The Protection Racket

Trump has a pattern: take something that is working well – DACA, S-CHIP, JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement) – break it just a little, then “negotiate.”

So much of the current crisis atmosphere is due to his love of chaos and his mistaking a protection racket for negotiating.

He broke DACA and set up a six-month timetable for Congress to do something about it. The Republicans in Congress refused to reauthorize S-CHIP.

One of the concessions to the Republicans in Congress in the JCPOA was that the president would have to certify that Iran was in compliance every three months. Trump has used that to call into question the United States participation in the deal. Meanwhile, opponents of the deal are explicitly using Trump’s position as a protection racket to get the Europeans to take steps that would damage the deal.

They are particularly active today on Twitter, perhaps because a helpful article by Philip Gordon and Robert Malley was just published. It’s stuff like this:

It’s others, not them, of course, who want to “blow up the deal.” What Dubowitz and others advocate is a “fix” to the “fatal flaws” of the deal enacted by Congress, with no consultation with Iran or the other parties to the JCPOA. That’s not how it works. What Dubowitz and his allies want Congress to do is to enact a bunch of things that will put the US in violation of the deal. They believe, and are tweeting, that this will give Donald Trump leverage to destroy the deal unless the other parties accede to their demands.

Nice store you got there. Would be a shame if it got trashed, the windows broken.

They also are peddling a bunch of lies.

You can find lies on Dubowitz’s timeline too. The US harbors a bunch of people, evil or stupid, who back the deal because they want to “give” (they often use that word) Iran a “massive nuke capability”. Well, no.

They object to a number of things about the JCPOA. That it was not negotiated for all eternity, as no other agreement ever has been. That it does not take every vestige of nuclear technology from Iran. That it does not punish Iran for whatever it is they feel a punishment is warranted.

Those conditions would have made the JCPOA impossible to negotiate. Iran was a party to the negotiations, and no nation will give up everything.

What is it these opponents of the deal want? Ultimately, it looks to me like they want Iran gutted and laid out to die. In the more immediate future, they are moving toward a war with Iran, although they strenuously deny that.

The IAEA inspectors find no breaches by Iran of the agreement. The other parties to the agreement – Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the EU – are satisfied with that. Additional agreements can be negotiated on missiles (explicitly not a part of the JCPOA, because there never would have been an agreement), further nuclear issues, and other issues of concern. But the opponents focus on “fixing” the JCPOA by destroying it.

Looks to me like some bad faith there.

The article by Gordon and Malley is worth reading for more specifics on the JCPOA and its opponents. I recommend it.


Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.

The Secret For Comedy Is….

…wait for it…

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…wait for it…

…wait for it…


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to postpone its session on nuclear attack preparedness next week. Much attention had been drawn to the timing of the agency’s session, which was publicized just days after President Trump touted the size of his nuclear button compared with North Korea’s.

That’s via Sheila Kaplan in yesterday’s New York Times.

Scheduled for January 16, the session was to be on “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation”

It was intended, as the Times reported the week before:

for doctors, government officials, emergency responders and others whom, if they survived, would be responsible for overseeing the emergency response to a nuclear attack.

And, certainly, such a meeting was well within the CDC’s purview:

“While a nuclear detonation is unlikely,” the C.D.C. wrote on its website,which included a picture of a mushroom cloud, “it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps. Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness.”

The agenda for the disaster session included “Preparing for the Unthinkable,” “Road Map to Radiation Preparedness” and “Using Data and Decision Aids to Drive Response Efforts.”

In the event, the agency swapped out this session for one on the flu.  CDC staffers made a decent argument for the swap:

“To date, this influenza season is notable for the sheer volume of flu that most of the United States is seeing at the same time, which can stress health systems,” the agency said. “The vast majority of this activity has been caused by influenza A H3N2, associated with severe illness in young children and people 65 years and older.”

But it’s hard to shake the sense, as Kaplan hints in her story on the switch, that der Hair Führer’s fee-fees may have been involved:

The C.D.C.’s announcement that it was holding a nuclear preparation workshop drew widespread media coverage and embarrassed the public health agency. It also gave ammunition to administration critics who believe that the president is bringing the country closer to a nuclear Armageddon.

And now, Hawaii!


And with, over to y’all. Open thread, I guess, though here’s a question to get things going:  How’s it all going to end. Fire? Or ice? (Preferably w. several fingers of good bourbon poured over it.)

Image: Jan Fyt, Mushroomsbefore 1650.

PSA: Potassium Iodide

I see that, with Donald Trump’s threats of nuclear war, sales of potassium iodide are up.

A couple of reminders.

Potassium iodide protects your thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine, which is one of the fission products that would be spread around in a nuclear war. But it’s only one, and potassium iodide doesn’t protect against the large number of others, which go to other parts of your body. It also doesn’t protect against the radiation from a blast.

Taking potassium iodide can disrupt your physiology, so don’t take it unless the bombs go off. If you want to stockpile it just in case, go ahead, but treat it as medicine and keep it away from kids and pets. Put it in your survival gear, if you have something like that.

And I don’t think we’re going to have a nuclear war. Trump seems to be spinning down from that and moving on to disrupting North America’s economy by pulling out of NAFTA. He’s got a short attention span.


And open thread!


Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.

‘Tis The Season

For another war, because why not? The ones the last Republican President started are going so well.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that he was ready to start talks with North Korea without precondition. “We’ll talk about the weather if you like,” he said. He omitted the part about their having to give up their nuclear weapons and missiles first. But then his own spokesperson undercut him.

North Korea is making some signs that they would be open to discussions of – something – but definitely not giving up their nukes. So Tillerson’s offer was well-timed. But others in the administration, likely including National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, have something else in mind. The problem is that nobody knows what it is.

A number of Washington-based nuclear experts on my Twitter timeline say that the administration seems determined to strike North Korea preventively. That’s likely a war crime, but let that go for now. Dan Drezner is worried, and Joshua Pollack lays it out in a tweet thread. Selected tweets from that thread:

Lindsay Graham is beating the war drums. “Time is running out.” On whose timetable? In the 1950s, his arguments were made on hitting the Soviet Union to prevent them from getting a nuclear arsenal. In the 1960s, it was China. While it would be pleasant for us if they didn’t have nuclear weapons, we’ve all managed to live together for the past 60 years or so. We’ll manage with North Korea too.

It’s possible that the war talk is designed to convince China to magically fix things with North Korea. But they can’t. The US administration doesn’t seem to understand that.

If North Korea is attacked, it will devastate Seoul with conventional artillery. That’s been true for many decades, so Graham and McMaster should know that. Japan would probably take some hits too. My guess is that North Korea still doesn’t have a lot of nuclear-armed missiles deployed, but how about just a couple on Seoul, three on major cities in Japan, and one or two on the US West Coast? That could be pretty ugly, and dropping a bunch of nukes on North Korea wouldn’t bring back those millions of people. The scenario is worked out in more detail here and here.

Meanwhile, Nikki Haley is doing a Colin Powell to convince us that war with Iran is a good idea.

As badly as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone, war with North Korea or Iran would be worse. While you’re calling Congress to stop the tax plan, you might want to say that you wish Congress would hold hearings on administration plans for war against North Korea.



Ruthenium-106 over Europe


In September, a cloud of ruthenium-106 spread over Europe. Ruthenium-106 is used in nuclear medicine, and it is extracted from used nuclear reactor fuel. The amounts were tiny – one of the things about radioactive materials is that they can be detected at very, very low concentrations.

There are many atmospheric sampling stations around Europe, and their readings were mapped. The top graphic is the result. The center of the cloud was between the Ural Mountains and the Volga River. The amounts over Europe were not dangerous to health, but the amounts closer to the source might have been. Ruthenium was no longer detected in France after October 13. Read more

Shep Smith Explains Uranium One

And he does a good job of it. For your rightwing relatives who want to “Lock Her Up.”

And the New York Times.

AG Sessions’ House Judiciary Committee Testimony Live Stream

I want to thank Cheryl for putting up her congressional hearings post as I couldn’t get to it in time, but since she’s having trouble with the video embeds, I figured I’d put up a post to resolve that problem.

Here’s the live feed for AG Sessions’ appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

And here’s the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the President’s authority to unilaterally order nuclear strikes:

Open thread!