Comments: They Aren't Working on Their Worms At All!

just don't get her started on Ralph Nader.

Posted by nate at September 1, 2009 12:59 PM

Reading and enjoying Glenn Greenwald and having Joke Line say bad things about you - That's my kind of woman - Awsome! - Even if her grandad is a legend and she came by talents legitimately.

Posted by Richard S at September 1, 2009 02:36 PM

JokeLine's riding his well-deserved reputation for slimy servility to the owners as far as it will take him. I'd recommend washing your hands if you happened to touch him.

Posted by Woody at September 1, 2009 04:24 PM

"He would start at the back and then tear the paper into long strips of columns that he would clip together and then compare across writers, newspapers, and of course across time and genre."

Hmm... why does this remind me of a scene in Conspiracy Theory?

Posted by Nikolay Levin at September 1, 2009 08:12 PM

Darwin worked on barnacles, not worms.

Posted by Satan Mayo at September 1, 2009 11:04 PM

Satan Mayo, you are wrong. See:

http://charles-darwin.classic-literature.co.uk/formation-of-vegetable-mould/

The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, 1881.

Darwin *did* study barnacles as well, but his work on worms, which he conducted over decades of study at his estate, was the first detailed study of the wee beasties and launched an entire scientific specialty (or, rather, *another* scientific specialty).

Posted by Phillip Allen at September 2, 2009 09:12 AM

Nikolay:

I think that remark would really annoy I.F. Stone, who disliked JFK conspiracy theories, and maybe other conspiracy theories too--at least when he didn't propound them (see his Hidden History of the Korean War for one of his that was on the money).

Of course, that's how it always is. The other guy's theory is always crazy. For example, just look at that UFO nut Cooper!

I bet Izzy Stone was a wonderful grandpa. I've always liked how he learned ancient Greek and wrote a book about Socrates after he retired. (Most people seem to spend most of their time talking about what they had for lunch.) I'm tempted to start reading the newspaper backwards and cutting articles into little strips.

Posted by N E at September 2, 2009 10:30 AM

Where do I sign up to become a Pathetic Acolyte?

Posted by Oarwell at September 2, 2009 11:51 AM

Oarwell:


So many choices, but here's one:

https://subs.timeinc.net/TD/tdtest_56for20.jhtml?experience_id=201469&pkw=PSTMGLTX072809SNND1879&partner=yes&source_id=2&_requestid=227901

Posted by N E at September 2, 2009 02:20 PM

just don't get her started on Ralph Nader.

Why? She doesn't like him?

Posted by Ajit at September 2, 2009 02:22 PM

Uh, hell no, to put it mildly. She and another of my favorite leftie blog commentors, Jay B. went apeshit when Nader was brought up on an alicublog comments thread.

It was the typical "he cost Al Gore the election!" thing that one can expect if Nader's name is even mentioned, but she went all out for several paragraphs pinning all of W's sins on Nader. I get the impression she's more of a "moderate" Obama Democrat.

Posted by nate at September 2, 2009 06:36 PM

Whats this about conspiracy theories?

I just liked the movie.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at September 2, 2009 07:24 PM

"I get the impression she's more of a "moderate" Obama Democrat."

Good Lord, why does everybody think everyone has to fit perfectly into one of two or three molds?

Nicolay, I also liked Conspiracy Theory as a movie. Unlike most of MG's later films, I don't think anyone was either tortured or impaled or drawn and quartered or crucified or burned alive in that one, though maybe I'm just forgetting that because of the witty dialogue.

Posted by N E at September 2, 2009 08:14 PM

Hi,
Thanks for article. Everytime like to read you.
Saurooon

Posted by Saurooon at September 2, 2009 09:29 PM

She and another of my favorite leftie blog commentors, Jay B. went apeshit when Nader was brought up on an alicublog comments thread.

Hey, I remember that. I think I actually got told to "fuck off" in that thread. Not that I took it personally, of course. If a liberal Dem isn't telling me to fuck off, I feel I'm not doing my part.

Posted by SteveB at September 2, 2009 10:57 PM

I take it y'all mean this thread? Hilarious; thanks for mentioning it. It's good to read shrieking tantrums like aimai's and the rest, because between elections it's easy to forget just how condescending, entitled, and arrogant so many Democrats are, and the boundless contempt they're so eager to shower on anyone who refuses to vote according to their instructions. Breathtaking, really.

Posted by John Caruso at September 3, 2009 01:22 AM


"it's easy to forget just how condescending, entitled, and arrogant so many Democrats are, and the boundless contempt they're so eager to shower on anyone who refuses to vote according to their instructions. Breathtaking, really."

All would-be insult hurlers should read Cyrano de Bergerac, or at least watch the Steve Martin movie. Insults that aren't witty or clever stick to you like dog shit on your shoe. You think you got rid of it, but it's still there, and pretty soon it makes YOU stink.

Aimai certainly was a little foul-mouthed there (what would Izzy Stone and his wife say?), but all I really saw in her slightly vulgar comments was frustration that people couldn't see what she felt was clear, and she was rude at first (though not later) because she originally thought SteveB was a troll instead of somebody who enjoys pissing in the punch bowl, which is a trait of his that I respect. Aimai wasn't persuasive to me in that thread, mostly because she couldn't see that anyone could disagree with her in good faith, which stopped taking my breath away a long time ago because it's so ordinary, including apparently in at least one little branch of the Caruso clan. That's why I respect people who piss in the punch bowl--it can weaken if not break those iron bonds of mental conformity.

[But Nikolay I'm still not going to read about UFOs. A person has to have some limits. :)]

Posted by N E at September 3, 2009 08:31 AM

Wow. That was hilarious! So I.F. Stone's granddaughter is a smug, shrieking Naderbaiter denouncing traitors and writing screeds about the need to work within the system? That's getting an entire two-page spread in my Big Book of Gallows Humor.

Posted by feh at September 3, 2009 09:17 AM

I'm never sure why Nader supporters would shy away from saying Nader cost the Democrats the election. It's not especially true but the whole point of voting 3rd party is to try and make the Democrats lose in a way that lets them know they lost because they were not left enough, and therefore ought to take note for the next election. It would be even more effective to just vote Republican but there's no way to statistically distinguish the motivations behind such a vote as there is with a separate party vote. At any rate the whole point of a failed negotiation is to cause the other guy pain and regret.

In the same sense I don't get this stuff about voting Green only if you are in a safe state. Well, I suppose if you're trying to get them to 5% that makes some sense....

Progressives are always calling Democratic politicians "cowards" because they are under the delusion that the reason Democrat politicians are not left wing is out of fear. But cowardice and bravery genuinely do have a place in voting tactics. It's a game of political chicken between the center-right Democrats and the Progressives to see who will bug out first. Will the Democrats concede meaningful policy in return for Progressive support or will Progressives give in and vote Democrat in return for nothing? If both refuse to blink then you get a Republican government which neither want. That's why it's a game of chicken. And it is the progressive voters that blink every time. They are the political cowards not the Democratic politicians.

If you look at the Progressive arguments against 3rd party they are all based on fear and fear-mongering. It is a political strategy of cowardice.

Having said that the alternative argument by the left is based on the idea that the Democratic party actually wants to win elections which is a proposition that seems less and less likely to be true. In fact one of the most heartening things about the elections in 2000 and 2004 being stolen was (to my mind) that in these days of no difference at all, anybody could be bothered to steal a US election.

Certainly the Dems don't really seem to care if they win. They act a bit embarrassed in victory. Seem to shuffle their feet and say, "Well what would you do if you were in power Republicans?" Ha. Kidding.

On the square.

But the Bushies really seemed to want to win. Was it just for personal or clan reasons? Why bother to steal an election that's already fixed by the fact that only two parties are allowed to run and both of those parties have identical policies?

Perhaps McCain just wasn't that bothered about winning? What with the depression it was guaranteed to be a pretty crappy four years. Perhaps to pull of an election theft you just need more resources in terms of clan loyalty and McCain obviously had none of that.

At any rate always fun to go back in time a few months and see what people were making fools of themselves about Obama.

Posted by DavidByron at September 3, 2009 10:08 AM

DavidByron wrote: "Why bother to steal an election that's already fixed by the fact that only two parties are allowed to run and both of those parties have identical policies?"


So, if Gore had been elected, there would have been an invasion of Iraq?
--Perhaps, but uncertain and most people would say very unlikely.

There would have been trillions of dollars of tax cuts for the rich?
--Highly unlikely.

There would have been a refusal to Kyoto and no progress on climate change?
--Almost certainly not.

The US would be known for Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib?
--Almost certainly not.

Acts of terrorism would have been transformed from criminal acts to acts of war?
--Highly unlikely.

So, do you really think the two parties have IDENTICAL policies?

Posted by N E at September 3, 2009 11:07 AM

NE: One Can't prove what Gore would have done or what events would have happened its JUST a "what if". If the parties weren't identicle before, there are now. TAX THE POOR-FEED THE RICH.
Third Party, Folks.

Posted by Mike Meyer at September 3, 2009 11:46 AM

Even if you went back in time and did a redo of Bush's presidency obviously there would be some differences many of them highly significant. Again there would be differences between a president Cheney with a vice president Bush than the other way around, or for that matter a president Bush vs a president McCain. In saying that the parties are identical on policy I am not saying that no matter who is in charge or what happens the same things are going to play out.

Your argument would suggest that even the Republican party isn't identical to the Republican party!

I am also not denying that the two parties have two different roles they play act within the duopoly system. This difference might have been what turned the last election since traditionally the Democratic role is to save up money after the Republicans have stolen it. The Democrat role is to cut back on services in the name of fiscal conservatism while the Republicans spend and steal.

I am saying they are identical parties in the sense that they are politically aligned. They share the same policies although individuals will vary slightly even within the narrow bounds both parties recognise and enforce. They are identical in the same sense that both the cops in a good-cop / bad-cop session are both still cops.

But specifically? Sure Gore would have invaded Iraq, just as Obama has stayed there. Or maybe he'd have continued Clinton's policy of genocidal sanctions. And sure Gore would have invaded Afghanistan or else some other little defenceless country like Clinton invaded Serbia, bombed the Sudan and Afghanistan and just as Obam stays in Afghanistan.

You really think Gore wouldn't torture? Obama is even now. You ever hear of the School of the Americas? At best Gore would have kept it a secret better.

Gore would have signed Kyoto? Really? Like Clinton did? Like Obama has? Gore didn't go green till after he left office.

That only leaves tax cuts for the rich. While Obama recently enacted the largest set of tax cuts in world history and the biggest giveaway of money to the filthy rich in world history, I will bow to your knowledge that Gore would never have done anything like that.

Posted by DavidByron at September 3, 2009 11:46 AM

You've got some good points in there, my favorite being that my point would prove that the Republican party isn't the Republican party. Touche.

I agree with many of the points you make, especially that the common failings that the two parties share from a big-picture perspective dwarf most of the differences between them.

Here's the rub, the differences, however small they may seem from a distance, can matter very much. The response to 911, and I think some of 911 itself, was a Cheney/Rumsfeld operation, and that has set so much else in motion. I don't think that would have happened under any Democrat. And I think other differences are important too, even if you're right as to much of what you said.

This is certainly not a new problem, and since I love to drag history into things, I'll do that. I was recently rereading the second volume of Bruce Cumings history of the Origins of the Korean War, chapter three of which is better than anything I've ever read on the Cold War and most of which is brilliant and deeply sad. From the right and the mainstream, Cumings is accused of being a communist and a revisionist and just about anything else to keep people from reading him, mostly because he is so honest. But he is also a historian of spectacular talent and erudition, so he gets respect too. He blends a deep knowledge of American history and politics, a real understanding of the theories of Marx and Polanyi, and an authentic understanding of Korean history and culture with masterfully clear and precise writing. He writes beautifully, with learning, and often with genius.

Chapter 3 of Cumings second volume is titled "Rollback and Nationalism" and examines very astutely how the anticommunist consensus in American politics shaped American foreign policy after WWII, with tragic consequences for Korea in particular. That anticommunist consensus from a perspective like yours would have made the differences between Acheson and Macarthur seem inconsequential, but the lives of tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of people, mostly in Asia, literally depended on the small differences between the two very similar approaches of containment and rollback. What the United States actually did in Korea, and later Southeast Asia, was unspeakably vicious, but it came very close to being much worse than anything we or anyone else has ever done. Few Americans realize how close the United States repeatedly came in the 50s and 60s to making the mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis seem like small potatoes.

Does the fact that Douglas Macarthur openly advocated for nuclear obliteration of China and if necessary the USSR mean Dean Acheson was a good man? Not by a long shot (I loathe Acheson), no more so than that Dick Cheney's slow descent into evil means that Al Gore or Barack Obama are good men. But even small differences can have vast consequences, and often have had vast consequences.

I really cannot recommend the second volume of Cumings history more highly. It's long, but it's well worth it. If you want to buy it, it's expensive, but the interlibrary loan system can work wonders if you let it. (Trust me, I know.)

In the meantime, be mindful of the difference between 'identical' and 'similar,' and of the chasm of real consequences that could separate the two.

Posted by N E at September 3, 2009 12:48 PM

Don't be so close-minded, NE (or maybe it was the wasabi):

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's next prime minister might be nicknamed "the alien," but it's his wife who claims to have had a close encounter with another world.

"While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus," Miyuki Hatoyama, the wife of premier-in-waiting Yukio Hatoyama, wrote in a book published last year.

"It was a very beautiful place and it was really green."

Posted by Oarwell at September 3, 2009 03:25 PM

Again I think the differences are smaller than you suggest. For example Obama's foreign policy is worse than Bush/Cheneys's already and as I understand it the Korean and Vietnam wars offed about 15 million people between them and although Macarthur might have liked it, I don't think the US had the power to nuke China at that time as the bombs were pretty small A-bombs (death toll in Hiroshima between 70K and 300K depending on how you count it) not H-bombs (the first was tested the year after Macarthur was kicked out and had a yield 1000x that of an A-bomb), and there were not enough A-bombs anyway. But whatever... details...

The problem with what you are saying is that it's like saying you only want good cop, never bad cop.

Well of course. That's the whole point of that con isn't it? The whole point is you are drawn in by good cop because he's "better". It is an illusion fabricated by BOTH cops. But you will not get what you want, you will only get what they want. That's the point.

Your theory basically assumes that the Democrats and Republicans oppose each other. They don't. They oppose you. You won't avoid the bad cop by running to the good cop. That's the whole point of the con.

Take Obama for example. He's the good cop saying he will reverse all the Bush stuff. Well did he? No, you're just screwed again.

You're concentrating on the detail of the illusiary difference between the right hand and the left hand. But the truth is you'll get whatever you're given whoever is in power. That leaves you with at best stylistic differences but you don't even get a choice over that really because for image purposes its best if the two parties both loose some and win some and swap about a bit.

It's true that if you only look ahead four years you can try and make an insignificant impact on which style is chosen if you happen to live in a swing state. I'm not sure if that sort of level of difference is greater or less than individual differences within one party.

Posted by DavidByron at September 3, 2009 03:39 PM

Oarwell:

That's fantastic. I'm all for soul-riding. Everybody needs to do more of it!

Posted by N E at September 3, 2009 03:42 PM

The version I heard was "But where [not when] does he do his barnacles?", not worms. Sure, he worked on both. But I think it was barnacles his son George remarked on.

I heard this version of the story this past summer, twice, first at the Darwin Festival in Cambridge, England, and again during a visit to Down House, where Darwin lived and worked (and did his barnacles and worms). Also confirmed here:

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=175339

Posted by Jean at September 3, 2009 04:28 PM

No, clearly "worms" is funnier, so worms it is, history be damned.

Posted by SteveB at September 3, 2009 05:45 PM

DavidByron:

Almost ever fact you put forward there about Vietnam, Korea, Macarthur, atomic bombs--that whole paragraph is factually wrong. The weird thing is, in many ways the actual facts that you don't know support your outlook in most ways, because the actual facts are much more shocking and deplorable than you realize, and the assumptions you hold in your head about the damage that could have been done by atomic war in the early 1950s are incorrect. But I'm not the expert--Cumings is. If you want the real story, read that. It's about as well written and interesting as anything can be.

The only truly astonishing thing you say is that Obama's foreign policy is already worse than Bush's. That's just ridiculous. You can make a case for nothing has changed--Tom Englehardt and Dave Swanson have just done that in the nation, and though I haven't read their article yet, I suspect they'll make a good case for their position. But to contend that Obama;s foreign policy is worse is a position that lacks credibility.

Posted by N E at September 3, 2009 08:47 PM

But to contend that Obama;s foreign policy is worse is a position that lacks credibility.

Didn't Obama escalate the war in Afghanistan, and isn't he committing to sending even more troops there? I'd say "even more troops in Afghanistan" is an example of "worse."

Posted by SteveB at September 3, 2009 10:12 PM

Obama seems to be escalating in Pakistan too which is a whole level of shit hitting the fan that Bush never approached. And Obama seems to be taking an interest in Central and South America. That's going to be no fun at all I expect, for the people who live there. That is above and beyond the wars Bush had going on, which continue.

Posted by DavidByron at September 3, 2009 11:33 PM

SteveB and DavidByron:

I'm not going to argue about that. You guys just need to clear your heads a little--or not. I wouldn't type anything you don't already know.

Posted by N E at September 3, 2009 11:50 PM

No, "barnacles" is funnier!

Also, people who viewed voting for Nader as a good thing, and yet refuse to take pride in Nader's throwing the election to Bush, thus demonstrating that left-wingers could not be taken for granted, confuse me.

Posted by Satan Mayo at September 4, 2009 12:25 AM

people who viewed voting for Nader as a good thing, and yet refuse to take pride in Nader's throwing the election to Bush, thus demonstrating that left-wingers could not be taken for granted, confuse me.

Good point. For a while after the 2000 election, my standard response to angry Dems who claimed that Nader voters like me cost Gore the election was, "Damn right I did! And I'll do it again if you don't meet my list of demands!"

Then Iraq happened, and lots of people died, and I didn't really feel comfortable saying that any more.

But sorry, you're wrong about the barnacles. "Worms" is shorter and alliterative, and everybody knows "W" is just one damn funny letter.


Posted by SteveB at September 4, 2009 08:19 AM

Worms is definately funnier.

How would history have been changed if Martin Luther had merely been subject to a Diet of Clams?

Posted by DavidByron at September 4, 2009 10:05 AM
I'm never sure why Nader supporters would shy away from saying Nader cost the Democrats the election. It's not especially true but the whole point of voting 3rd party is to try and make the Democrats lose in a way that lets them know they lost because they were not left enough, and therefore ought to take note for the next election.

It’s not true at all. Therein lies the reason DavidByron: lying is bad.

There’s another, more significant reason. Bush “won” because black people, by and large, were denied their voting rights. (So were even more Native Americans and less Latinos, proportionately, but blacks were the most significant coup for Republican fraudmongers.) The “Nader killed us all!” meme has, implicit in it, a bigoted narrative: blacks didn’t matter, it was the Greens! You combine this heinous fact with the fact that the idea itself is a lie and you have a wretchedly unethical political stance -- happily maintained by supporters of Empire in “progressive” forums to this day. Oh, black people have a friend in them!

Of course, for reasons mentioned above, it would actually be nice if Nader’s ego trip had been justified (let’s face it, the guy fucked up and mismanaged the power he had within the Green party) because it would offer an attack platform against the Dems. At that point, saying the Greens were more relevant than vote fraud wouldn’t be bigoted because it would be numerically true.

In the same sense I don't get this stuff about voting Green only if you are in a safe state. Well, I suppose if you're trying to get them to 5% that makes some sense....

Again, you say you don’t understand, then state, plainly, the reason why you obviously should understand. (I think you did this in order to make a point, but I’ll assume you were honestly mystified -- my apologies if I’m wrong :-].)

The Green party’s goal should be (I don’t know if it still is) to gain local influence in order to build a base and make beneficial changes on the ground. Local influence can be transformed into regional, then national, power. We know this because the rightwing movement in the Repugs pulled this off over the last few decades.

Posted by N E at September 3, 2009 08:47 PM But to contend that Obama;s foreign policy is worse is a position that lacks credibility.

I have always maintained that being extremely effective at promoting an evil policy makes one more evil than a bumbler attempting to promote the same policy. I was fervently anti-Obama for just this reason: he’d do the same things Bush does better. Yay, I’m right about everything, and my prize is a country steeped in corruption, selfishness, and mounting horror! Weeeeee!

Posted by No One of Consequence at September 4, 2009 10:12 AM

No One of No Consequence:

I could at least sort of understand your point of view if we were within sight of a tipping point, but that shore is so distant that what we need is a lifeboat. The Greens? Nader? I mean, that makes talking about Kucinich sound like realpolitik.

Posted by N E at September 4, 2009 02:14 PM

So... N.E. I'm guessing that you are surprised that Obama is threatening social security cuts and has moved the supreme court to the right? To me that was predictable (and in fact, predicted).

My secret? I just hate Obama and have a "Manichaen" world view.

Posted by DavidByron at September 4, 2009 10:58 PM

The “Nader killed us all!” meme has, implicit in it, a bigoted narrative: blacks didn’t matter, it was the Greens!

I think, when libDems make the "Nader cost Gore the election!" argument, their "analysis" isn't much more than this: If everyone who voted for Nader had voted for Gore instead, Gore would have won. Period.

Of course, by the same logic, you could argue that Bush cost Gore the election. "That damn Bush! Drawing enough votes away from Gore so that Bush won!"

But this argument, crazy as it is, isn't inconsistent with believing there are other ways in which the Republicans stole the election - by disenfranchising black voters, for example. They just think that all of those other methods wouldn't have been enough if for the Republicans to steal the White House if every single Nader vote had gone to Gore instead.

And yes, I know it's illogical to conflate "Nader not in race" with "All Nader's votes go to Gore." But when you're talking to libDems about the 2000 election, you're not in the land of logic any more.

Posted by SteveB at September 5, 2009 09:28 AM

DavidByron:

Obama has moved the Supreme Court to the right? What are you smoking?

Posted by N E at September 5, 2009 11:15 AM

They just think that all of those other methods wouldn't have been enough if for the Republicans to steal the White House if every single Nader vote had gone to Gore instead.

Nader voters and other parapoliticals always try to argue evasively about the statistics rather than the moral issue, which is the real point. Don't the Nader voters owe their votes to the Democratic party as a component of fealty and feudal tribute? They really have no compelling answer to this question.

Posted by feh at September 5, 2009 12:46 PM

US nuclear stockpile, year by year--

link

There were around 1000 during the Korean War. Of course this would be fission bombs and comparatively small, but dropped on densely populated cities each could probably kill 100,000 or so. Possibly this would trigger a nuclear winter, but they didn't know about that then. So the US probably could have killed a large fraction of the Chinese if the more crazed generals had had their way.

And here's one issue where I agree with NE--Bruce Cumings is worth reading. There was an article a day or two ago in the NYT about South Korean massacres of South Korean civilians in the Korean War, which is old news if you'd read Cumings (or for that matter, Phil Knightley's "The First Casualty"). Not that I mean to downplay the investigations that Korean historians are carrying out, the location of mass graves and so forth (which will end if the conservative Korean government gets its way), but the gist of this story has been known for a long time, though I don't think mainstream US histories of the Korean War give it much emphasis.

Posted by Donald Johnson at September 5, 2009 12:48 PM

Donald Johnson:

I agree with much more of your comments than I disagree with.

Posted by N E at September 5, 2009 02:59 PM

My virtues outweigh my defects.

Posted by Duncan at September 5, 2009 03:41 PM

Donald Johnson and anybody else interested:

Science was a little farther along in 1950, Doomsday wise, than we think. There is even a book about that fact:

Doomsday Men: The Real Dr. Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon, Peter Daniel Smith, 2007.

http://books.google.com/books?id=cM3ckFXlvpwC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

A preview is available at the link, and at the bottom of page 301 you can read about Dr. excuse me General Macarthur's plan to permanently separate Korea from China with a radioactive belt along the Yalu river, made from Strontium. Macarthur was quite pissed that those fools in Washington wouldn't do it. Cumings writes about that too, among so much more.

But the real Doomsday Weapon would have been a cobalt bomb, not just a huge strip of radioactivity near one of the most populated parts of the planet.

People always think I'm joking when I say Dr. Strangelove was a documentary, no matter what else I say. Go figure.

Posted by N E at September 5, 2009 05:06 PM

I'm not sure what to make of cobalt bombs--I've read about them. But Theodore Taylor (the bomb designer turned environmentalist) in McPhee's "The Curve of Binding Energy" talks about a doomsday bomb in terms of something in the multi-million megaton range. He's somewhat dismissive of the idea that a nuclear war would kill everyone, though destroying civilization isn't that tough. But it's been awhile since I read about various nuclear war scenarios.

Posted by Donald Johnson at September 6, 2009 09:19 AM

Donald Johnson:


I'll have to look for McPhee's book--I've never heard of it. There are probably lots of different ways to destroy the world, both with nukes and without. A few decades ago, no one that I know of paid much attention to the possibility that we could build so many coal-fired power plants and burn so much oil that the planet would just basically die of a high fever.

My point was just that we had plenty of destructive power back around 1950, including probably to build a Doomsday weapon, cobalt or otherwise, and certainly to kill vast numbers of people in Asia. A substantial part of our military actually wanted to do it and tried to persuade both Truman/Acheson and later Eisenhower to do it. Those efforts continued into the 60s, and even accelerated as the Pentagon anticipated the Soviet ICBMs coming on line within a few years. This is something very important to read on that topic: Did the U.S. Military Plan a Nuclear First Strike for 1963? by James K. Galbraith and Heather A. Purcell: http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/Essay_-_Did_the_US_Military_Plan_a_Nuclear_First_Strike_for_1963

By the late 1960s, an analyst named Daniel Ellsberg who got to look into some of this as a result of McNamara's sly decision to commission the preparation of the Pentagon Papers finally decided that our military was not just psychpathic but psychotic after reading top secret war plans that predicted 500 million casualties from our nuclear attacks in the event of a third world war (which many of our National Security people wanted while we would still "win" it--which is unfortunately how military people often think).

The amount of craziness and evil in the world is really stunning.

Posted by N E at September 6, 2009 11:41 AM

NE--

I agree with your 11:41 post. I was just nitpicking about the apocalypse--I used to read a fair amount about nuclear winter, impact winters, and other interesting ways that we could all die (or most of us) and it's interesting on a technical (or for that matter, adolescent) level, apart from what one might think about the lunatics who actually wanted to start and "win" WWII.

Posted by Donald Johnson at September 6, 2009 11:54 AM

Donald Johnson:

I can never keep track of what World War we're on now. Is it III,IV, or V?

That Galbraith and Purcell article is pretty mind-blowing if you read it. But I think this story about just how close we came to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis is almost as mind blowing. Millions of children around the world should have been named after Vasili Archipov:

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/cold-war/sovietsbomb.htm

Posted by N E at September 6, 2009 04:25 PM

I think I mistyped my World War number. I meant three and meant what people usually mean by it--a nuclear war involving at least one superpower. Though by some counts, the Cold War was WWIII (the death toll is way up in the many millions if you start adding up Korea, Vietnam, various other wars, massacres and genocides). Then I guess the post 9/11 "war on terror" is number 4, or is an incipient number 4 anyway.

I'll read the Galbraith article. I've heard a little bit secondhand (via Chomsky and others) about just how close we came to nuclear war in 1963 and as you say, reading Cumings (sp?) kinda lets you know there were some real crazies in the military in the 50's who were itching to go all out. I don't disagree with your POV as far as that is concerned--there's a difference between sane (even if evil) imperialists and utterly crazy Strangelove types.

Posted by Donald Johnson at September 6, 2009 09:13 PM

Donald Johnson, you wrote: "there's a difference between sane (even if evil) imperialists and utterly crazy Strangelove types."

Yep, there is, but you get those Barbara Tuchman scenarios and events start taking on momentum of their own and one side knows somebody else has a preemptive strike capability and believes they need to prepare to respond to that by deploying some missiles somewhere else and the first side thinks their views of aggression have been vindicated so they mobilize and prepare a first strike to take out those missiles and the other side responds with an alert to defend itself and the next think you know somebody is dropping depth charges on a sub that they don't realize has nukes on board and three officers are voting on whether to effectively start an all-out nuclear war that will kill tens of millions of people. Or more.

That's why JFK worried that he might end up going down in history as an all out Stranglove type crazy even though it was the last thing he wanted. And it just about happened. So given all that, what is really sane?

The American University speech, that's what.

Posted by N E at September 6, 2009 10:47 PM

N E:
My post was very clear as to the utility of building a third party via local influence -- a method used by righwingers in the real world, not theory, over the last few decades. If you cannot accept this reality and react to such practical methods with random sniping and thorough misuse of the term "realpolitik," simply avoid reading my posts in the future. Feel free to assume that nationwide organizing of grassroots movements are, in fact, the work of pixies and faeries.

Posted by No One of Consequence at September 7, 2009 03:09 AM

Despite the dawn of N-bombs that can inflict even greater carnage on population centers without the need to level an enemies infinitely useful infrastructure, the Chinese show that you don't have to have an arms race to change the equation.

In the vein of China's new carrier-killer Dong Feng 21 missile, instead of trying to catch up with their rival's capabilities like the Soviets, they focus on countering them. One may have caught wind of China's nuclear-rooted efforts when United States raised a stink with China for testing a weapons system on the Communist Republic's own weather satellite. Suddenly a decades long initiative of putting missles in space didn't sound like a good idea. Even more profound are China's EMP weapons which could theoretically black out our Minutemen launch sequences.

Of course the incidents at RAF Woodbridge and AFB Maelstrom suggest that either China or the United States have testing extensive EMP technology as early as 1967 but like the Air Force's Aurora Project details are murky. It does put a twist on any doomsday scenarios, however.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at September 7, 2009 04:34 AM

Nikolay:

Oh so many kinds of Doomsday and counter-Doomsday and anti-counter-Doomsday and counter-anti-counter-Doomsday. Just think of the profits!

The Chinese obviously know you can change the equation most easily with good old fashioned money.

And we haven't even talked about biological weapons. How hard could it be in these days of advanced bioscience to unleash some serious plagues on the world? I mean, we got lyme disease (Plum Island) and Gulf War Illnesses (see Dr. Garth Nicolson wikipedia entry and his 1990 written testimony linked thereto) accidentally--imagine what we could do with a serious and deliberate effort.

So let's not have any more major wars.

Posted by N E at September 7, 2009 05:00 PM