Holding onto Nuclear Weapons

Despite longstanding promises to work toward nuclear disarmament, the nuclear states continue their hostility toward abandoning these existentially dangerous weapons, Dr. Ira Helfand tells Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

For months now there has been a frustrating hunt for “collusion” between the Trump administration and Russia, but there is one clear example of collusion — along with the other half dozen or so nuclear weapons states — in opposing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Passed on July 7 by 122 nations at the United Nations, the ban states in part that each cosigner “undertakes never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, or otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

A nuclear test detonation carried out in Nevada on April 18, 1953.

Following the signing of the treaty at the U.N., I spoke to Dr. Ira Helfand, past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility and currently co-president of that group’s global federation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The group received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in the field of nuclear disarmament.

“Two things were most notable in the overwhelming vote for this treaty,” Dr. Helfand said. “One was the urgency felt by the representatives of 122 countries who voted for it. The other was the rather crude and revealing statement put out by the ‘P3’ — the U.S., Britain and France,” said Dr. Helfand, that “they intend to maintain their policy of mutually assured destruction forever, even though they are legally required to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear arsenals under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Dennis Bernstein: First of all, say something about the treaty — how important it is, what exactly it’s meant to do.

Ira Helfand: Well this treaty is an attempt by the non-nuclear weapon states around the world to tell the nuclear-armed states that they’ve got to stop behaving the way they have been. The nuclear-armed states are, for the most part, committed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to undertaking good faith negotiations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. And they’re not doing it, they haven’t been doing it and they don’t appear to have any intention to do it. And the non-nuclear weapon states have lost patience, essentially, and have said, “Look, your nuclear weapons are posing an existential threat to our citizens as well as your own, and you need to start living up to your obligations to protect the world from the terrible consequences of nuclear weapons.”

The treaty does not in and of itself create a situation where these weapons are going to be dismantled. It does provide a very strong weapon, I think, for people to use to put pressure on the nuclear-armed states to do what they’re supposed to do, and to actually abolish their weapons.

DB: And it’s really important that it be the possession, right?

IH: Absolutely, this is not a treaty about use. That is also included, but this goes far beyond that. This treaty says that the mere possession of nuclear weapons constitutes an existential threat to human survival and cannot be tolerated, that we need to get rid of these things, to dismantle them and make sure that they’re never built again.

DB: All right, give us your assessment: how dangerous is our world today? Are we at Cuban Missile Crisis Two? How would you assess that?

IH: I don’t think we’re quite to the Cuban Missile Crisis, but we’re pretty close. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has us at two and a half minutes to midnight, where midnight is the end of the world. Certainly we’re at the most dangerous moment since the early 1980s. There is increasing tension between the United States and Russia, with potential flashpoints in Syria and Ukraine. There’s increased tension between the United States and China, with a potential flashpoint in the South China Sea. There’s the situation which everyone is following, with North Korea vs. the rest of the world. There’s the ongoing fighting between India and Pakistan, which is almost daily, on their border in Kashmir. These countries now have between them some 260 nuclear warheads. So we’re in a very, very dangerous moment.

And in addition to these geopolitical potential flashpoints, there’s the ongoing danger of an accidental nuclear war, or a terrorist-triggered nuclear war. We know of six or seven instances since the 1960s, where either Moscow or Washington actually began the preparation of launching nuclear weapons, in the mistaken belief that the other side had already done so. And that potential for an accident — an unintended nuclear war — remains with us today, and will, until these weapons are eliminated. So it’s an extremely dangerous time, and we really need to be paying more attention to this danger than we are, frankly.

DB: Who are the nuclear powers?

The “doomsday clock” set at five minutes to midnight by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

IH: The United States and Russia have between them about 90-95% of the world’s nuclear weapons. And then after that, France, China, the U.K., India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. And it’s not just the P3 — the U.S., France and the U.K. — that have refused to sign it — all of those countries have refused to sign it.

DB: […] These are very frightening times. It’s really troubling to see that not only do these nuclear powers reject the agreement, they do it with vigor, and some swagger, as if the other solution — mutually assured destruction — is a good one!

IH: Well I think that was what was particularly striking about the statement that the U.S., the U. K. and France — the so-called P3 — issued on Friday. In the past, the nuclear weapons states at least had the political sense to couch their opposition to this treaty in terms of, “Well, we share your vision of getting rid of nuclear weapons, but the time isn’t right, and so this treaty isn’t the best tactic.”

In the statement that was released on Friday, the United States, Britain and France said, “We will never sign this treaty. We will never eliminate our nuclear weapons.” And it was a very bald statement, which has always been the truth, but was really quite a departure from their normal diplomatic attempts to cover up what they’re doing. And it was quite striking in that way.

DB: You know, people go on about Donald Trump — and there’s a lot to go on about — but these western progressive nations are still talking insanely in 2017. They’re as crazy as any of the politicians who are on the scene now, and this decision demonstrates it.

IH: I think that’s true. You know, we’ve argued for a long time that nuclear weapons are so destructive, and the chance of their use is so great, that no one should ever have possession of them. I think the “Trump Factor” is a real phenomenon. This is the first time that a large arsenal of a major nuclear power has been in the control of someone who is judged by the security experts in his own party to lack the judgment, the temperament and the knowledge base to command a nuclear arsenal. And there are implications in that — not the least, if it happens once, it can happen again.

DB: But you know what, I have to just say something about all the politicians… I’m no defender of Trump, but before that with Hillary Clinton and her policy — in terms of foreign policy — Syria was a no-fly zone. That’s a road to World War 3 — that’s insane!

All these politicians are willing to talk in the context of everything being on the table — you know that phrase, everything’s always on the table with these folks. […] I’ve never trusted the CIA. And all those folks advising Trump, they’ve got some serious problems. A bunch of them have been liars. They’ve been bugging all of us. I mean there’s a lot to question across the board, and that to me is what makes nuclear weapons extremely troubling in the hands of all these folks.

IH: Oh, there’s some truth to that. Nobody should have their finger on the button. The solution is not to get Donald Trump’s finger off the button, it’s to get rid of the button altogether. Having said that, there is something different about having Donald Trump in charge of the nuclear arsenal, and we cannot turn our backs on that fact.

DB: […] What do you suggest? What do you think people can do about this? What are the realities in terms of what you would recommend if people are interested in standing up and making a difference?

IH: Well, a couple of intermediate steps. First of all, there’s legislation before Congress introduced by Senator Markey and Congressman Lieu, that requires that Congress give prior authorization before nuclear weapons can be used. This is exactly as it should be. The Constitution says only Congress can declare war. Certainly only Congress should be able to declare a nuclear war. And this is a useful, small step in the right direction. That legislation should be passed.

Secondly, we should be demanding that the United States take its nuclear weapons off its hair-trigger alert. There’s no excuse for maintaining these arsenals in a configuration where they can be launched in 15 minutes. It merely creates an increased danger that there will be an accidental or unauthorized use. It’s not necessary to blow up the world in 15 minutes’ time. If we decide that that’s what we’re going to do, we can do it in 24 hours. So the weapons should be taken off this hair-trigger alert.

Technician works on dismantling a U.S. nuclear warhead. (Photo credit: National Nuclear Security Administration)

But more fundamentally, we need to be demanding that the United States completely change its nuclear policy: stop insisting that we’re going to maintain a nuclear arsenal as a way of protecting our security, and acknowledge that, in fact, nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to our security, and that what we need to do is aggressively pursue, in agreement with the other nuclear weapon states, to eliminate all of these weapons.

Now, we may not be successful in this effort, we may not be able to get other countries to join with us, but we need to try. And the United States has not been trying. In fact it’s been doing just the opposite: it’s been planning to spend a trillion dollars to make heinous nuclear arsenals over decades to come. And that has to change.

It is urgently in the interest of U.S. national security, as well as the security of everybody on the planet, that we actively pursue the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons — not just at the rhetorical level like President Obama did, but really in our actual policy. And that we seek to begin negotiations with the other nuclear weapons states, for a treaty amongst them that provides a specific timetable, and enforcement and verification measures, so that we can, with confidence, eliminate all the nuclear weapons that are being held. And this can be done, the only thing that is lacking is the political will to do it.

DB: Before we say goodbye, can you give us maybe a doctor’s perspective on this? You know, you take an oath to save lives — how do you come at this from that perspective?

IH: Well, I think Physicians for Social Responsibility views nuclear weapons as primarily a public health problem. They are the greatest threat to public health that’s ever existed, and we see this as an extension of our responsibility as physicians to protect our patients. We talk to our patients about why they shouldn’t drink excessively, why they shouldn’t smoke at all, why they should watch their weight and so on. We also need to talk to them about other threats to their health, and this is the greatest threat of all.

And that’s really been the motivation, I think, for the physicians’ movement — to bring this message of grave danger to our patients, in the hopes that we’ll be able to mobilize them to take the necessary political action to force our government to get rid of these weapons once and for all.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.

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33 comments for “Holding onto Nuclear Weapons

  1. Tom Welsh
    July 21, 2017 at 4:23 am

    Dr Helfand seems to overlook some vitally important points. First, he insists that the USA take its nuclear weapons off “hair-trigger alert”, and that 24 hours is just as good as 15 minutes to destroy the world. Well, there is a practical reason for the “hair-trigger”, which of course is the possibility of a surprise nuclear attack. In such a case, the country attacked has about 15 minutes to launch its weapons or lose them – as they will be prime targets. This applies to all countries: Russia, North Korea, Israel and the others just as much as the USA. Without the hair-trigger, there is no MAD and no deterrent. Whether there should be a deterrent is another, and bigger, question.

    The second vital point is that the nuclear powers have got themselves into a standoff. None of them wants to diminish its arsenal, as that would (they think) encourage potential enemies. Even if Russia and the USA could agree to destroy all their nuclear weapons, they would both be apprehensive about being bullied or blackmailed subsequently by France, India, North Korea or even Israel.

    The third point is that this is in fact a perfect demonstration of the rule that, in politics, might is right. There is a great deal of pious verbiage about laws, rights, treaties and so forth. But when they don’t want to observe their legal or moral obligations, political leaders simply don’t. This happens all the time. They use law to get what they want, when it happens to be on their side. But when it is against them, they just ignore it.

    • john wilson
      July 21, 2017 at 4:53 am

      Its worth bearing in mind, Tom, that whilst the nuclear powers know where each others static nukes are located, they probably don’t know where the mobile nukes are as they are always on the move. The Russians like the Americans have submarines quite close to each others countries so using nukes to destroy them so close to their own shores would be risky, to say the least, and that’s assuming they know exactly where they are. In any case, the nuclear night that would follow regardless of who dropped the most nukes on who ever, would surely negate any advantage to anyone.

    • Sam F
      July 21, 2017 at 7:01 am

      The article does not deal with the essential issue of relative expected destruction on the disarmed vs. armed courses. There is no question that there would be further world wars without MAD, as WWI resulted in WWII rather than being the “war to end all wars.”

      It is far more difficult to argue that MAD must be worse. This requires assessing and summing the probability and losses for each scenario of nuclear war, not merely gesturing dramatically and talking of vast destruction. Of course both options are quite possible and quite dramatic and quite bad, but that does not argue that one of the options is better. Neither option is very predictable, so no argument either way is very good. Without a scientific approach the argument is empty drama.

  2. john wilson
    July 21, 2017 at 4:32 am

    Whilst nuclear weapons are the ultimate in death and destruction, the West seems to be doing very nicely at the moment with the millions of conventional weapons they are using to destroy numerous other countries around the world. Its time the world was talking about total disarmament and spending the money on improving conditions for a healthy life free from poverty for all. The Yanks are strutting around the world telling other countries they can’t have nukes because they can’t to be trusted not to use them, yet is was the Yanks who dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan. You can be sure that if nuclear war ever does break out that it will be the Americans who start it.

    • Realist
      July 21, 2017 at 7:11 am

      Not only that, I wouldn’t trust Washington to keep its word and thoroughly disarm, and I’m an American. I’m sure they would hide away enough warheads to polish off every one of their perceived enemies. And, if I can’t trust America, why would I trust any other country which, in turn, can’t trust America?

      These fools don’t even have to incinerate us to kill most of us. Just a handful of high altitude detonations will deliver a series of EMP’s that will wipe out the power grid around the entire world, sending us all back to the stone age and mass starvation, as it would take years to rebuild the grid, especially without replacement large power transformers* (LPT’s) on hand. Without the grid, not only do the lights go out, but water and fuel cannot be pumped. Everything comes to a full stop, unless you are a native living in the Kalahari Desert. If we were smart, we’d be investing billions in more LPT’s (which each take about about 2 years to build using high tech equipment) to keep on hand in case of a solar coronal mass ejection instead of squandering the money on nuclear weapons.

      We can never afford to use nukes if we expect to survive long term as a species, yet we refuse to dismantle them. Murphy’s Law, which is a real phenomenon based on probabilities and not just a joke, says that sooner or later, if they exist, we will set one or more off either by design or accident. Seems like long term we are doomed unless we smarten up. Based on our track record, I wouldn’t count on that.

      *”Large power transformers are essential critical infrastructure to the electric grid, and are huge, weighing up to 820,000 pounds. If large power transformers are destroyed by a geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) electromagnetic pulse (EMP), cyber-attack, sabotage, severe weather, floods, or simply old age, parts or all of the electric grid could be down in a region for 6 months to 2 years. This is because the USA imports 85% of them, there is competition with other nations for limited production and raw materials such as special grade electrical steel, a high cost ranging from $2.5 to $10 million dollars (including transport/installation), and they are custom built, with long lead times to design, bid, manufacture, and deliver, with components depending on long foreign production and supply chains.”

      • Skip Scott
        July 21, 2017 at 8:56 am

        Wow. I never realized the risk with the LPT’s. I can’t think of a better argument for on-site power generation and storage vs. the grid. Energy efficient building design would also have to be part of the package. I’ve been thinking of getting a solar set-up for some time now, you might have just sold me Realist.

      • E. Leete
        July 21, 2017 at 11:19 am

        Realist said “We can never afford to use nukes if we expect to survive long term as a species, yet we refuse to dismantle them. Murphy’s Law, which is a real phenomenon based on probabilities and not just a joke, says that sooner or later, if they exist, we will set one or more off either by design or accident.”

        Terribly correct. The nuclear accident bigger than any we have seen yet – or maybe even imagined – is neither possibility or probability: it is a *statistical certainty*

        Not to mention WWIII is likely 20 years away – give or take 20 years.

        A safe way for all nuclear-armed countries to rid this pretty planet of nukes is to simply use the Simultaneous Project – where everybody signs on to dismantle their nuke bombs beginning immediately after the last armed country signs on. No one is bound to do a thing unless every last country agrees, you see. All agree and it is done at once. If all do not agree then no one has to do what they agreed to do.

        Not that I dream the wealthpower giants will allow that to happen – I was just pointing out how simple it would be to rid ourselves of nukes if we first rid our species of the idea to allow wealthpower giants on earth.

        We ARE going to murder the insanely self-harming idea to allow humans to keep going after unlimited personal fortunes. Either that, or we WILL succumb to the very very negative results of having an endless stream of wealthpower giants. There are no other choices left to us.

        We humans were cursed with having limited wits. We were not given infinite knowledge, alas. I doubt we are thoughtful and realistic enough to choose justice, peace and plenty for everyone over history on repeat on steroids kaboom.

      • Sam F
        July 21, 2017 at 5:15 pm

        I agree on verification being likely insufficient to avoid retaining of hidden first-strike capabilities.

        EMP seems unlikely to take out the power grid after so many years of awareness. There is no need for unprotected electronics in protecting the grid, although as an engineer I know that some control system designers are unresponsive to common sense suggestions, due to marketing desires for internet connections. Still a few surface weapons would take out critical elements of the physical grid, and of course cities would be destroyed along with many generating stations.

        • Realist
          July 21, 2017 at 11:53 pm

          I’m a chemist not a physicist or engineer, but some of the prominent professionals in those fields are still quite concerned about losing the power grid to a man-made or natural event. Michio Kaku is one such who has spoken on the subject numerous times. He tried to get congress to address the problem: (excerpt below)
          ______________________________
          “Will We Demand the Inexpensive Fix Which Will Prevent Armageddon … Or Stay Distracted By Over-Blown Dangers and Ignore The Thing Most Likely To Actually Get Us?

          Posted on April 9, 2014 by WashingtonsBlog

          The Most Likely Armageddon Threat … Preventable for a Small Amount of Money

          Well-known physicist Michio Kaku and other members of the American Physical Society asked Congress to appropriate $100 million to harden the country’s electrical grid against solar flares. As shown below, such an event is actually the most likely Armageddon-type event faced by humanity. Congress refused.”
          _________________________________

          Back in 2014, well before the current kerfuffle over N.Korean nukes, “A long-suppressed report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security for the Defense Department concludes that North Korea could deliver on its threats to destroy the United States with a nuclear electromagnetic pulse attack. The report remains blocked from release to the American public. However, a copy obtained by Peter Vincent Pry from sources within DHS finds North Korea could use its Unha-3 space launch vehicle to deliver a nuclear warhead as a satellite over the South Pole to attack the U.S. from the south.”
          __________________________________

          “The head of the leading consulting firm on the effect of electromagnetic disruptions on our power grid – which was commissioned to study the issue by the U.S. federal government – stated that it would be relatively inexpensive to reduce the vulnerability of our power grid:

          What we’re proposing is to add some fairly small and inexpensive resistors in the transformers’ ground connections. The addition of that little bit of resistance would significantly reduce the amount of the geomagnetically induced currents that flow into the grid.

          We think it’s do-able for $40,000 or less per resistor. That’s less than what you pay for insurance for a transformer.

          If you’re talking about the United States, there are about 5,000 transformers to consider this for. The Electromagnetic Pulse Commission recommended it in a report they sent to Congress last year. We’re talking about $150 million or so. It’s pretty small in the grand scheme of things.”
          ____________________________________
          I’ll grant you that’s a fair sight cheaper than stockpiling replacement LPT’s as others have suggested, though a few spares of those wouldn’t hurt. I should think that building cheap Faraday cages around critical components like the LPT’s should also help harden the system. But it’s stupid to take no precautions to protect the grid from attack or natural catastrophes. Protecting the grid is essential to protecting the nuclear power plants from melt down (see Fukushima).

          • E. Leete
            July 22, 2017 at 9:00 am

            Realist – (I have that article in my files, too) – – I think Congress’ premeditated failure/refusal to act on this is further proof of their criminal intent to take this country down from the inside – because wealthpower giants know the usa citizens are the last bulwark standing against their ultimate wetdream global collectivism rule of this planet being consummated once and for all.

          • Realist
            July 22, 2017 at 4:16 pm

            It almost seems like a vast bipartisan conspiracy against the human race, does it not, E. Leete? I mean, real problems are ignored and made up ones, like Russiagate, are made the focus of attention by everyone with any clout. The congress especially right now, but generally the executive as well, are better sleight of hand performers than Penn and Teller. And the show is all facilitated by a disingenuous media very much in on the ruse.

          • Sam F
            July 22, 2017 at 5:43 pm

            I’m an electrical engineer but not a power engineer, although have some medium-voltage experience. Without study I will not challenge the view that further protection is still necessary, but it is hard to believe that power companies would decline such cheap protection which serves their own interests, or that our exploitative and corrupt congress would not prefer to have power themselves in a natural or war-related emergency.

            What is described sounds like ordinary lightning protection, which I have done myself for outdoor electronics, and it works and is no more than a big nuisance to install. EMP is apparently much stronger, so the cost and feasibility is not obvious, but one suspects that it has been done unless not very feasible.

            The power grid is much more vulnerable to attacks on long distance power lines, easily found in photos, or attacks on generating stations or transformer substations.

  3. mike k
    July 21, 2017 at 7:35 am

    The creation and possession of nuclear weapons is an indictment of our so-called civilization on Earth. These weapons are the logical outcome and epitome of our greedy, paranoid, violent way of life. They only represent the final nails in the coffin we have been building for civilization since it’s beginnings. We have built a human world that is programmed for self-destruction. The human enterprise on Earth is a complete failure, only waiting for the final act of it’s self-extinction. The avoidance of recognizing this reality is the factor that seals our doom. Hubris is the disease that refuses to know itself. We have created a world based on other values than Love, and we are paying the price everywhere.

    Mercifully, the end of this long nightmare, punctuated with moments of truth and beauty and love, is not far off now. And the little life of humankind will be rounded by a long and permanent sleep.

    • Realist
      July 21, 2017 at 8:44 am

      One can understand how violence and aggression came to be inherent components of human nature during the long course of our evolution under the influences of natural selection. Resources for food, water, shelter and mates were always limiting and had to be contested for with the winners getting to pass down their genes and the losers dropping from the gene pool. Such was true for all living things, but humans were special in that they evolved this big brain conferring upon them the abilities of speech, foresight and reason. With these tools they developed culture, agriculture, empirical science and eventually high technology. One might think that truly “sapient” humans, impressed by their own cerebral accomplishments, would see the benefits of suppressing their violent, destructive tendencies and actually live by the codes proffered by the founders of their great religions or philosophies.

      Back in the 80’s Carl Sagan asked the question if we, as a species, were truly wise enough to overcome our innate tendency to violence through the necessary self-discipline, since our impressive technological developments had already given us the ability to destroy the entire biosphere, including ourselves, many times over. Maybe he borrowed the notion from Star Trek which aired a decade earlier, because what man needed to become was as self-disciplined as the Vulcans who putatively also had a violent history. Sagan thought that this stage in the development of any intelligent species was essentially a bottleneck that not all of them (or maybe none of them) could pass through and endure over deep time. He died without enough evidence to say one way or the other. At first it looked hopeful, when the Cold War ended. But now it’s become problematic again. We just can’t stay motivated to act smart rather than arrogant.

    • E. Leete
      July 21, 2017 at 11:43 am

      we have to grow a new intelligence in the short time left to us before we fill the sky everywhere with smoke – we have to start an intense fight with our own limitations of intelligence

      we have pay from 1000th to a million times average hourly pay without even suspecting the existence of overpay/underpay – and without even grasping that this ratio is the cause of our giant overwhelming problems

      We need to make the point strongly that pay injustice is not just one more problem: it is the root problem, fixing which fixes all the problems – fixes suffocating bureaucracy, disinformation, tyranny, war, warmongering, starvation, overcrowding, corporate fascism, corruption, poverty, terrorism – it fixes everything. How can anything work when a few have most of the money, which is the lubrication for the social machine, the blood of the social body?

      The elite have always been under extreme attack, always been miserable, desperate, hard-laboured, doomed. Happiness is horizontal not vertical. Kindness (non injury, non theft) is good, practical, real self interest, is happiness for everyone – therefore justice is good, beneficial, not a sacrifice for anyone. It’s amazing that history and story are unanimous, the desperate struggles of the overpaid, and no one has learned it.

      The rich may enjoy comforts and luxuries etc in the short run, but they can get no more enjoyment than the fairpaid on $40 an hour, because of physical limits of desires. All overestimation of rich enjoyment is moonshine glamour illusion – driven by underpaid people still having substantial desires to satisfy, by underpaid people living vicariously through their dreams of the fabulousness of being wealthy. The greater the underpay, the more glamourous and wonderful overpay appears. Ray Kroc said about his wealth: So what? I still only have two feet.

      Some rich do not fall within their own lifetimes, but people should be reminded that the overpaid experience power struggles all the time before they fall – family who want a piece of it, subordinates who want to take over – it is a hill of humans where everyone is being attacked from below and beside and above. Everyone below is trying to get higher to be less attacked/oppressed from above – corporate infighting, competing for jobs, golddiggers, kidnappers, thieves, embezzlers, hostile takeovers etc etc – necessarily so, inevitably, because no one settles for discomfort, everyone is uncomfortable, so everyone is moving in the hill.

      Equality: no one above or below, everyone happier, freer, safer, liberated from troubles, struggles, conflict, betrayal – in all groups – crime gangs, families, companies, nations, empires.

      Being rich – getting overpay – is not a win. It isn’t a win relative to pay justice, it is a vast loss of ease, trust, safety, leisure, relaxation, enjoyment, confidence. Everyone is a giant loser in the hill of humans – but people would rather kid themselves they are happy and right than face reality and improve their happiness really.

      Modern man’s pride is stronger than his will to live to be realistic to be sane to be practical to be happy.

      The rich are like children with party cake – it is hard to enjoy what cake one has if everyone is constantly, ever more desperately and violently and sourly grabbing from everyone.

      It looks as though the problem is the human insistence that the solution be where people are looking – at the symptom level, at the detail level, at the part-picture level. People are mopping the floor instead of turning off the broken tap. They cannot understand why someone is leaving the problem of the wet floor in the living room and going away, upstairs (into the bathroom where the broken tap is) – they just ‘know’ that is the wrong thing to do – and they keep mopping the floor. They think the pay-justice solution is unrealistic because it isn’t addressing (directly) the wet floor.

      It is like looking for the lost keys where the light is better for looking, and not looking where the keys fell. You have to teach people that the solution (to the immediate problems and most other problems) is simple if they look where the keys fell, where the problem started. It takes mental discipline not to pluck off the vine where it is strangling the roses, but to trace the vine back to the root, where one cut will kill the whole vine and keep it in check permanently with little effort.

      People are fascinated by the immediate problems and can’t take their eyes off them to look at the big picture and see the root cause and so the solution.

      Pay justice will always maximise spending, the efficiency of the cycle of production and consumption – and reduce violence which is a waste of money, lives, property, energy, confidence. The giant sucking machine has taken spending away from most, breaking the cycle.

      Pay justice will always be the only answer – one can’t steal and steal and steal without end. They saw this (to some extent) at the end of the 19th century, when economics practice changed from low wages to high wages. The Marshall Plan saw this, as the way to avoid loss of European markets and thus global loss of confidence.

      Increasing the money supply say 1% a month and GIVING this to everyone equally (only to save the vast bureaucratic cost of distinguishing the 1% overpaid and 99% underpaid) – which can be done by a computer, ie low bureaucracy – will increase spending, increasing production, increasing market confidence: you have to water the plants to make them grow. The gift (return of stolen earnings) overcompensates all the underpaid for the inflation effect and ‘robs’ the overpaid gently, unobtrusively, automatically through their spending. If the superrich cannot understand pay justice, they can at least understand that you have to leave enough wool on the sheep so you can fleece them again.

      I am reading The Greening of America (1970) – about the last time Americans tried to grow up, before the oil price hike made them scurry back into old patterns, shovelling heaps to their superrich father figures to get them out of the mess.

      I saw the movie Sharpe’s Challenge, with Sean Bean, about the struggles and dangers of the overpaid (and underpaid) in British Colonial India, wherein Sharpe says: And I thought for a moment all this [trouble] might have been for more than just to make rich men richer.

      We pay for many things that are not work. These customs have become second nature to us, and we think that something that has been done ‘forever’ just has to be right.

      The founding fathers knew that the European moneypowers were tyrannical – they knew unlimited fortune = tyranny. It’s why they passed laws first thing after signing the Declaration of Independence to limit wealth concentration, ie overpay, ie, excessive reward for endeavour, ie overpower, ie tyranny, ie undemocracy.

      Unlimited overpay (for a very few) means unlimited underpay (for the very many), and that = violence (war and crime) = escalation of weaponry certain = extinction soon (the nuclear genie now out of the bottle not going back in).

      Humanity is saying: money is good, so more money is better, even if it is overpay (ie, a person taking out of society more than they put in). But the truth is that self-earned money is always good, other-earned money (legally or illegally stolen money) is always bad and is responsible for our present extremely woeful situation, warbound, and teetering on extinction.

      The truth is that overpay means underpay means violence means escalation means extinction soon. We have the bombs to block out the sun and freeze everything – and the rising violence to sooner or later use them. Maybe not all at once, maybe just a bomb here, a bomb there, until the sun is blocked out permanently, ‘til the smoke rises above cloud level, above the rain washout level.
      The market pays for scarcity, which is not the person’s hard work, innovation or creativity – that is overpay, which causes underpay, which causes violence [war and crime, ie general misery, pain, danger, fear, insecurity, grief and suffering] escalating to extinction [soon]

      Humanity is admiring those who succeed in getting superwealth – humanity is forgetting that if a person is taking out of society more than they put in, others are getting out less than they put in = starvation poverty slavery injustice anger violence danger pain war crime chaos extinction

      Overpay has gone to the ridiculous, extremely explosive level of up to a million times average hourly pay – it takes only 8000 people being overpaid up to a million times the average hourly pay to take all the earnings of the whole world – and we are just 10% away from that – 1% get 90% of world income – and they are not stopping – they have devoured the so called third world, the working class – and they are devouring the middle class now – and the overpaid are under extreme attack, in extreme danger

      Overpay is money in the wrong hands, wealth created by one person’s efforts in the hands of another – injustice, theft [there are many legal thefts]

      Humanity is like the sorcerer’s apprentice – intelligent enough to have started something we are not intelligent enough to stop – we were intelligent enough to invent money, and we are not intelligent enough to understand money

      We have to accept that our intelligence is limited – we are mentally handicapped – by
      1] not seeing the whole picture, thinking we see correctly when we see part of the picture – money is holistic – its effects go everywhere
      2] trapped by custom and convention: we say things like: if we did that, it would be chaos: it never occurs to us that what we have might be chaos – we assume that what we have is good, is the best possible – and yet we are always making improvements – selfcontradiction
      3] denial – ignoring facts and realities – ignoring is ignorance – we really do think that if we ignore something, it stops existing – head in the sand is an important reality of our psychology, a fifth column enemy, destroying us – we are in the pleasure principle [if it is unpleasant to think about, it doesnt exist] which is a pain principle, a misery principle [bumping into realities you ignored] – we are not in the reality principle, which is the true pleasure principle, which is responsibility [ability to respond to realities] and maturity [being grown up, facing realities]

      sorry if this is choppy – my grandbaby is on my lap – I work for her chance to get back a chance to have a future

  4. elmerfudzie
    July 21, 2017 at 10:28 am

    The introduction of Artificial Intelligence or AI into the decision-making process, whether to launch nuclear weapons or not is especially unnerving. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak warned us all about the creation of “autonomous weapons” and a third revolution in warfare, just as significant as gunpowder and nuclear arms were..not decades away from implementation but a few years away. Without any human direction or control, missiles, all-by-themselves, will decide what targets to attack. This capability is not fiction and has already been tested back in 2014. For references visit the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or articles written by NYT’s John Markoff. Even more worrying is the prospect of using AI as an excuse, an object of blame, intentionally deflecting responsibility for a nuclear holocaust away from politicians and the military. I can almost hear what the new twist on that popular phrase “the devil made me do it” will sound like: The AI belayed our self destruct order! The AI misjudged the threat! the AI launched without provocation! anything but the verbal utterance, I’m personally responsible…
    the self destruct or failed or the AI

    • July 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

      ” I can almost hear what the new twist on that popular phrase “the devil made me do it” will sound like: The AI belayed our self destruct order!” …ominous and plausible!

      • Gregory Herr
        July 21, 2017 at 10:46 pm
        • July 21, 2017 at 11:07 pm

          Gregory Herr…LOL…if you remember that you must be at least as old as I am!

          • Gregory Herr
            July 22, 2017 at 12:12 am

            I was a child of the 70’s Bob, in my mother’s womb when JFK was elected. “The devil made me do it” brought back some vague memories and, well, serious discussions can sometimes use a touch of lightheartedness. Been looking through several Flip Wilson clips since posting and am glad to note that, our perilous and often brutal nature notwithstanding, we are sparks of life very often worth the trouble.
            Thanks for getting a chuckle out of it. What a character he was!

  5. July 21, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I’m not sure that so-called “peaceful nuclear energy” is much less of a threat, especially as no one has figured out how to get rid of the waste and there are now cheaper renewable alternatives. After Chernobyl and Fukushima everyone should be skeptical about any nuclear designed project and the fact that they haven’t made a concerted effort to negotiate a weapons agreement only illustrates the distorted priorities of the leadership in congress as well as the oval office.

    • mike k
      July 21, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Agreed Bob. Peaceful nuclear energy is an oxymoron. Ripping uranium ore from it’s peaceful slumber beneath the earth was the first step in a violent and mistaken course. The Curie’s found out what radiation had in store for us the hard way. The x-rays, cat scans, etc. are causing a huge number of cancer deaths to unsuspecting consumers. There is NO safe level of radiation for living things.

      • July 21, 2017 at 11:52 am

        “There is NO safe level of radiation for living things.”…We’re on the same page, Mike…I just have to get my dentist to understand.

        • mike k
          July 21, 2017 at 4:32 pm

          Someone has pointed out that the dentist has you wear a light weight lead filled vest that is supposed to protect your privates and your chest, but what about your head? Research has shown a correlation between the number of dental X-rays a person has had, and their chances of developing a brain tumor. I always pass on the invitation to have routine x-rays, dental or otherwise. Of course the owners of these money making machines will tell you they are perfectly safe. Then why do they hide away at a distance out of range of the deadly radiation? How much distance do you get between you and the muzzle of that x-ray gun?

          • July 21, 2017 at 7:26 pm

            “but what about your head?”…so that’s why I have vertigo when I get up in the morning! (too late!)

  6. Seer
    July 21, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Does anyone know how one can get a hold of Dennis? I’d like to bring this to his attention:

    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Israel

    Health care in Israel is universal and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory. All Israeli citizens are entitled to basic health care as a fundamental right. The Israeli healthcare system is based on the National Health Insurance Law of 1995, which mandates all citizens resident in the country to join one of four official health insurance organizations, known as Kupot Holim (???? ????? – “Sick Funds”) which are run as not-for-profit organizations and are prohibited by law from denying any Israeli citizen membership. Israelis can increase their medical coverage and improve their options by purchasing private health insurance.[1] In a survey of 48 countries in 2013, Israel’s health system was ranked fourth in the world in terms of efficiency, and in 2014 it ranked seventh out of 51.[2] In 2015, Israel was ranked sixth-healthiest country in the world by Bloomberg rankings[3] and ranked eighth in terms of life expectancy.

    In essence, Israel has universal health care because it’s subsidized by US tax dollars. If Israel didn’t get all the $$s from the US for military spending it would either have to cut back on military “activities” OR cut back its spending on health care.

    The thought that children in the US are going without health care in order that people in Israel can have it is appalling. This is totally inconsistent with Donald Turmp’s “America First” policy [rhetoric].

    Dennis, if you’re out there you really need to grab this and run with it.

    • July 21, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Seer,…that IS an interesting observation, but I wouldn’t rush there if I have a health problem. Most people on this website are probably on a “do not resuscitate” list.

    • Cal
      July 21, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      @ Seer

      ” If Israel didn’t get all the $$s from the US for military spending”
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      Well this will really piss you off but go to fas.org and look up the Israeli weapons ‘ imports
      and exports’.

      Israel largest $$ amount of its exports is its sale of Israeli manufactured weapons.

      It exports more weapons than it imports. So we give them 3 billion plus in US weapons and they sell their own Israeli industry weapons for x billions.

      IF we didn’t do that Israel would have to keep and use their own manufactured weapons severely reducing their GDP and income from the sales of their own weapons.

      IF the US ever pulled that weapons aid string you would start to see the whole Israeli Ponzi state unravel.

  7. nigel cairns
    July 21, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    can America justify its attitude towards North Korea while refusing to give up its own?

  8. Cal
    July 21, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Destroy all nukes is my position.

    Although I don’t think that will ever happen.

    • elmerfudzie
      July 22, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Cal, the problem is not a singular one, the mere existence of nukes per se. A weapon needs a user, be it a gun in the bedside drawer or nukes on the battlefield. There are two very important considerations here, the first is the policy of using Presidential Launch Code cards (quick issue PAL’s) and the associated “football”, the second, as I’ve previously mentioned herein, Artificial Intelligence or AI. The first, is not necessary, since retaliation will come soon enough, due to the atmospheric smoke from the sudden conflagrations of large cities, ushering in a global nuclear winter. The second example, a newer technology, where the decision-making process is delegated to a computer chip! AI will assume the responsibility? for killing millions or not?! A third, less important current policy and it does require re-examination, is “launch on warning”, reason being that the triad arrangement of nuclear delivery remains firmly in place, that is, by aircraft (gravity or smart bombs), by sea -flotillas and submarines and the third by land, missile silos (North Dakota). When President Reagan was shot, his launch code card was lost…important information may have been gleaned from this card or devise. Perhaps such information can now be used along with a mirrored or bootlegged “football”.. in any case, this whole launch system, lugged around by the POTUS is all too tricky and has to be removed from service. Trump and Putin can mutually agree to this change, perhaps the four remaining major atomic powers may decide to follow suit!…this is what leadership is all about!

  9. Zachary Smith
    July 22, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I do not understand either the rationality or the utility of talking about a Treaty for which there is Zero chance of ever coming into force. From the wiki:

    No nuclear-armed nation has expressed support for a ban treaty; indeed, a number of them, including the United States[42] and Russia,[43] have expressed explicit opposition.

    The existence of these weapons is based on the fact that the Physics of our universe allows them, and 72 years without a general nuclear war has demonstrated that on the balance possession of nuclear weapons is more desirable than not having them. Those nations which could have built nuclear weapons but didn’t calculated that in THEIR particular case they were better off to be nuke-free. Powerful friendly neighbors were – in my opinion – a major factor for most of the “Anti-” types. South Africa (with a lot of assistance from Israel) built nuclear weapons, but they feared the inevitable transfer of these weapons to Black South Africans more than they did the very low chance of an attack by enemies. So they demolished their program and probably gave/sold all the useful stuff to Israel. (I fear the calculus is changing in Japan, but IMO that one is already beyond redemption)

    Indeed, I’ve yet to see a convincing argument that if tomorrow God changed Physics so that nuclear weapons would no longer function we humans would be any better off. In my personal view things would go from “bad” (madmen with nukes/accidents) to “much worse” in a very brief time.

    Speaking of madmen, I must commend Mr. Bernstein for mentioning Hillary-With-Nukes, and condemn Mr. Helfand for blowing him off.

    Trump isn’t fit to control Nuclear Weapons, but Imagine the election and immediate death of John McCain in 2008. Imagine the Supreme Court hadn’t altered the 2000 election and given the Presidency to George Bush. If President Albert Gore had been assassinated by a “madman”, Joseph Isadore Lieberman would have become President. Frankly, I doubt if many people would be alive today in that event. Smashing small nations for Israel would have taken on an entirely new dimension.

  10. July 25, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous, immoral creations humanity has ever manifested. How does anyone even think about there being any so-called “debate” over whether nuclear weapons should be banished forever from this Earth? Banning, dismantling and eliminating completely nuclear weapons from this world for all time is – clearly – history’s greatest “slam dunk” ever.

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