Radio Lab: Nukes

President Richard Nixon once boasted that at any moment he could pick up a telephone and – in 20 minutes – kill 60 million people.  Such is the power of the US President over the nation’s nuclear arsenal.  But what if you were the military officer on the receiving end of that phone call? Could you refuse the order?

This episode, we profile one Air Force Major who asked that question back in the 1970s and learn how the very act of asking it was so dangerous it derailed his career. We also pick up the question ourselves and pose it to veterans both high and low on the nuclear chain of command. Their responses reveal once and for all whether there are any legal checks and balances between us and a phone call for Armageddon.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: Trump ‘Has Succeeded By BullSh-tting’

Zakaria said, “I think the president is somewhat indifferent to things that are true or false. He has spent his whole life bullshitting. He has succeeded by bullshitting. He has gotten the presidency by bullshitting. It’s very hard to tell somebody at that point that bullshit doesn’t work because look at results. Right?  But that’s what he does. He sees something he doesn’t particularly care if it’s true or not. Just puts it out there and then he puts something else out. Notice again at the press conference, when pushed on it, does take responsibility. ‘I wasn’t saying that just quoting somebody else.’ When you have the White House press secretary quote somebody to prove a point, you’re endorsing that view.”

White House attacks on CBO could set up months of brawling

The committee, she said, “sees this issue as important and pressing and we hope to do all that we can as a peace church to protect people in our community … according to our religious convictions, our constitutional rights and Lancaster County’s history of supporting immigrants.”

 .. On Monday, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters that part of the CBO report was “absurd,” and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said, “We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out.”
.. Hall, a conservative economist, responded to the email, Hoagland said, writing that “he was doing the job he’s paid to do.”
.. Its analysis, for example, of the White House’s proposed tax cut plan could find that large reductions in corporate or individual tax rates could lead to a big spike in the deficit. It could also issue a report about the economic impact of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
.. “They appointed this person,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “He was supposed to be a conservative person. Unfortunately for Republicans, he’s also an honest person.”
.. “I’m concerned about it, but let’s face it, this is a tough baby to take care of and there will be some people who are left out,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). “There isn’t enough money in the world to cover everybody the way they’d like to be covered.”
.. Hall was hand-picked for the CBO job in 2015 by congressional Republicans, including Price, who at the time was a GOP congressman from Georgia.
.. The Obama administration routinely objected to CBO assessments, but it often challenged CBO’s methodology or forecast modeling and didn’t dismiss reports outright.

‘With Such a People You Can Then Do What You Please’

.. The standard presidential complaint boils down to: “Sure, we need a free press. I just want it to be ‘fairer’ to me.”

.. Donald Trump accepts the existence of the formal and informal institutional structure that constitutes American democracy only as long as that suits his purposes, and disdains or directly attacks it when it gets in his way.

.. It’s fair to disclose that in the pre-Trump era I disagreed with Stephens’s views pretty much across the board on international and domestic policy. He was for the Iraq war and against the Iran nuclear deal; my views were the reverse.

.. Stephens extends the argument to one of the traits that most strikingly distinguishes Trump from most other politicians: that he does not care if he is shown to be telling obvious, easily disprovable lies.

.. the unsettling novelty of Trump is that he tells lies when they’re not useful, he tells lies when he knows they can be disproven, he lies and shows less remorse than a lizard when the lie is exposed.

 .. the entirety of the liberal-governing experiment of the past four centuries involves checks on what you can get away with. Doing what you can get away with is the governing ethic of the tribe, of the feudal lord, of today’s autocrats. It’s the ethic of Tony Soprano
.. but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions
.. Of the institutions that might check him:
  • The most basic is elections, but Trump famously said during the campaign that he would “accept” the results—“if I win.” Since then he has of course repeated his false claim that his popular vote loss was rigged by illegal voting, and that his electoral-college win was very large rather than historically small. Imagine Trump on the losing side of a Bush v. Gore-style decision, or even in Hillary Clinton’s position now, as the clear winner of the popular vote but the loser of the office.

.. Instinctively by Trump, perhaps strategically by Bannon and others, the Trump moment has promoted the idea that there are no facts, no reality, no authorities, no actual truth. There’s only us and them.

.. It is no coincidence that reporters who have dealt with state-news systems in autocratic Russia (like David Remnick or Masha Gessen) or China (where I have lived) are more much concerned by Trump than amused.

.. The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows.

And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.