Witness to the Cold War


Emmet Gowin

Gowin’s photographs of the Nevada Test Site (now known as the Nevada National Security Site) show us the extremity of our darkest dreams laid bare in the Mojave Desert — the scars of technology gone mad, revealing a moonscape of craters right here on Earth. The stillness of the desert exploded into a million pieces of radioactive shrapnel carried by the wind that lodged in our bodies.

Read it and weep…

Evidence that Greenland once was warmer…and greener

The ice sheet that covers the northernmost reaches of our planet has expanded and shrunk over the past 2 million years — but it was thought that Greenland’s bitter cold and miles-deep ice had been a more or less constant feature.

However, new evidence has suggested it was once a much warmer and greener place than we are used to today. What it took in the past to melt the ice and cover it with plants could be critical for predicting how the Arctic will respond to climate change in the present day.

A long-lost core of earth drilled up from beneath mile-thick ice in northwestern Greenland in the 1960s has shown that in the past 1 million years — and perhaps as recently as 400,000 years ago — it was once home to a vegetated landscape.

Scientists had expected to find sand and rock in the dirt but were instead surprised to see twigs and leaves.

Yup. “Lost” for 60 or 70 years. Pretty good illustration of how our nation’s perpetual concern over science, research, providing historic discoveries to institutions of education and knowledge…when we’re condemning other nations…in practice, is OK when it’s OUR MILITARY that’s aiding the research.

Even by accident.

Chrysler Hemi air raid siren

I’ve been recently thinking about the last time Americans seemed to have collectively lost their minds: the Cold War. Pondering this time period led me down a YouTube rabbit hole where I learned that during the chilliest portions of the Cold War, Chrysler V8s were used to power the loudest air raid sirens ever built.

I had no idea these existed! And as a nerd who loves both Detroit automotive and Nuclear Age history, I’m a little disappointed in myself. Let’s fix that…

“…At least one ended up in the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. In 1997, a British documentary team visiting the museum was treated to cranking up a Chrysler Air Raid Siren. After decades of neglect spent soaking in saltwater spray on a roof in Florida and then languishing in a shop, the ’52 Hemi V8 engine not only started right up but started on gasoline, a fuel that it had never run before as one of the engines outfitted to run on propane.

Solid design and craftsmanship still rules.

EU says Russia deploying coronavirus disinformation campaign


Click to enlargeWhat other nations are nutso enough to hoard TP?

Russian media have deployed a “significant disinformation campaign” against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust, according to a European Union document seen by Reuters…

“A significant disinformation campaign by Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets regarding COVID-19 is ongoing,” said the nine-page internal document, dated March 16…”

An EU database has recorded almost 80 cases of disinformation about coronavirus since Jan. 22, it said, noting Russian efforts to amplify Iranian accusations online, cited without evidence, that coronavirus was a U.S. biological weapon.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed to what he said was the lack in the EU document of a specific example or link to a specific media outlet.

“We’re talking again about some unfounded allegations which in the current situation are probably the result of an anti-Russian obsession,” said Peskov.

The EU document cited examples from Lithuania to Ukraine, including false claims that a U.S. soldier deployed to Lithuania was infected and hospitalized. It said that on social media, Russian state-funded, Spanish-language RT Spanish was the 12th most popular news source on coronavirus between January and mid-March, based on the amount of news shared on social media.

The quantity of government-sponsored lies streaming in both directions since early days of the Cold War has never ceased. Nor have “responsible” news organizations like Reuters cared a whole boatload about sorting the questions raised by fake news. At this point in time, I give little or no credence to what might be Russia-based fake news…and hope to find sufficient independent sources in the West to keep clear of comparable crap from self-assigned Western Heroes of Democracy and Freedom.

Boom Times for Doomsday Bunkers

❝ In his pitch to potential buyers, Larry Hall touts his condominium’s high ceilings and spacious living rooms. Then there are the swimming pool, saunas and movie theater. But what really sets the development apart, in his view, is its ability to survive the apocalypse.

Mr. Hall has converted a former military nuclear missile vault into a luxury condominium built 15 stories into the Earth’s crust. He is a leader among a new group of real estate developers investing in the nation’s central prairies and Western foothills: doomsday capitalists.

❝ Americans have, for generations, prepared themselves for society’s collapse. They built fallout shelters during the Cold War and basement supply caches ahead of Y2K. But in recent years, personalized disaster prep has grown into a multimillion-dollar business, fueled by a seemingly endless stream of new and revamped threats, from climate change to terrorism, cyberattacks and civil unrest.

❝ Bunker builders and brokers have emerged as key players in this field. And they see the interior of the country, with its wide-open spaces, as a prime place to build. Aiding them is history. During the Cold War, the military spent billions of dollars constructing nuclear warheads and hiding them in underground lairs around the nation, often in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Those hideaways, emptied of their bombs, are now on the market and enterprising civilians are buying them (relatively) cheap and flipping the properties. Eager customers abound.

Good thing I really wish to stay retired. It is so easy to sell to stupid and scared…and well off. Can’t be a more “American” market than Doomsday real estate.

Newly-digitized Nuclear Test Films Reveal More Data about Death and Destruction

❝ The film is silent, but it starts with a bang. The screen blows out white, then a tropical beach comes into view, before an explosion tears across the horizon. A two-tiered mushroom cloud flows skyward, revealing a dark, intense plume of smoke that smolders in the distance…

Another film, showing the charmingly titled “Operation Teapot,” is a black-and-white nightmare: A ball of fire comes into the frame over a mound in the distance, engulfing the sky and setting off a wave of soil or smoke or both, so powerful that the camera starts to shake.

❝ These are films of the nuclear age, and there are thousands of them. They document the 210 atmospheric nuclear tests the United States conducted between 1945 and 1962.

❝ Until recently, these government-commissioned films had been scattered around different archives, though the bulk of them sat in boxes at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Fortunately, a team of physicists and film archivists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California decided to digitize the films before it was too late…

❝ Gregg Spriggs and his team started digitizing the films using special scanners that move the film without gripping it by the holes in the edges. But as they watched the old films, they noticed something: The nuclear yield data based on the images was wrong.

These aren’t just any old government movies: They are scientific documents that are key to understanding nuclear power. And even though the films are very old, scientists don’t get access to these sorts of nuclear tests anymore. Atmospheric nuclear tests have been banned since 1963…

❝ So Spriggs and his team set about reanalyzing all of the old films, using new techniques. The indicators remain the same, in some ways: The double flash of light, the fireball and the shock wave captured on film all provide significant information for researchers on the energy generated by the nuclear blast…But the newly digitized films allow researchers to more clearly see the fireball’s edge, allowing for much more accurate yield estimates. “We were finding that some of these answers were off by 20, maybe 30, percent,” says Spriggs. “One of the payoffs of this project is that we’re now getting very consistent answers. We’ve also discovered new things about these detonations that have never been seen before. New correlations are now being used by the nuclear forensics community, for example.”

❝ The lab has posted a number of the films on YouTube, and the ability to watch these films from the cold remove of one’s desk chair is an arresting experience.

These brief portals to the Cold War are oddly devoid of context. Each film on Lawrence Livermore’s Atmospheric Nuclear Test playlist is accompanied by nothing more than its code name — no date, no location, no mention of lingering radiation. The films are silent, the explosions otherworldly. But they were in our world: enormous nuclear weapons, unleashed over Nevada and the Marshall Islands.

We have politicians, pundits and other political pimps for death and destruction who miss the Good Old Days depicted in these films. If only the ideology of hegemony over the world that sparks these thugs would die out with them.

I doubt that.

“Project Horizon” – another Cold War latrine hole filled with taxpayer dollar$

❝ The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

Believe it or not, in the 1950s the U.S. seriously considered building a military base on the Moon. Why? As Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson later put it, so that Americans would never have to go to bed “by the light of a Communist Moon.”

❝ Just before 10:30 p.m. on the evening of October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, into orbit around Earth. Sputnik was just a metal sphere with some antennas attached, not much larger than a basketball. All it did was send radio signals beeping back to Earth. But it passed over the United States several times a day, and there was nothing the government could do about it. The implications were obvious: Russian missiles that carried satellites like Sputnik into orbit might someday be used to launch nuclear weapons against America.

The Russians didn’t stop there: One month later they commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution by launching a dog into orbit aboard Sputnik 2. They boldly predicted that Soviet cosmonauts would celebrate the Russian Revolution’s 50th anniversary, in 1967, on the Moon.

❝ U.S. intelligence analysts who studied the secretive Soviet space program feared that the Russians might indeed be capable of landing on the Moon by 1967. That raised some disturbing possibilities for American military planners: What if the Soviets claimed the Moon as Russian territory? Even worse, what if they established a military base on the Moon, perhaps even a nuclear missile base with its missiles pointed back at Earth? The United States would have no way to defend itself. The only answer, at least as far as planners in the U.S. Army were concerned, was to get to the Moon first and build a lunar base before the Russians did.

…the Army’s chief of research and development, Lieutenant General Arthur Trudeau, in March 1959…directed the army’s chief of ordnance to “develop a plan…for establishing a lunar base by the quickest means possible.” Two months later the three-volume report for “Project Horizon” landed on General Trudeau’s desk.

The article is long and looney. Still worth a read. I think you can look around at some of the nutballs inhabiting our government nowadays who learned “everything they know” from the kind of people who came up with Project Horizon.

For myself, embarrassing enough to see one of the most dangerous weapons I ever worked on. Dangerous, mostly, to anyone who tried to use the piece of crap called the Davy Crockett Rocket.

Trump and Putin agree to restart the nuclear arms race

❝ Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech Thursday in which he praised his country’s military operations on behalf of the government of Syria and made a case for how Russia could become stronger.

“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” he said, according to an Agence France-Presse translation, “especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.” In other words, Russia needs to ensure that its arsenal of nuclear weapons can avoid interception by the enemy.

The primary enemy that might intercept those missiles is, of course, the United States and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

❝ The language echoes old Cold War rhetoric: Our missiles must be able to serve as a deterrent to usage, by existing as a threat to enemies. If NATO and the United States felt confident that Russia’s incoming nuclear weapons could be stopped before reaching their targets, the weapons do not hold the same power for Russia.

You can’t have a new nuclear arms race, of course, without someone to run against. Enter President-elect Donald Trump.

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Not only is the construct a non sequitur – backwards, fiscally and environmentally-destructive comes to mind.

❝ The trend since the late 1980s has been in the opposite direction, winding down the stockpiles of weapons held by the United States and Russia…

As always, it’s fraught to take one Trump tweet as a descriptor of where his presidency might be headed.

The difficulty lies in differentiating between ignorance, stupidity and bald-faced lies contrived to inflate Trump’s hot air balloon-size ego.

RTFA if you care to wander through the garden of infamy continuing to be sown over the manure-heap that is American politics. I refuse to waste time trying to make sense of Trump’s demented blather.