on lifespan - right now, it's not real feasible (in most cases) - if you define "command" as "O-6 - Colonel or Captain" - then most officers will be in the late-thirties, early forties range (today, non-total war). But Johnnie's dad manages to survive MI Basic, and has to be in his very late thirties or early-mid forties (assuming he married out of business school/college, he'd be in the 42 - 45 range when his wife is killed).

The UK armed forces have a certain degree of this - naval officers are encouraged (it does their careers good) to do the All-Arms Commando course, which is a slightly milder and shorter (ten weeks) version of the training course that the Royal Marines undergo. Certainly it'd be a good idea for RAF aircrew to have to do something similar.

When I was doing Basic (oh so many years ago), there was a company of USAF Air Police undergoing Light Infantry cross-training at the same time we were doing our rifle and combat maneuver training. Some of this type of cross-training does go on in the US military, but I'm not sure (other than things like SERE school) how much is officer-aimed.

And my own if-I-ran-things belief is that a qualifying test for members of parliament should be spending a night in prison, a week in hospital, a month on benefits and a season in the armed forces... just to focus the mind on how things look from the bottom of the pile.

I'd be up for requiring that.

#141 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 09:52 AM:

#93, Rikibeth -

That was my reaction, too. (I lived 5 miles from an Air Force Base, and as far as I could tell, an important one.)

#94, Wirelizard -

"Twitch" is an excellent description for it. When I hear an unexpected siren that is clearly not an emergency vehicle, my first reaction is still "Bombs!" not "Tornado!" or "What the hell is that?"


#110 - heresiarch -

You mean I don't get to blame the stupidity of a "drug czar" on Bush? Rats. That term has made me grind my teeth ever since I heard it the first time. We're naming an appointed position after the title for the inherited head of another country? WTF? Plus, it always sounded to me like a "drug czar" ought to be the equivalent to a "drug kingpin" - the guy we're out to stop, not the guy in charge of enforcement.

#142 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:03 AM:

ajay @139--I suspected that, but it still reads confusingly.

I think helicopter pilots have, as a consequence partly of what they fly and partly of what their missions tend to be both a marked awareness of their vulnerability and a closer acquaintance with the PBI (at least in the Army and Marine Corps here in the US) than a lot of the fixed-wing crowd is likely to have. I have a close friend who was a door-gunner and crew chief on a Huey in Viet Nam; by his account, helicopter pilots who were not ready to extend themselves on behalf of the ground forces were not thought well of by their peers, to put it mildly.

As for the rest of it, you really need a rim-shot in there. I'm just sayin'.


Scott Taylor @140--As I understand it, ground-crews have to be ready to defend a base against attack, just in case. Whether this is ever more than a theoretical concept for the pilots--only they can say.

#143 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:16 AM:

Bruce @ 118, heresiarch @ 119:
For the effects of a nuclear weapon on a major city: the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. I went through once, came out weeping copiously, and came back the next day for another trip through for more details. I took a few pictures, which are more of the pictures from Japan that I have yet to get organized and posted, sigh.

#144 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:25 AM:

I grew up 27 miles from the Air Logistics Center at Warner Robins, GA ("the largest industrial complex in Georgia" according to their current info). This gave me perfect confidence that in the event of a US/Soviet war I would die in the first exchange. During my middle and high school years I truly did not expect to live to adulthood.

In the '80s I belonged to a group called Beyond War. They did a demonstration involving pouring ball bearings into a large metal trash can as the audience, eyes closed, listens--each BB representing one nuclear warhead in the current arsenal. The sound went on, and on, and on.

(They also produced a lovely short film called "No Frames, No Boundaries" which I remember much more fondly.)

(ajay @139: The ghost of my father (USN, WWII) is singing "Into the air, junior birdmen;/Into the air upside down" while making the distinctive two-handed "goggles and mask" gesture)

#145 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:32 AM:

Bruce @ 115

I recall that one of the reading books we had in school - and I can't remember what grade it was in - had a piece on Slotin. It stays with you.

#146 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:43 AM:

ajay: George McGovern was a bomber pilot (B-24, Italy; the same theater as Joseph Heller (Catch -22).

Scott Taylor: There is OCS in ST, but one has to be a private soldier first. There is an army which uses this model... it's got drawbacks. It does lead to very involved officers, and a decent understanding of what troops can/will do.

It also leads to generals playing colonel.

As to the AF and it's role... as used/built, it's a bastard hybrid. The Russians did it right, with a Strategic side; independent of the rest of the Armed Forces, and the Air Force proper as a part of the Army.

Esp. as the Navy/Marine (which as I uderstand it require all pilots to serve a tour leading an infantry unit) have their own air assets. The main role of the Air Force is to support the army, and they are so-so at doing it, because they are "independant".

Given the other problems the AF has (esp. in the training of it's officer corps), which largely stem from the apocalyptic nature of much of the mission, and it's a recipe for all sorts of screw-up.

If there were a service I could see staging a coup, it would come out of the Air Force.

Interservice training aimed at officers? Apart from the Corps and close air support pilots, damn all.

An officer's job is to manage, the NCO's job to implement (and train) the squaddie's job to do.

Once they hit major (and in most cases, captain; non-naval) they are desk jockeys, never again having to make critical decisions in a field environment. Staff duty is where most of them end up.

Serge: Bush Pere was an attack pilot in the Navy, with a three-man aircrew (two of whom died when their plane was shot down), so he fought in the Pacific. I think the more important thing is his age in the war. He was the youngest Pilot the Navy ever commissioned (19).

ajay: A week in a prison. One night isn't enough. The inproccessing alone takes up about a day (at least in the US). That's for jail, and prison. If one is certain of leaving in a short period of time, it's bearable.

But a week, well that's not quite so trivial.

fidelio: Chopper pilots are a different breed. One, they get to enlist straight into the job (often out of high school). Two, they have to depend on flight crew, all the time; from take-off to landing, there is a crew-chief (who owns the bird, the pilot just gets to fly it) on board all but the attack craft. Three, the attack choppers are in close support. Often close enough to get shot up by guys with rifles, which sharpens the focus (the AH-64s shot down in the battle for Baghdad were brought down by AK-47s. I drove through the area of that firefight... the damage to the roadbed was from a very shallow angle of fire).

They are in the army. They have to go through Basic training (well, no; not all. There are some officers, who do ROTC, and then have to suffer the indignities of flight school). Unlike the AF they idendify with the PBI. That may be the biggest difference, the AF pilots don't see the soldiers as being, "one of us." On the same side, maybe even the same team, but not the same tribe.

Add the incredible complexities of the machinery (anything whch has a, "Jesus nut," holding the only means of keeping a flying brick aloft...) and that gives them a sense of fatalism the fixed wing pilot doesn't have.

#147 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:45 AM:

Susan @143:

Hiroshima was destroyed using a primitive 20Kt weapon; the ones both the US and USSR had (still have) are orders of magnitude more destructive than that. If even a 1MT weapon were ever detonated over a city, there wouldn't be anything recognizable left for miles around.

The 20MT and larger weapons would leave HOLES where the city was.

#148 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:49 AM:

Terry Karney @ 146... True, Bush Sr. operated in the Pacific Theater, but I assume that he still knew, from other flyboys, what things were like in Europe. Thus my comment. My apologies for the confusion.

#149 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:51 AM:

Susan: For a sense of what a modern war (absent nukes) is like, when nations are evenly matched, the Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Kiev is staggering. The exit hall just leaves one numbed. Yes, there is a lot of chest-thnumping triumphalism in the rotunda, but the actual museum... no one is loud, and the visuals are overwhelming.

Not for the faint of heart.

#150 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:00 AM:

Serge: He didn't. The experiences were worlds apart. Air Force pilots (fighter, and close support) weren't that far from the lines. They had it easier than the dogfaces (who doesn't?), but they had some understanding.

The Pacific War was (esp. for those on ships) "clean", in that it was all (save the strat -bombing of the Home Islands) in places where the only people involved were, basically, combatants.

So the destruction was morally neutral (if one accepts the need for the war). "The Japs" were also cast in a very different light from the Germans... almost sub-human (and in some ways, decidedly so... Life would never have run a memento mori shot of a German soldier's skull as a souvenir to one's girlfriend back home... and for damned sure wouldn't have shown her holding it).

I think the comparison was because the Ba'athist were a fascist model, and the stories out of Kuwait were of the style used in WW1, with poor little Belgium.

So Germany was the model to reach for, and WW2 is the "good war" that "everyone" could support.

It was carefully crafted propaganda, and the only comparative which had any real hope of working. I think it was more for the coalition, than the home front.

#151 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:03 AM:

146: ever read "Chickenhawk"? I have a feeling you might like it.
And, yes, a week in prison would probably be better.

#152 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:04 AM:

"The Japs" were also cast in a very different light from the Germans... almost sub-human

One only has to take a look at the animated cartoons of the era.

#153 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:10 AM:

Serge: Find the book of Theodore Geisel's WW2 cartoons. Dr. Seuss could be vicious.

ajay: Read it years ago. Like it. There was a time (early college) I was reading a lot of Viet-nam memoirs/fiction.

#154 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:17 AM:

I guess I'll toss in a slightly different 80s perspective on a nuclear war. In my teens in the 80s I was and hung out with Midwestern urban punk rockers. The general feeling wasn't of fear that there _might_ be a nuclear war that might kill us all. It was never talked about, but we pretty much assumed it was going to happen and figured we might as well have fun until someone pushed the button. That absolute conviction that we were all going to die sometime relatively soon had a lot to do with the underlying nihilism of the punk scene, at least IMHO.

The advent of Glasnost and the peaceful collapse of the USSR had an amazing effect on the punks I hung around with. For the very first time ever a lot of us could suddenly imagine living past thirty and it opened a lot of emotional doors.

Having McCain compare on any level the potential minor future threat of an Iran with nuclear weapons to that certainty of my own death makes my want to scream.

#155 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:18 AM:

Wesley @92: There's also a Vietnam-era Peanuts sequence where Snoopy gets caught in a protest over "dogs being sent to Vietnam and then not getting back" and is tear-gassed.

Yes, the US Military left the dogs behind in Viet Nam. I am not sure why they did so, but I know it happened and I hate the people that were responsible for it. Any living creature that has served with all its devotion should not be abandoned when the job is done...

#156 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:20 AM:

Bruce Cohen
Precisely why I always gave Heinlein props for advocating that every officer have to come up from the enlisted ranks. Most military services try to balance an officer's instilled prejudices and feelings of privilege by having senior non-coms monitor and correct them; this only works with the less stubborn and bone-headed officers.

Yah.

Terry Karney -
Scott Taylor: There is OCS in ST, but one has to be a private soldier first. There is an army which uses this model... it's got drawbacks. It does lead to very involved officers, and a decent understanding of what troops can/will do.

It also leads to generals playing colonel.

Yeah, for OCS, replace with ROTC - that's what I was thinking, but my fingers put in OCS anyways.

I'm wondering if the problems outweigh the advantages, in a "all officers were squaddies once" system.

As to the AF and it's role... as used/built, it's a bastard hybrid. The Russians did it right, with a Strategic side; independent of the rest of the Armed Forces, and the Air Force proper as a part of the Army.

Exactly. Ideally, where there is now the Air Force, there would be three units, two independent, and one suborned to the Army (or maybe two suborned to the Army) -

1 - Strategic Bombing, Missile Command, and Interface Operations (near-orbit/orbit/cis-lunar). Independent command - call it the US Aerospace Force, or something.

2 - Tactical Operations (Air Superiority, Reconnaissance, and Close Air Support - in roughly reverse order of emphasized importance). US Army Air Corps.

3 - Transport Command (possibly joined with the purely transport elements of the Navy as a separate command, possibly not). Either part of the AAC, or part of an independent command (US Military Transport Command?)

Esp. as the Navy/Marine (which as I uderstand it require all pilots to serve a tour leading an infantry unit) have their own air assets. The main role of the Air Force is to support the army, and they are so-so at doing it, because they are "independant".

And because being a zoomie, flying through the air at mach 2 and killing the baddie pilots with guns and dogfighting missiles is a lot more glamorous than getting down in the mud and running CAS bombing and gun runs, or flying a transport fulla dirty grunts from point a to point b... :-/

fidelio: Chopper pilots are a different breed. One, they get to enlist straight into the job (often out of high school).

One of the guys in my training platoon in BT was one of these guys (although he was a college grad, with a bunch of flight hours) - he was going from Basic to NCO school, then to flight school, where he would get his WO1 pins - he was drawing pay as a E-5 in Basic. Sweet deal.

#157 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:23 AM:

Terry @146--this doesn't surprise me--I had an acquaintance at Ft. Campbell who was a helicopter pilot--commissioned, not warrant, and nothing you've said conflicts with what I heard from him. One of the more memorable moments of his training was a remark by an old warrant officer who had served in Vietnam; "Everybody died. Good pilot, bad pilots, average pilots. Ordnance doesn't care how well you fly."

#158 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:23 AM:

Terry @146--this doesn't surprise me--I had an acquaintance at Ft. Campbell who was a helicopter pilot--commissioned, not warrant, and nothing you've said conflicts with what I heard from him. One of the more memorable moments of his training was a remark by an old warrant officer who had served in Vietnam; "Everybody died. Good pilot, bad pilots, average pilots. Ordnance doesn't care how well you fly."

#159 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:32 AM:

How did that happen? I know I didn't hit "post" twice. Oh, well.


Lori @ 155--the dogs were left behind because, I am told, it was thought they acquired local parasites that no one wanted to risk introducing stateside. Some handlers broke the rules, though, because it's very hard to see the partner that's saved your life as expendable asset, no matter what the brass says.

#160 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:53 AM:

I'm the one who said a MAD war (that is, an all-out nuclear war where all the missles on both sides were deployed or destroyed) would exterminate humanity. I've seen nothing here that changes my mind.

Radioactive dust cloud. Radioactive, to kill and poison. Dust cloud, to make agriculture impossible. I don't know if it would chill the Earth or heat it, but either would be bad.

Some life might survive, though I doubt it. But not humans. We're far too fragile.

And even if the USSR didn't count Australia as an ally of the US and bomb it directly, the secondary effects would take y'all out too. No refuge anywhere.

#161 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:05 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 135: "where, exactly, have I said that an East/West nuclear exchange would have rendered the human species extinct?"

You responded to people saying "I doubt the entire world would be destroyed, probably just the US and USSR" by pointing out that Europe would be destroyed along with them. It was unclear--to me, at least--you meant to widen their scope of destruction, but were you merely including Europe, or were you implying that, with Europe included, that that effectively was the entire world? The entire world was the subject of discussion, after all.

I latched on to the latter reading too quickly--I apologize. I grew up in the US, so I'm pretty used to people treating the US and (occasionally) Europe as the entire world. The phrase "western civilization" tends to set my spider sense to tingling.

John L @ 137: "It was Xopher's #31 that claimed a MAD war would kill everyone, I believe."

Xopher was just saying that that was what he was taught--he wasn't making any claims about the reality of nuclear war.

Susan @ 143: Yes, I've been. That would be a good test for anyone who might be in charge of nuclear weapons--make 'em go through, and if they finish without a tear in their eye, yank their authority. They are demonstrably insane.

#162 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:08 PM:

Fidelio @159: Thanks -- so some of them did get back? May the gods bless those handlers.

I have mourned the abandoned ones for years, it helps to know that not all met that fate.

Isn't it ironic that some troops are bringing back strays from Afghanistan and Iraq? (And yes, I've contributed money to help.)

#163 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:14 PM:

Xopher @ 160: Really? Well nevermind me then. Clearly not my day for critical reading comprehension.

#164 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:25 PM:

Bruce @ 115: I wonder how much Slotin's story served as inspiration for Noisy Rhysling?

#165 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:48 PM:

heresiarch 163: Well, to be fair, I may not have said so in my earlier post. But it is what I think. I think even the people over-wintering in Antarctica would die.

#166 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 01:11 PM:

Lori @#162--My landlord knew someone who was a handler, although they served in Vietnam at different times. From what he said, as far as they were concerned, the dogs were their comrades-in-arms, and deserved exactly the same treatment and concern their human comrades deserved*. They did not like those orders, not one little bit.

*Maybe even better. As my landlord's acquaintance put it, "After all, the dog never borrowed money from me, or tried to hit on my girl."

#167 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 02:08 PM:

I'm sure I'm not the first person to suggest it, but...

"Hasn't McCain been looking a little tired lately?"

Pass it on.

#168 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Xopher #165: I doubt it, but I'm not sure how to figure out which of us is right. I mean other than running the experiment, which seems like a bad idea.

From your earlier comment, the responses didn't seem too dogpilish to me. It's an interesting factual/SFish question whether humans would have survived a full-scale nuclear war, but it's not like I have an especially strong emotional attachment to either answer. I also remember the assumption, growing up, that we might just end the whole damned world.

The creepiest part of this, to me, was always the technical glitches and misunderstandings that could trigger a nuclear war by mistake. There were apparently several occasions where it would have taken just one or two bad decisions of medium-level folks to put the missiles in the air.

#169 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 02:26 PM:

Kelly McCullough @#154: I remember the 80's that way too, although I was a fairly hopeful geek, not a punk. My godparents got mad at their daughter and I for playing the "Gamma World" RPG because it's in a post-nuclear-holocaust setting and they didn't like that we were engaging in an imaginitive reality that assumed nuclear war was inevitable--they thought it was bad for us and would lead to existentialism.

Gamma World was awesome, though, so we convinced them that it was just showing us the dreadful power of nuclear destruction, the better to teach us to avoid it.

#170 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 02:42 PM:

albatross 168: A whole bunch of people posted responses to your comment at more or less the same time; I'm glad you didn't feel dogpiled, because I'm pretty sure no one meant to.

I share your conviction that never knowing the real answer is a Good Thing in this case.

Did you know that the missles in Cuba in 1962 had warheads on them? The US military didn't, until after the fall of the USSR. Because of that, they nearly decided to take them out, figuring the launch wouldn't do so much damage. As far as I know that's as close as we came.

#171 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 03:14 PM:

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I had a different perspective on impending nuclear doom than most people, but that's because I was several hundred miles from the nearest conceivable target. But that one was a doozey -- Eielson Air Force base in Fairbanks, Alaska, widely believed at the time (although the Air Force denies it now) to have been keeping nuclear-armed B52s in the air 24/7. I can't speak to their bomb loads, but they flew over our cabin every few days, you could tell the BUFFs because they had that unique contrail pattern with four pairs of contrails from the eight engines.

Waaay over by the Canadian border, we pretty much knew we'd only learn about "the big one" when the only radio station we could reliably hear, KJNP ("your fifty thousand watt voice of the north, King Jesus North Pole", and I am not making this up) went off the air. But, living right on the ragged edge of "too far north for subsistence agriculture" even before the sky fills with reflective dust for a few years, we all pretty much figured to starve after that, depending on whether or not the caribou could keep breeding once the lichens they eat started accumulating too much strontium-90, which it was already then doing in dangerous amounts just from the years of atmospheric testing.

Most folks, my parents included, made a habit of storing about five year's worth of hard winter wheat in vacuum-sealed cans. My dad still has some of those wheat cans kicking around.

My own view is that extermination of all humanity would not have happened. But I always assumed we would be reduced to tiny populations living in stone age squalor. And Xopher is correct -- the "conventional wisdom" taught at the time was that a broad nuclear exchange would exterminate humanity.

#172 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 03:15 PM:

No, Xopher, Cuba was a lot closer than that.

At one point, US destroyers enforcing the blockade noticed a Russian sub trying to make a run in. They decided to force it to surface using the hand grenade trick -- drop a hand grenade in water and it sounds to a sub skipper a lot like a distant depth charge.

What they didn't know was that (a) the sub had a nuclear-tipped torpedo on board, and (b) the standing orders were to use it if they were fired upon. Luckily it took a unanimous decision by the captain, executive officer, and political officer in order to pull the trigger, and the XO figured that the Americans were bluffing and suggested lying low for a while instead.

And if you think that was close? Look up Operation RYAN and Able Archer '83. Sweet dreams!

#173 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 03:19 PM:

albatross @ #168, you write "The creepiest part of this, to me, was always the technical glitches and misunderstandings that could trigger a nuclear war by mistake."

I always thought that Fail Safe was the best of the nuclear bomb movies for drama and depiction of the horror that could happen. The filmmakers were brilliant in the final scenes, using still shots to show impact.

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 03:44 PM:

Linkmeister @ 173... Did you see 2000's remake? It was done live on TV.

#175 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 03:45 PM:

We've been right on the brink more than once.

Stanislav Petrov Saved Your Life

#176 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 04:00 PM:

Terry @ #175, I've never heard that story before.

I was nearly 12 and living in the DC suburbs during the Cuban Missile Crisis; I remember that particularly brink fairly well (supplemented by Thirteen Days and several books). It was a scary scary time.

#177 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 04:01 PM:

Serge, I didn't know about it, but I've got an aversion to remakes anyway, so I might not have chosen to watch even had I known.

#178 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 04:11 PM:

Election coverage at the Onion is, as usual, outstanding: Obama, Clinton, McCain Join Forces To Form Nightmare Ticket

#179 ::: martyn44 ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 06:42 PM:

#69 - Jacob Davies

Mentioning Blackbirds reminds me of the day I went to Mildenhall to offer financial advice to a soon to be retiring officer. Given my interest in aviation, talk got round to the SR71, which the officer assured me was not stationed in the UK and did not fly from the UK - despite my being able to turn around, look out of the window and see one dripping oil onto the apron 200 yards away.

Like Charlie, I never worried about surviving a nuclear exchange because I knew I wouldn't, like everyone else on Airstrip 1. Oh, what a lucky man I was.

#180 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 07:37 PM:

Daniel, #171: It's quite possible that a full-scale nuclear war would have exterminated humanity -- not directly, but as a result of the after-effects. Radioactive dust clouds and the nuclear-winter scenario have already been mentioned; to that, add your image of widely-scattered primitive enclaves. Now think about the results of increased mutation levels and inbreeding (for lack of any easy way to add to the genetic pool) over a few generations. Not a pretty picture.

martyn44, #179: So even Blackbirds become subject to the Ubiquitous British Oil Leak if they're stationed in the UK?

#181 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 07:45 PM:

Linkmeister @ 177... I usually don't care about remakes either, but I thought that doing it live on TV gave it a different slant.

#182 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:06 PM:

Daniel Boone @ #171 - Ah, good ol KJNP, God's Twin Towers of Power. Of course, there's only one now. My favorite is when my microwave was telling me that I would burn in hell for my sins, as the bleed over was coming through the speaker on the microwave. I still live in North Pole, and my Dad worked on Eielson for about 30 years. Howdy to a local!

#183 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:34 PM:

Lee: In case you didn't know, the SR-71 leaks fluids when at rest. The joints don't seal until friction from the air expands the tanks and closes the seals.

#184 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 08:51 PM:

IIRC, the current thinking among evolutionary biologists based on genetic analysis of world populations is that modern humanity (Homo sapiens) has already been through one near-extinction "choke-point" in Africa between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, where we were down to a few thousand total population, probably broken into groups of a few hundred each. (That would have been before any populations of Homo sapiens left Africa.)

That is one reason that - or so I've read - you can find about 80% as much genetic variation within tribes of Khoisan or !Kung in Southern Africa as you do between any two different "racial" groups from different parts of the world. We are all very, very, closely related.

That is of course no guarantee that we would make it through another such, but simply being broken into small isolated populations does not make extinction a given. (If it lasted long enough, it might conceivably lead to speciation but that's a whole 'nother interesting story.)

#185 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 09:42 PM:

Contributing to the general SR-71 geekery: when the AF officially retired the Blackbird, and flew one from the West Coast to the East Coast, it was immediately clear from the article that the plane had flown way faster than the official speed. (The article gave the approximate departure time from WC and arrival time on the EC...)

When I was in vet school, one of my classmates was a former AF sergeant whose favorite plane was not the SR71 (it was either the F14 or the F16, I can't remember any more). We had a few debates on which plane was "better".

#186 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:22 PM:

Lee #180: I agree with your "it's quite possible that a full-scale nuclear war would have exterminated humanity"; it's quite possible, but I never felt it was as certain as the conventional wisdom had it. This is my Heinlein-esque faith in the adaptability and toughness of humans talking; I'm not scoffing at all of the ways the deck would have been stacked against.

#187 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:28 PM:

"Interesting game. The only winning move is not to play."

Also interesting: how topic drift from 'McCain Targets Obama' led to nuclear weapons targeting...

#188 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 10:30 PM:

Tania #182, my mother used to sneak onto base with her airman boyfriend (in the trunk of his car, what a mensch he was!) when she was attending UAF in the 50s.

As for KJNP, over in Eagle we always felt that when it got to be sunset, they cranked up their towers WAY above their FCC-allowed 50K watts, so that they could beam the Good Word all the way over the pole to the godless commies of the USSR. Certainly they were always a ton louder than every other 50k-watt station in Fairbanks, and at night when the ionosphere hardened up you could pick them up on anything with a speaker, even from hundreds of miles away. It's easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission, and what's an FCC regulation against all the souls of a world superpower?

#189 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:17 PM:

"Little Johnny Jones, he was a US pilot,
And no shrinking violet was he.
He was mighty proud when World War III was declared.
He wasn't scared, no siree!

And this is what he said on
His way to Armageddon..."

-- Tom Lehrer, "So Long, Mom (A Song For World War III)"

#190 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 11:22 PM:

"So long, Mom,
I'm off to drop the Bomb,
So don't wait up for me.
While you all swelter
Down there in your shelter,
You can see me
on your TV"

(Misspent childhood, or something)

#191 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 12:03 AM:

Rob Rusick #187: Weird. I instantly recognized that quote and was certain that that quote was from Pratchett's Death, but then when I googled it (only because I couldn't remember the context it came from), I found out that it's from a movie I haven't seen. How odd.

#192 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 01:28 AM:

"While we're attacking frontally
See Brink-a-ley and Hunt-a-ley
Describing contrapuntally
The cities we have lost.

There's no need for you to miss a minute
of the agonising holocaust!"


(What do you mean, "misspent"?)

#193 ::: Nona ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 02:10 AM:

#106 P J Evans: As far as what group turns up where:
The surgeon who did my mother's gall bladder surgery, in West Texas in the mid-90s, was from Turkey. As in, Turkish. He showed up for rounds - she described this - in jeans and cowboy boots.

I was recently in Beirut, and somehow wound up at a Western-themed steakhouse called El Rancho in the mountains north of the city. The owners were a Lebanese couple who had lived in Texas for a number of years, before returning home and starting a restaurant where all the waiters wore cowboy hats and there was a lot of wagon-wheel furniture out front by the cigar store Indian. The menu items were called things like "The Calamity Jane" and "The Buffalo Bill." At one point, "Desperado" came on over the PA and I started to wonder if I'd slipped into a very strange, very kitschy alternate universe.

The highlight, though, came after dinner, when the owner gave us a tour of the on-site farm that produced everything we had eaten. As I said, he was Lebanese; he was also wearing a bolo tie, cowboy boots, a black Stetson, and one of those Australian cattle-rancher's coats. As we headed back to our car, his cell phone rang: doodle deedle dee, doo doo doo.

It was the music from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." I had to go have a quiet sit-down for a few minutes until the giggles subsided.

That said, I'm not sure I've ever eaten a better steak, and if you're ever in Beirut, I recommend the place highly.

(This post has nothing to do with nuclear war. It's one of the most entertaining things that's ever happened to me, though, and I really wanted to share.)

#194 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 03:31 AM:

So long mom,
I'm off to drop the bomb
So don't wait up for me

Remember Mommie
I'm off to get a commie
So send me a salami
and try to smile somehow...

I'll look for you
when the war is over,

An hour and-a-half from now


Misspent, not at all.

#195 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 08:36 AM:

I was thinking of another song along those lines....

...we'll try to stay serene and calm, when Alabama gets the bomb....

#196 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 09:10 AM:

When you attend a funeral
It is sad to think that sooner or l-
Ater those you love will do the same for you;
And you may have thought it tragic,
Not to mention other adjec-
Tives, to think of all the weeping they will do.
(But don't you worry...)

No more ashes, no more sack cloth,
And an armband made of black cloth
Will some day never more adorn your sleeve;
For if the Bomb that drops on you
Gets your friends and neighbours too --
There will be nobody left behind to grieve!

And
we
will

All go together when we go,
(What a comforting fact that is to know)
Universal bereavement
- An inspiring achievement! -
Yes, we all will go together when we go!

#197 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 10:17 AM:

Continuing the "child of the cold war" trauma stories... my home town of Colchester, Essex is mentioned in nineteen eighty-four as being the only town nuked in a limited exchange (bless you, Eric Blair, for your post-war optimism in that).

When Chernobyl went up, I was damn sure we were headed for the end times (coming on the heels of AIDS, starvation in Africa, bombing Libya... Chernobyl was the fourth horseman for SURE).

Now living in North Wales... near the RAF bases and leaky nuclear power station. Hmmm.

#198 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 10:38 AM:

And this is what he said on
His way to Armageddon

I am in awe of the scansion of that quote. Hmmm, isn't there a Civil War song where part of it reads "on his way to Alabama"? Or Mississippi?

#199 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 11:13 AM:

ajay @196 This quote from Hen3ry is still inspirational: “Life is like a sewer — what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”, which also inspired


Just sing out a Te Deum
When you see that I.C.B.M.
And the party will be come-as-you-are.

[... there are so many lovely bold rhymes I haven't included here in this “positive, dynamic, uplifting song” ...]

And we will all go together when we go.
Every Hottentot and every Eskimo.
When the air becomes uranious,
We will all go simultaneous.
Yes, we all will go together
When we all go together,
Yes we all will go together when we go.
Of course in those days it was only three billion, not six billion hunks of well-done steak, but it still scans.

#200 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 11:29 AM:

While I love Lehrer, I also like Flanders and Swann:


I have seen it estimated:
Somewhere between death and birth
There are now three thousand million
People living on this earth
And the stock-piled mass destruction
Of the Nuclear Powers-That-Be
Equals-for each man or woman-
Twenty tons of TNT.

Every man of every nation
(Twenty tons of TNT)
Shall receive this allocation
Twenty tons of TNT.
Texan, Bantu, Slav or Maori,
Argentine or Singhalee,
Every maiden brings this dowry
Twenty tons of TNT.

Not for thirty silver shilling
Twenty tons of TNT.
Twenty thousand pounds a killing-
Twenty tons of TNT.
Twenty hundred years of teaching,
Give to each his legacy,
Plato, Buddha, Christ or Lenin,
Twenty tons of TNT.

Father, Mother, Son and Daughter,
Twenty tons of TNT.
Give us land and seed and water,
Twenty tons of TNT.
Children have no need of sharing-,
At each new nativity
Come the ghostly Magi bearing
Twenty tons of TNT.

Ends the tale that has no sequel
Twenty tons of TNT.
Now in death are all men equal
Twenty tons of TNT.
Teach me how to love my neighbour,
Do to him as he to me;
Share the fruits of all our labour
Twenty tons of TNT.


#202 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 11:57 AM:

197: I think one of the low points of my childhood was. at the age of about nine, hearing my father talk about a Civil Defence exercise in which he had just taken part.

#203 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 12:18 PM:

"Twenty tons of TNT.
Twenty thousand pounds a killing-
Twenty tons of TNT."

Someone failed math; 20 tons of anything weighs out at 40,000 pounds. Or is a British ton only 1000 pounds?

#204 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 12:28 PM:

203: maybe it means £ rather than lb?

The British ton is 2240 lb (100 cwt, each cwt being 112lb). The US ton is smaller because a US hundredweight is, for some perverse reason, 100lb, rather than the much more sensible 112lb.

#205 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 12:35 PM:

Extreme Tacky alert....

Calling Macdonald....

"McCain--a fellow even the Black Syph didn't have the balls for...."

#206 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 12:40 PM:

#179 Martyn44

That's delusional. SR-71s didn't drip oil, they dripped JP-8 (kerosene).

#207 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 01:32 PM:

I grew up in Virginia Beach, born in 1970, and never expected to live to see the year 2000. Hampton Roads was target two on the Soviet list of places that must not be missed, according to the rumors (one of the above posters grew up next door in Norfolk, we'd have fried simultaneously, whoo), and was definitely in the top ten. The Atlantic Surface and Sub fleet commanders were at NOB NorVA (world's largest naval base, as noted by above poster), you had Langley AFB just over the James with it's large TAC air wing and command, Oceana NAS just up the street from where I lived, Fentress NAS out in Deep Creek, Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock is where ALL our Nimitz and larger class carriers are built and maintaned, and half our LA and Ohio class subs come out of it as well. Throw in Little Creek amphibious base, Forts Monroe and Eustis, Norfolk Naval shipyard (in Portsmouth), the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station (they strenuously object to the rumors they have nukes there, but as with all things sensitive and classified, they will confirm nor deny), Camp Peary (CIA training facility in Williamsburg) and Cheatham Annex just up the York river, and we had no doubt that the warheads would rain down from Gloucester Point west to Jamestown, and south to Surrey Nuclear power station just across the river, and include everything south and east all the way to the sounds of NC and the Atlantic.

#208 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 01:41 PM:

John L #203: Think currency rather than weight.

#209 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 02:02 PM:

Jamie @207: I was born at Langley AFB, which had a NASA Research and Training facility, when my father was stationed there. (Scott Carpenter used to water-ski back from capsule rescue practice.)

#210 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 02:37 PM:

#207 Jamie

1) "Target-rich environment."
2) Obviously the local congresscreatures do NOT believe in avoid single point failures, and the concept of dispersal of assets and facilities for survivability and "graceful degradation" and "resistance to disaster" and such.

#211 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 03:30 PM:

For a sense of creepy, my first trip to Korea I spent working in what is probably the #2 target on the target list for the N. Korean opening barrage.

I say number-two, only because it was just a little far away from (and much better protected) target number one, and one shell wouldn't take them both out.

It was three weeks of living with the strain which was intermittent as a teen (those angsty nights when the skyglow was too orange, and I'd just read something like, "Systemic Shock").

I'm glad the people, just a decade younger than I, can't truly comprehend that. On the flip side, I wish they could; it might help.

#212 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 03:44 PM:

I was in college in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s. That's where I learned the term Ground Zero, long before 9/11. It wasn't so much that I expected there to be a nuclear war, as that I knew that if there was, I'd die immediately. And I was glad, because I didn't want to live with the aftermath/die slowly from radiation.

In some ways a bigger worry, when I still lived at home, was that some major nasty would get out of the CDC's containment. I lived about 2 miles from their headquarters (and my parents still do).

#213 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 05:19 PM:

What, no Kingston Trio?

And we can be thankful and tranquil and proud
for man's been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud
and we know for certain that some lovely day
someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away

#214 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 06:12 PM:

In my freshman philosophy class (1978), the professor floated the idea that what we as a culture were most afraid of was not that WWIII would happen--but that it wouldn't, and things would keep drifting slowly Hell-ward.

#215 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 06:50 PM:

109, 114: I'm ashamed of you.
"What do points mean?" "PRIZES!"
You would be sentenced to listen to ISIHAC on BBC 7's Listen Again schedule, but unfortunately, it's on hiatus it seems.

#216 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 12:52 AM:

Jamie, #207, I was at Princess Anne in 1970. My dad was FlagSec CINCLant. But it wasn't transfering to Oceana that made us think about bombs, it was transfering to the Pentagon the tour earlier.

#217 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 04:53 AM:

204: A ton is of course 20 cwt not 100. Sorry.

#218 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 08:51 AM:

Lori@209:

NASA LaRC is still there. I worked there for a bit in the late 90s. It's neat place, but NASA as an agency is toxic.

#219 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 12:06 PM:

Pete Darby at 197:

What an odd venue for a 'Snap!' - I was born in Colchester, UK and lived in Trawsfynydd, a mile from the aforementioned old leaky nuclear power station, for eight years.

So, yeah, brought up in a garrison town (slated to be nuked by its "own side" if necessary to keep it out of enemy hands, I'm told) and then next to a Magnox reactor. Even for Airstrip One, not calculated to instil a lot of optimism about the future.

Incidentally, one of the best ways to breed optimism about nuclear power is to make sure it's pretty much the only employer in the area. It wasn't quite 'work there or learn to carve love spoons', but close.

#220 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Kelly @213

And sung in a bright, cheery voice. The Bud N Travis version is bright and cheery, with "and we will all be blown away" followed by a sour guitar chord. The Kingston Trio version is bright, cheery and "we will all be blown away" is sung like the singer is suffering an overdose of happy pills.

We hum bars from that when McSame comes on and starts preaching "fear fear FEAR."

#221 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 02:58 PM:

Lin D @ #220, Here's the Trio's version of "The Merry Minuet" with contemporaneous still photos accompanying the music.

#222 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 03:48 PM:

Waterloo, ON. I thought "that would be an hour away from Toronto, nice to watch the glow should there be a nuke" Then it was explained that as a supplier of math-type brains to The Real World, and with places like the building that wiped out AM reception for 2 seconds out of every 10 (Raytheon, doing something with massive aerials), we were actually more likely to be targeted than Toronto. Ah well. No longer live there (miss it a bit)

#223 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 04:01 PM:

Lila @ 214:

That's a very good observation.

I think at least some of my daughter's generation feel that way. She didn't grow up with the "we could be nuked at any moment", but ever since she became a teenager, the climate catastrophe has been no mere possibility but an ongoing fact in slow motion.

#224 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 07:14 PM:

Linkmeister #221
Yup. That be it. Live at the Hungry i
There's a cackling laugh that I swear sounds like my father, but he swore just as hard that he was never there.

#225 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 08:23 PM:

#218 ::: Jamie #218: NASA LaRC is still there.

NASA LaRC? Hah, NASA LARP!!!

#226 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 08:44 PM:

I don't know where Rochester NY stood on the Soviet target lists, but I heard it had been fairly high up on an optimistically drawn target list for bombing by the Nazis (Bausch and Lomb: optics, Kodak: film).

#227 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 10:05 PM:

ethan @191: I instantly recognized that quote and was certain that that quote was from Pratchett's Death, but then when I googled it (only because I couldn't remember the context it came from), I found out that it's from a movie I haven't seen. How odd.

Wargames, with a young Matthew Broderick (also starts Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, and Barry Corbin). Fairly old; the home computer hooks up online with an acoustical modem (a box with foam sleeves you slide the handset of your phone into). Still worth watching; put it on your Netflix queue.

#228 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2008, 11:35 PM:

put it on your Netflix queue.

Done, although I must point out your misspelling of the word "queueueueueue."

#229 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2008, 01:22 PM:

I have that same problem with "bananananana".

#230 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2008, 09:53 PM:

I am just glad I don't live in Mississississippi.

#231 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2008, 10:08 PM:

Mine is aluminuminuminuminum.

#232 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2008, 10:31 PM:

Isn't that aluminiuminiuminiumium?

#233 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Not on my side of the Atlantic.

#234 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:18 PM:

I've never had the chance to wear a muumuumuumuumuu.

#235 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:23 PM:

Ginger #234: But have you worn a tuutuutuutuutuutuutuu?

#236 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:35 PM:

Fragano@235: No, nor have I swum after the humuhumunukunukupua'a'a'a'a'a'a'aaaa. My mamamamamamamama would't approve.

#237 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:38 PM:

Ginger #236: In the immortal words of Richard Strauss could I have that dada caca popo?

#238 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Fragano @ 237: hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

#239 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:17 PM:

[putting the mug of very hot tea down very carefully]
ROFL!

#240 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:11 AM:

Has anyone surfed Waikikikikikikikikiki?

#241 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:24 AM:

I have trouble typing wikiwikiwikiwikiwiki.

#242 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:40 AM:

Is this discussion reverting to a Rousseaueaueauan state of nature?

#243 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:19 AM:

I keep thinking Wiki-icki-icki-ptang!...pedia.

#244 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 06:46 PM:

Xopher,

Isn't that pronounced Wiki-icki-icki-ptui! ?

#245 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Born in 1959 in the UK, I have stood close enough to a live, armed, Blue Steel standoff-bomb (i.e. air-launched cruise missle) to see the radiation trefoil. "Open day" at RAF Leuchars some time after 1966 and before 1969. The Vulcan bombers were on the tarmac, ready to roll 24/7, pilots in the ready rooms, engine starters hooked up, "physics packages" in place. And a few thousand civilians wandering around. The only good picture I have is just of a Lightning with Sidewinder missile, though. I don't know why the nukes didn't attract me more. I don't recall a "no pictures" rule.

I pretty much freaked out my first Christmas in North America with the "cheery" announcement that NORAD was tracking an unknown object over the North Pole.

#246 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:23 PM:

#244
Depends on whether you have a cuspidor or not.

#247 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:48 PM:

Henry, I've lived in North America my entire life, and that one gets me every time. For a couple of seconds, now that I'm an adult, but I still kinda jump.

#248 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 06:11 AM:

What's all this foolishness in a serious Obamamamamamama thread?

#249 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 10:58 AM:

Xopher @#247:

That one worries me more every year, given our bellicose government. I *like* getting presents.

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