Holiday Nuclear War Talk

I did not want to write about nuclear weapons use policies the day before Christmas Eve, but here we are. The issue and the way it is discussed has bothered me for a long time, but I have mostly stayed out of it. I’m not going to link to the other arguments. They can easily be found, including in today’s edition of a major paper. I’m not going to link because that shatters the argument into a thousand tiny subtopics.

The resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis has occasioned a flurry of tweets and articles on nuclear command. Mattis was believed to bring a steady hand and dissuasion to the potential use of nuclear weapons. A claim has been made that he had explicitly inserted himself into the command chain.

Nuclear war is of concern to all of us, but there is, yes I will use the word, a priesthood that prefers that it not be debated widely. To this end, they broadcast fear by the way they explain things and, when cornered, defend their turf with “I can’t talk about that.” Additionally, each participant in the discussion has an area of expertise in which he can muster more obscure facts than anyone.

But the issues can be comprehended by anyone. Donald Trump has absolute power to launch nuclear weapons. The launch sequence is rapid, and the missiles cannot be called back. The setup was developed during the Cold War, for a different set of threats than we face today. It needs to be changed.

Thinking about nuclear war is frightening and nightmare-inducing. Most people don’t want to think about it, but we’re going to have to at some time. Fear is never a good basis for making decisions, nor is taking the word of someone who won’t talk about what he knows. And Trump and his people have set so many dumpster fires that we have to deal with them first.

So there’s no real discussion of the issues, just, as now, a flareup of words. It will die down or be smothered by the next Trumpian uproar. The priesthood will continue to argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

How do we move ahead? We need to rethink the command and control process. In order to do that, we must avoid exacerbating the fear factor. There is more than enough fear in the subject itself. We also must avoid the ego trap of claiming special knowledge, whether that comes from classification or a plethora of detail. And we need to address the specifics of what can happen, not an idealized thought-sequence.

There’s a lot more I could say. But I’m going to leave it here for now. There’s plenty in this post that may provoke responses from the priesthood.


108 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    Put this in the last thread, but:
    “As expected, Asshole in Chief has ordered Mattis leave his post Jan 1 instead of Feb. According to MSNBC.”

  2. 2
    oldgold says:

    Trump to name Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as acting Secretary.

  3. 3
    Plato says:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Administration official: Defense chief Jim Mattis to leave as of Jan. 1, Trump to name deputy Patrick Shanahan as acting secretary.— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 23, 2018

    So much adulting. So much winning.

  4. 4
    hilts says:

    @Corner Stone:

    President Butthurt staying classy to the end.

  5. 5
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I did not want to write about nuclear weapons use policies the day before Christmas Eve,

    A Nuclear Festivus!
    To scare all the rest of us!


  6. 6
    Mike in NC says:

    Trump cannot abide having people who’ve criticized him to be in the same room. His fragile, bloated ego just can’t take it!

  7. 7
    gene108 says:


    Go Trump!!!!

    Thwarting Mattis’s plan for a smooth transition. That’s showing leadership!!!!

  8. 8
    opiejeanne says:

    @Plato: What do we know about Shanahan?

  9. 9
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Mattis does not strike me as the type to come out swinging in revenge, or more importantly, for the good of the country. I agree his resignation letter was, as one of trump’s anonymous aides said, a 21 Gun Fuck You!, but it was too subtle for Republicans to stop pretending they don’t believe they’re lying eyes.

    and I’ll remark again about the dog that isn’t barking: Colin Powell. The Beltway worshipped at his altar for twenty-plus years, and now that they all timidly look to retired general officers to take The Beast down by tweet, nobody seems to remark on the silence of St Colin. I actually thought he might have health issues– he’s over eighty– but I made a google and he’s healthy enough to be continuing his speaking tour.

  10. 10
    debbie says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I believe I said here last week that Trump would do exactly that (pension or no).

  11. 11
    patrick II says:

    For Christmas I am hoping that Putin doesn’t invade Ukraine over the holidays. His troops have been gathering on the border for awhile. Considering Trump backing down from Erdogen, and the general chaos of his administration, and Trump being afraid of Putin, do we think Trump would actually do anything about it?

  12. 12
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    and I’ll remark again about the dog that isn’t barking: Colin Powell

    Powell is on the hottest beach he can find. He’s taking in the sights to be seen and also trying to acclimate to the heat for when he ends up in his own special place in hell.

  13. 13
    cleek says:

    we may take small comfort in the fact that Trump doesn’t actually seem to be militarily aggressive. yes, he’s a dumb-ass, but he’s shown no sign that he’s eager to use military force.

  14. 14
    Mike in NC says:

    Stand by for Trump’s Christmas Day message to the world: “Nuclear wars are fun and easy to win, believe me”

  15. 15
    debbie says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I’ll remark again about the dog that isn’t barking: Colin Powell.

    I think he will be before long. Earlier this month, he was focusing on U.S. treaty withdrawals.

  16. 16
    Brachiator says:

    How do we move ahead? We need to rethink the command and control process.

    I have recently been listening to the Bombshell. The hosts seem to know their shit. Their obvious expertise and ability to clearly explain complex topics certainly humble my relatively uninformed behind.

    And yet, to my simple mind, they make too much about the notion of “process” as the solution to everything.

    I think we have too many nukes and need to get rid of them. Yeah, easy to say. But as other countries develop, they become more nuclear capable. The knowledge is out there, waiting for a level of technological sophistication. I used to joke that in the future, junior high school kids will create nuclear bombs as science projects.

    Anyway, our deepest problem is that we have a president who doesn’t understand or care about process. He wants the biggest and most nukes, simply because that is how he sees the world. And having power is an extension of his ego.

    Worst of all, his instinct is to reduce the military and the State Department to nothing, so that what is left is a husk that will do his will. Experts and advisors mean nothing to him unless they are loyal and willing to do what he wants.

    Little can be done until we elect a new president.

  17. 17
    Plato says:

    Has someone taken the nukular codes away from the stable genius of a traitortot? I sure hope so.

  18. 18
    trollhattan says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:
    This year the Festivus pole is fashioned of cadmium. Wear gloves.

  19. 19
    trollhattan says:

    Ivanka’s on it.

  20. 20
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @cleek: dear god, should we be thankful that the North Koreans are flattering the big dumb Beast? “a beautiful letter!”

    I wonder if rethinking the nuclear launch sequence is an issue voters will/would care about, or if it’s like climate change, too big and too scary for most people to contemplate as a problem in their lives. I’d say it’s something Dems should at least be willing to talk about publicly, maybe some of those retired general officers who are now seeing how dangerous a situation it is.

  21. 21

    @Brachiator: Yes, the “process” thing is what I want to get away from and rethink the problem itself. We should have done that back in the 1990s. We need to start discussing this, but yes, action will require a new president. The discussions will lay the groundword for action.

  22. 22
    Corner Stone says:


    but he’s shown no sign that he’s eager to use military force

    Trump has not. But in a continuing series he is devolving decision making down the line of command to lower ranked military commanders and telling them essentially, “You make the call and do what you think is best.”

  23. 23
    Plato says:

    @opiejeanne: No idea. First time hearing that name. But if the totus thug chose him, what is the over/under that he is up to no good?

  24. 24

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Not rethinking the nuclear launch sequence. That’s further down in the details than I want to go. Should the president have unilateral ability to launch a nuclear strike at any time? That’s the question.

  25. 25
    Elizabelle says:

    My comment on previous thread is in moderation. Probably got tripped up because it was alcohol related. Two words: Malt Duck.

  26. 26
    debbie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    In this world, no president — no matter her excellence — should have this power alone.

  27. 27
    Plato says:

    Via tweet, @realDonaldTrump has announced he would install Patrick Shanahan as Acting Secretary of Defense and force out Mattis two months early.
    How to describe this?
    P E T T Y
    W E A K
    J U V E N I L E— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 23, 2018

  28. 28
    Plato says:

    Remember the photo-op where all these ‘secretaries’ were gathered around the totus thug kissing his fugly ass and telling the fucking moron, how he great he is? Good times.

  29. 29
    Mary G says:

    Thanks for this, Cheryl. There are certainly a lot of people who try to dazzle us with bullshit disguised as expertise. It reminds me of those gun nuts who dismiss gun control arguments with “you don’t know the technical terms so your opinion has no validity.”

  30. 30
    chopper says:


    his pension from the cabinet position isn’t much at all compared to his military one.

  31. 31
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Should the president have unilateral ability to launch a nuclear strike at any time? That’s the question.

    D’oh! that’s what I meant. I’m living proof that the laity should leave this discussion to the priesthood. I’d be willing to give you my proxy on this question

  32. 32
    opiejeanne says:

    @Plato: According to RVA Wonk: Mattis will be replaced by Deputy Defense Sec. Patrick Shanahan, who has no military experience & only 18 months in govt.


  33. 33
    trollhattan says:

    If there were a way to impress upon nuclear-curious nations that the negative tradeoffs derived from developing them greatly exceed any possible benefits, perhaps we could keep the genie if not back in the bottle, at bay. Behold, the Hanford Reservation the gift that keeps giving, and giving, and giving…

  34. 34
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @debbie: I didn’t know there was a question of pension, but it’s just the kind of thing that would motivate that spiteful money-grubber to push things forward, and he thinks everyone shares his money-grubbing worldview.

    Though as the Theranos example proves, we shouldn’t worry about Mattis being able to find the tall grass to graze in

  35. 35
    FelonyGovt says:

    Like many other things, I suspect the nuclear procedures assumed they would be implemented by a President who was thoughtful and honorable. Now that we have one who is neither, the folly of one person having so much power and responsibility is really apparent.

  36. 36
    JPL says:

    @Corner Stone: Too little too late but he did support Obama and Hillary. A little bird told me that he feels a certain news station is dangerous to democracy.

    Now that Mattis is out maybe he’ll make the news rounds lol

  37. 37
    Plato says:

    @opiejeanne: Just saw a tweet mention he is a military contractor. Double yay for open & public corruption.

  38. 38
    opiejeanne says:

    @Plato: I should add, Shanahan is a former Boeing executive.

  39. 39
    Plato says:

    If ‘mad dog’ is as honorable as he is touted to be, he should walk into Mueller’s office and rat out the traitor’s crimes.

  40. 40
    Plato says:

    @opiejeanne: There you go.

  41. 41
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @JPL: Powell’s email was hacked, or leaked, in 2016 and he called HRC “ambitious” (you know, as oppose to the 44 guys who just kind of happened to find themselves in office* including Washington) and “greedy”. Makes me wish we could see General My Lai McSpeakingtour’s tax returns as well

    * okay I guess that did happen with Ford

  42. 42
    germy says:


    Does this government shutdown affect the DMV?

    I need to renew my driver’s license.

  43. 43
    Brachiator says:


    If there were a way to impress upon nuclear-curious nations that the negative tradeoffs derived from developing them greatly exceed any possible benefits, perhaps we could keep the genie if not back in the bottle…

    India and Pakistan got tremendous ego boosts from getting the bomb. And perhaps they actually reduced the risk that they might go to war now that they are both nuclear capable. Pakistan, which got the shit kicked out of them by the Indian army certainly feels more equal now that they have nukes.

    And no one would give a rat’s ass about North Korea if they were not a nuclear threat.

    Having nukes is like having a Colt revolver in the Old West. Makes you feel bigger than you really are.

    But I agree with you that the world needs to think otherwise.

  44. 44
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    That’s state, not federal. You should be fine (although local DMV offices may have unusual holiday hours).

  45. 45
    germy says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Thanks.

    Now I have to decide whether or not to get a “real ID” driver’s license, rather than an old fashioned one.

  46. 46
    JPL says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: What does it matters since he is surrounding himself with sycophants who nod in agreement.

  47. 47
    Brachiator says:

    Holy Mother of God. I was looking at how we got this new Defense guy.

    Building upon Trump’s proposed Pentagon budget, Shanahan was nominated to spearhead the plans to increase the size of the military.

    A businessman with no military experience.

    I guess it could be worse, another former Fox News anchor.

  48. 48
    normal liberal says:

    Only if your state is conducting a sympathy shutdown. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the red states have considered it.

  49. 49
    oldgold says:

    Shanahan is from the corporate side of the military/industrial complex.

    Many of these people, like Shanahan, at least publicly, present themselves as political independents. That way changing political winds do not spoil business opportunities.

  50. 50
    Cermet says:

    Not totally accurate about real launch authority – while the president has final authority to launch (if he is still alive or in communication), it is Looking Glass that really gives out the actual launch command; the white house “football” only sends a code to launch to Looking Glass, not the actual missile sites/control bunkers. The General on that flight has sole and absolute authority to decide if a launch is required or not – period. They can even launch if they feel it is required without the president’s code/signal, too. Not even the orange fart cloud can change that.

  51. 51
    Brachiator says:


    Now I have to decide whether or not to get a “real ID” driver’s license, rather than an old fashioned one.

    I guess the deal is that you will need the “real ID” for air travel.

    And in California there were recent stories about needing 2 forms of ID with your address, instead of one, when you apply. What a mess.

  52. 52
    germy says:

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    Next time we have a gov shutdown, Congressional salaries should be furloughed as well.

    It’s completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision.

    Have some integrity.

  53. 53
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Should the president have unilateral ability to launch a nuclear strike at any time?

    The very heart of the issue. We have left this up to one person, who gets replaced every 4 or 8 yrs, and now that one person is exactly the wrong person. It’s possible that we will be OK, it’s possible that we won’t. The military has a long time concept of not following an illegal order. But this one is one that if he says go, and goes through the procedure (which may be the saving grace here – could he manage that?) it’s not an illegal order. It might be able to be considered one if the chain of command knew that no one was actually attacking us and we were making a first strike. But where is the stopping point, at what juncture might that happen? And it’s dependability is rather poor, given that a lot of our military leadership seems to be not exactly as presented. (Flynn et al)
    As you say it’s not the old days any longer. We need a complete rethink upon the way a decision is made to destroy the worlds population and how many checkpoints there are along the way. And yes I know there are some now, but how secure are they against the one person making a bad decision?

  54. 54
    germy says:

    @Brachiator: I’m dreading it.

    I really have no desire to fly, but my wife may insist we do it. She has her heart set on seeing Italy again.

    I’m more like a cat; I’d rather stay put.

  55. 55

    @Cermet: Aaaaannnnd… you have proved me right!

    “I know these details and you don’t” ✔
    “If you don’t get this right according to me, you can’t say anything” ✔
    Getting some of it wrong ✔

    This is precisely the kind of discussion I DON’T want to have.

  56. 56
    trollhattan says:

    Sad thing is it would affect her bigly while the Darryl Issas of congress would not be affected in the slightest.

  57. 57

    @Ruckus: I hope to get into some of this later.

  58. 58
    Ruckus says:

    A friend has to get a different license and the first appointment he can get at the CA DMV is in the end of Feb.
    It isn’t if they are open, it’s how soon you might be able to actually talk to someone to get anything done. If you go without an appointment you will spend all day and might not get in.

  59. 59
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Peter Baker reporting on MSNBC that trump is feeling distant from Ivanka and Jared… I can’t let go of my theory that Abbe Lowell and Papa Kushner are coaching Jared into how to throw The Beast under the Mueller bus without leaving too many fingerprints, and Ivanka, who knows where the real money is, is sitting at that table.

    Of course, either Fredo is capable of flipping without knowing they flipped

  60. 60
    Dr. Ronnie James, D.O. says:

    One comfort I think many pessimists today overlook is how absolutely terrifying *and real* the threat of global nuclear war felt as recently as 30 years ago. Though we have other bleak threats to fuel our nightmares, they are smaller in scale or longer in time frame. Hopefully, a sane/ competent White House Occupant will soon replace the current one and continue to deescalate the nuclear threat.

  61. 61
    hilts says:


    Remember the photo-op where all these ‘secretaries’ were gathered around the totus thug kissing his fugly ass and telling the fucking moron, how he great he is?

    Mattis was the only person in the room who maintained his dignity by not groveling to our Shit for Brains President.

  62. 62
    hilts says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Peter Baker reporting on MSNBC that trump is feeling distant from Ivanka and Jared

    Hope like Hell this is true and that in the near future Trump will be leaving the White House for a psychiatric ward.

  63. 63
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    It is a very, very necessary discussion to have. As you have noticed here, there is a lot of knowledge/wrong knowledge/bad knowledge/stupid knowledge/wrong level knowledge about this subject. (among many others) But this one is important. Probably the most important one we can make for any immediate future. We’ve been floating along as if this is 1950 for far to long in this country. I’ve left that approximate time frame there as a reminder that we have, as humans a bad fault and that is to rarely question major decisions once they have been made, that we asked and answered all the relevant questions and that new information is not appropriate. Ike was a decent president because he’d learned to make major decisions by careful analysis, have possible changes available and then worry like hell that he made the right one. That’s the opposite “process” to what numbnuts uses. And he’s not alone in his defects, just an extreme example.
    I await your posts.

  64. 64
    Another Scott says:

    Great post, Cheryl.

    Along these lines, we really need to have a national conversation about “risk and reward”. We also need to revive “cost-benefit analysis”.

    A few thousand women and children fleeing violence and wanting to live in the USA aren’t going to destroy us. Requiring training and licenses doesn’t mean the government is going to throw us in the gulag. There are too many risks, too many ways to get incorrect information (e.g. Gulf of Tonkin incident) for one person to have the ability to destroy civilization on their say-so.

    We need to grow up as Americans and as humans.


  65. 65
    Ruckus says:

    See this is part of the issue.
    Individual 1 will never ask for help, for he is the bestest of all the humans. Just ask him. He doesn’t need help, he just needs everyone to do exactly what he says, when he says it and because he’s the greatest he’ll be fine.
    He doesn’t know to ask for help, he knows how to give bad orders. If he’s seeking mental health care it will be wearing a jacket that has wrap around sleeves and buckles in the back.

  66. 66
    Ruckus says:

    @Another Scott:

    We need to grow up as Americans and as humans.

    That is all.

  67. 67


    And no one would give a rat’s ass about North Korea if they were not a nuclear threat.

    Sure, that’s why we had troops on the DMZ for 50 before they had nukes.

  68. 68
    Plato says:

    The German reporter Claas Relotius, accused by top news magazine Der Spiegel of faking stories, could now face embezzlement charges.

    Der Spiegel says it is filing a criminal complaint alleging he solicited donations for Syrian orphans from readers with any proceeds going to his personal account.

    Der Spiegel said last week that Relotius admitted faking some stories.

    The reporter, 33, has yet to comment on the embezzlement allegations.

    In the latest development, Der Spiegel reports (in German) that it received messages from readers saying Relotius had used a private email account to ask for donations to help Syrian orphans in Turkey.

  69. 69
    EBT says:

    Being scared of atomic war sounds privilaged. Nevwr heard a minority or a poor person talk about atomic war in the same way they do hetting murdered by the cops or a rich white person.

  70. 70
  71. 71
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    According to his Wikipedia page, Patrick Shanahan is a former top Boeing Executive who had started with the company in 1986 and risen up the ranks to the point where he became a Senior Vice-President and a member of the Boeing Executive Council. In March of 2017, he was nominated by President Trump for the position of Deputy Secretary of Defense, the second-highest civilian position in the Defense Department. Although he ran into some trouble during his confirmation hearing when the late Senator John McCain objected to his response to questions about arming the Ukrainian government in response to Russian activity in the eastern part of Ukraine, Shanahan was ultimately overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate in July 2017. He does not appear to have served in the military, but that isn’t unusual for Secretaries of Defense in recent years.

    ETA: stolen from Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway.

  72. 72
    Jeffro says:

    @germy:(per AO-C):

    Next time we have a gov shutdown, Congressional salaries should be furloughed as well.

    It’s completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision.

    as I told my RWNJ dad and Fox-inundated-so-essentially-RWNJ stepmom yesterday, when they were blowing off the prospect of government workers not getting paid for weeks or even months…I’m waiting for Dems to suggest that in the event of budget resolution running out
    – ideally, the government would just continue bumping along at whatever previously approved spending levels are in place until a new budget resolution is approved for a department, agency, or even the whole government
    – however, if we are going to continue with this whole hostage-taking model of GOP governance, I suggest that not just Congressional pay be held up, but also Social Security checks. Let’s see the Fox mouth-breathing audience mull over how that is different…

  73. 73

    @Another Scott: Yes. We need to weigh today’s threats. During the 1990s we decided there was no threat. After 9/11, we decided everything is a threat. Things are different now than at either of those times or the Cold War. That’s what we need to assess, along with where they’re likely to go in the future. I’ll be writing more about this, trying to assess those threats.

  74. 74
    Yutsano says:

    @Librarian: I would say curse you for stealing my thunder, but YouTube links are ass to do on my phone.

  75. 75
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Also from @DrDaveT: who comments at OTB:

    Some inside baseball:

    As Deputy, Shanahan has been in charge of the ongoing massive reorganization of the part of DoD that used to be called “Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics”, but has now been split into two separate organizations*. And all of the other acquisition reform legislation that the remarkably bipartisan House and Senate Armed Services Committees have been cranking out like sausages for the past few years without waiting to see the effect the earlier ones had. That’s why he was hired — to oversee the business process transformation side of the house.

    That’s a full-time job, and then some. Shanahan will now have zero time for that, and no deputy to delegate things to. There is now literally nobody in charge of the reorg, at the crucial moment when allocation of duties and authorities is happening. And Shanahan is now in charge of something he is utterly unprepared for.

    *If you have been having trouble making the transition from R&D to actual fielded systems, clearly the best move is to put R&D and acquisition in totally different organizations, so that the lowest-level manager who can resolve issues is the Deputy Secretary…

  76. 76
    Yutsano says:

    @Jeffro: Oh it will get better if this isn’t resolved soon. The IRS filing season starts next month. And there have been MASSIVE changes to how the tax laws will work. Hell even the 2018 form is completely different. There’s going to be a shit ton of questions…and no one at the IRS to answer them. I can’t even tell you how fun this will be.

  77. 77
    Brachiator says:


    Hell even the 2018 form is completely different. There’s going to be a shit ton of questions…and no one at the IRS to answer them. I can’t even tell you how fun this will be.

    I recently taught a Tax Law Updates course. I loved showing the new “postcard” 1040, pausing and then showing the 6 new schedules accompanying the new Form 1040. I also reminded the audience to buy more paper to print copies.

  78. 78
    Brachiator says:


    And no one would give a rat’s ass about North Korea if they were not a nuclear threat.

    Sure, that’s why we had troops on the DMZ for 50 before they had nukes.

    We were scared of Russian or Chinese nukes being launched to support North Korea.

  79. 79
    MomSense says:

    Anyone else hoping there is some kind of super dee duper secret Cold War contingency plan for what to do if the president is an insane man baby agent of a hostile foreign power?

  80. 80
    Yutsano says:

    @Brachiator: And some of the placings on the schedules are not intuitive. Like there’s an adjustment to income that one would think would go on Schedule 1 that actually goes on Schedule 3..

    And just wait until the refundable child tax credit reductions come into play. And that in order to claim most credits now you’re required to have an SSN. As the inestimable David Anderson says, there will be lawyers.

    Oh and the kicker? I’m not sure the programmers for the 2018 season are excepted. Which means they might be way behind getting the computers ready.

  81. 81
    JaySinWA says:

    @germy: Do you need an enhanced ID license? Passport processing is supposed to be up, but stated that local offices may close depending on what gov. building they are in. If your licence dept requires something from the Feds to process an enhanced ID there might be a hang up, but it seems unlikely.
    ETA I see you are considering the option of Real ID/Enhanced ID. @germy:

  82. 82
    JaySinWA says:

    @germy: Your passport should be sufficient to get on flights. And you will need that for Italy anyway. Real-ID gives you convenience for local flights, Canada and Mexico i believe.

  83. 83
    debbie says:

    @chopper: @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I originally assumed Trump would do to Mattis what he did to Wray, fuck him out of his bennies, and I now acknowledge that would not be an issue with Mattis. I still say the prick is vindictive enough to turn around and fire anyone who has resigned, which is exactly what he has done with Mattis.

  84. 84
    debbie says:


    It’s also to more easily get into federal buildings and, should it be needed, nuclear facilities. I don’t know if Real ID varies from state to state, but I only needed my expiring driver’s license, my SS card, my birth certificate, and a utility bill. No trouble at all; in fact, this is the stuff I usually bring anyway when renewing my driver’s license, just in case the rules have changed since the last time.

  85. 85

    @MomSense: This is part of the argument now in progress on Twitter and in the latest op-ed. I don’t want to go into the details because that’s another argument. I’ll just say we don’t know if there’s a plan for now. And a plan raises a number of issues.

  86. 86
    germy says:

    @JaySinWA: Well, I have a passport so I can skip the real ID driver’s license. Might save me some time at the DMV


  87. 87
    JaySinWA says:

    @debbie: Ah, I haven’t been to a Federal building in years, I guess I had read about that and forgotten it. I assume passports work there too, but with somewhat more hassle?

  88. 88
    Ruckus says:

    I get the concept of SS deposits being held up. A wake up call to all of those people who don’t use their heads for anything more than a place to put a hat.
    But many of us who do understand also get SS and a lot of us actually like being able to eat because of our SS deposits.
    Good idea, not the right answer. The people responsible on a day to day basis for making that decision, the president, VP and congress are the ones that need to not get paid.

  89. 89
    Ruckus says:

    As I understand it your passport works at all the places Real ID does, except if that’s your DL as well. You’d still need it then.
    Don’t know how long it’s been this way but I understand it that all passports now issued have a chip in them. I got mine renewed last year and it is chipped I was told. But of course it’s a pain to carry your passport with you everywhere. An ID card is much easier.
    Also a side note. Now that Real ID is about and required so many places, does this mean that we now have a national ID? Sure, not everyone has one, but isn’t that exactly what Real ID is?

  90. 90
    HeleninEire says:

    @germy: You will be fine with a passport. The reason the feds did the “enhanced” license is that only 35% of Americans have a passport. They want the more difficult standard of a passport.

    Also, too gotta tell you all. My NYS drivers license expired in Sept. When I was back in NY in Nov it took me, I shit you not, 5 minutes from when I walked in the door to get the “regular” one renewed. I thanked the clerk, like 5 times for her service.

  91. 91
    germy says:

    @Ruckus: I remember when I was a kid and I watch old army movies on TV, and the Nazis were always yelling “Your papers, please!”

  92. 92
    germy says:

    @HeleninEire: Yes, the last time I was at a DMV it took no time at all. Quick and efficient.

    The trouble and inconvience I have is with private companies like my cable provider, my cell phone company, etc.

  93. 93
    germy says:

    “The Official Secrets Act is not there to protect secrets; it is there to protect officials.”

    – Sir Humphrey Appleby, Yes, Minister.

  94. 94
    J R in WV says:

    cermet isn’t high priest of Nuclear Launch Code authorizations??????????????

    who coulda known?

    thanks, Ms Rofer!

  95. 95
    HinTN says:

    @germy: Just get the real id. A little hassle now pays dividends in reduced lost time and frustration later.

  96. 96
    Ruckus says:

    Last time I went to the CA DMV was to license a trailer I’d built. Included an inspection by the same guy who had to ask his supervisor what to do because he’d never done this before. I wasn’t there for 30 minutes, waiting, being served, paperwork, plate. I’d expected a couple of hours min.

  97. 97
    Marc says:


    Real ID is an internal passport. For most of us, the only real issue is getting on an airplane, but it’s likely only a matter of time before it’s required to board Amtrak. I suppose those without the necessary documents will still have access to to intercity buses, until something happens.

    I think we have a good understanding of the intended effects of requiring this level of personal documentation to vote. I’m surprised there isn’t a bit more outrage about requiring similar levels of documentation to access interstate travel. How, exactly, is a person who is confronted with an unexpected travel need (say dealing with a sick or dying parent) supposed to travel across the country if they don’t have Real ID or a passport on hand? Do all individuals in the US have a right to travel between states, or is that now subject to restriction?

  98. 98
    Dan B says:

    It seems to me that part of the discussion needs to be about goals, big-picture goals. At the extreme we would eliminate all nuclear weapons. Short of the would be to reduce the number to the point that we cannot produce a nuclear winter scenario. And it’s clear at the moment that letting them fall into the hands of terrorists or an unstable person (too late on that scenario, thanks to Preznit Orange).

    I’m hazy on how the nukes were secured during the collapse of the Soviet Union but a reminder of that history, if it’s declassified, would be an excellent lesson. What institutions would be required to achieve these goals?

    With Putin’s activities it seems like we are headed in the wrong direction. Is the first step a mass communication effort to cut through the propaganda?

  99. 99
    Ruckus says:

    I quit my job that required me to travel over 6 months a year in 2005. But even then it was far easier to us my passport as ID. Real ID is now required to fly so I use my passport I’m flying, it’s just far easier than getting a CA DL with real ID.
    If we are required to use Real ID to use Amtrak, what about local trains and busses, will we be required to have an ID and swipe it so that we can be tracked? Was 1984 correct except for the timeframe?
    There is a massive level of paranoia in this country, that everyone is a threat to our way of life and yet the two biggest threats are our own conservatives and Vlad. And Vlad can’t win other than possibly with electrons and our paranoia and stupidity.

  100. 100
    Steeplejack says:


    Warning: red tape ahead!

    My informative rant on Real ID driver’s licenses is here. Check your state’s requirements. They may be, uh, draconian.

  101. 101

    @Dan B: This is what I want to do: think big. There’s a fair bit known and public about how the Soviet nukes were secured. Sig Hecker persuaded a bunch of people to write about it in his thousand-page Doomed to Cooperate. There’s a website as well.

  102. 102
    Ruckus says:

    This is why I say it’s such a pain in the ass to get a CA Real ID.
    I’d bet that a lot of the rational behind all the info is that a lot of poor people, black people, brown people, especially older ones in those groups will have a much more difficult time getting all that info. A lot of people who aren’t in those groups will have the troubles you talk about. Example. I write checks every month for some bills. But those checks are kept as pictures by my bank and I’d bet yours as well. I can see those pictures real easy but getting the check back, no. I can print out a picture but not the original.
    Or it could be like the doofus congressman from PA who said about the shutdown, who can’t live without a paycheck for a bit? Lot’s of people that you represent you moron. I mean How Hard Can It Be?
    ETA, I don’t think it’s the states that set the requirements for Real ID, isn’t it Homeland Security?

  103. 103
    Steeplejack says:


    Homeland Security has overall jurisdiction, but their site makes a big production about how states are still issuing their own licenses and maintaining their own databases so it’s not a national ID card 666 mark of the beast! And the implementation is left to each state. What could go wrong?

    Only about 30-35 states are in full compliance right now; the others are working on extensions until they get up to speed. (I flew to Las Vegas on my crappy old Virginia license back in September.) Full compliance is scheduled for October 1, 2020.

  104. 104
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    The Quaker lobbying organization I give money to (a birthright Quaker, not practicing),, “Friends Committee on National Legislation” has some position pieces on nuclear disarmament. Here’s the newest high-level one:
    Their section on nuclear weapons articles:
    (You might be familiar with the “War is not the answer” bumper stickers / “Love Thy Neighbor – No Exceptions” window stickers)

    My personal basic belief is (a) strongly discourage missile defense (b) strongly discourage further proliferation, more carrot (and similar, perhaps more subtle) than stick, (c) work tirelessly to get missile stocks down to minimal deterrence levels, then start working lower, (d) perhaps re-purpose a few as asteroid defenses (standoff/ablation[0] to produce a large specific impulse without breaking up object) – would be a good change from weapons work.

    [0] e.g.

  105. 105

    @Bill Arnold: FNCL is good. I’ll write some more posts and address some of those things.

  106. 106
    Ruckus says:

    Yeah, I don’t think a national ID works very well politically in any segment.
    To many reminders of times not all that far removed.

  107. 107
    Procopius says:

    I may be off topic here, but many people who are terrified of the prospect that ISIS is going to be back next year, here’s some recent news from Syria. I think this also suggests that Mattis departing is probably a good thing, not the disaster that many people are claiming.

  108. 108
    low-tech cyclist says:

    I did not want to write about nuclear weapons use policies the day before Christmas Eve, but here we are.

    Just in case nobody’s linked to “Christmas at Ground Zero”:

    What a crazy fluke, we’re gonna get nuked
    on this jolly holiday!

Comments are closed.