Death and taxes: And you thought you were afraid of sharks

Turn on the news and talk shows and everyone’s talking about the economy. It’s damn depressing. The good news is that it looks like most of us will be getting tax cuts. You don’t hear the bad news which has nothing to do with the economy. Now then, we are all going to die but those of us paying attention realized the other day that there’s a remote chance we’re all going to die at once. It was recently revealed that early this month a British Royal Navy nuclear submarine, the HMS Vangard, collided with the French nuclear submarine Le Triomphant. America, Russia, China, Britain and France all have nuclear missile subs stealthily cruising the world’s deep seas.

We learned from Time Magazine (Feb. 20, 2009) that the worst that can happen in the unlikely event of a collision is making a large section of the ocean radioactive. We also learned that France refuses to tell NATO members where their subs are, and that the sonar on these monsters of the deep isn’t fool proof. Time describes the the way just one of these submarines could set the sky on fire and vaporize hundreds of millions of people. Considering each sub carries about 50 missiles this is what just one of them will do:

"This is how a submarine-launched ballistic missile works: once airborne, the 60-ton missile travels out of the earth’s atmosphere into sub-orbit, where it moves toward its target at a shade under 4 miles (6 km) a second. Approaching its destination, the tip of the missile splits into multiple, independently targeted warheads, each loaded with bombs up to 24 times more powerful than the Hiroshima blast, which re-enter the atmosphere in a spectacle that from the ground would resemble a meteor shower, before it resembled a thousand roaring suns. "

Slim PickensMy intention isn’t to minimize the very realistic worries we have about our jobs, mortgages and savings. I also don’t want to feed anyone’s paranoia about a rogue or insane submarine commander and crew channeling Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper and replay the "Dr. Strangelove" scenario with millions of times more megatons. Presumably the submariners in all the world’s navies are among the best, brightest and sanest of the military. (Picture: Slim Pickens as B-52 Bomber pilot Major T. J. "King" Kong riding the bomb that will trigger the "Doomsday Machine" which will end all life on Earth within the year.)

I do believe that this story is being under-reported. Iran and North Korea having nukes is of serious concern. Pakistan, India and Israel have nuclear arsenals.

However, the mainstream media doesn’t pay enough attention to the real nuclear club which doesn’t include nations that have a few nuclear weapons.

It is the big five who have nuclear subs and land based missiles capable of destroying entire countries and starting the war that will end all wars. These countries need to be working together to assure that accidents like the collision, or of the Strangelove variety, don’t happen.

Time Magazine, in the article above, puts it as well as I ever could:

Twenty years after the end of the cold war, humanity still lives within 30 minutes of its own destruction. The price we pay for maintaining nuclear weapons is the gamble that the highly improbable will not lead to the unthinkable. The question to ask after this latest nervy episode: is it worth it?

So meanwhile the next time you’re worried about your 401K or the prospect of being laid off, consider the fact that there are dozens of streamlined, one might say beautiful looking, Armageddon machines roaming the depth of the sea. They are currently doing nothing more than to be of concern to the whales, dolphins and any humans that are of a mind to pay attention.

And you thought you were afraid of sharks.


  1. Warren

    Nice piece, Hal.

    Problem with the little guys getting into it with a bomb or two is that the big guys have politicians on the buttons. War simulations involving exchange of nuclear weapons between smaller states almost always (again, in simulation) escalate into all-out nuclear wars between the big guys. Israel could drop one on Iran’s Natanz facility tonight and most of us wouldn’t see the morning.


  2. griff

    Head over to Survivor Mall and get some potassium iodide, and hope you’re far enough away from ground zero. But I guess if you are near ground zero, you’d only know it for a milisecond. Not sure which scenario would be better, but if I were to survive, I’d want to have some of that stuff. Probably beats having your body slowly eaten away in a most hideous fashion. Regarding this article, you never know if something like that’s going to happen. You have to hope that it won’t. You can’t put that genie back in its bottle. You just have to prepare as much as you can for the dangers we know of.

    Perhaps if we didn’t have our empiric tentacles stretched to the four corners of the globe, there wouldn’t be so many submarines around. Perhaps there wouldn’t be so many other countries with their missiles pointed at us. Maybe if we were more diplomatic and less beligerent we would have the skill and the desire to pursue true nuclear disarmament, if for nothing else but for that very scenario.

    In the global playground, we have a tendency to kick around other countries that don’t have nukes. It really makes them want to get nukes, don’t you think? Then they can sit at the big boy table.

  3. Carl Nemo

    I thought readers might enjoy reading a Federation of American Scientists (FAS) bulletin concerning nuclear launch protocols post the fall of the former Soviet Union, now Russia.

    All NATO alliance nations including Russia must follow nuclear launch code protocols in order to launch their missiles, if not, they will not achieve a launch…period! 

    Two submarines colliding will not result in nuclear detonations, but there is the possibility of  rupturing the reactor core polluting the ocean within the vicinity and downstream as a function of ocean currents.

    As far as surviving an all out nuclear holocaust; my best advice is to forget it because the living shall envy the dead…!   It will be the end of civilization as we know it with mass starvation in the northern hemisphere due to the failure and non-delivery of farm related products.  It will literally be dog eat dog for the survivors with even the unthinkable; ie., cannibalism rearing its ugly head.  Even the best prepared will be taken out by the ravening hordes of the unprepared.

    In lieu of potassium iodide tablets, folks might consider homemade potassium cyanide capsules or a self-inflicted bullet to the brain as a viable alternative. 

    Rest assured our evil, duplicitous leaders; ie., members of Congress, the Executive Branch and SCOTUS members will all be living a deluxe blow it out their butts lifestyle in bunkers supplied courtesy of the tax-debtors of the U.S.   They have a 10 year supply of food with five star chefs to prepare their meals, first run movies and other unmentionable perks that I care not  to discuss.  They’ll all  party hearty while the rest of us outside the bunkers will be reduced to shadows in green glass.

    The  upside to this will be they  have no one to tax or to lead/bully after they crawl out of their bunkers; ie., powermad crazies without an outlet for their lust to control and to acquire more illicit wealth courtesy of their captive tax-debtors.. .  : | 


    Carl Nemo **==





  4. bryan mcclellan

     Fill your pockets with jelly,

    because we’re all soon to be toast,

    one way or another. Hack !

  5. AustinRanter

    For those like the leaders of Iran who believe a national sacrafice may well be the most honorable act possible….and who profess that all who dies in the name of their religious beliefs will be rewarded by God in heaven, well, it’s damn hard to beat those promises…especially when there is no way to disprove such beliefs to an untold number of religious radicals who subscribe to such.

    It only takes one radical  like Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Osama Bin Laden who purchases a blackmarket nuke, which we know nukes are so more destructive than ever in history, to do massive damage… and then initiatie a global strke response.  Then POOF!  We won’t be worrying about banks or Wall St.

    Dang, the plot gets wilder and wilder, huh?

    As Woody Allen says,  " Eternal nothingness is fine if you happened to be dressed for it."







  6. gazelle1929

    First off, NO SSBN carries "about 50" nuclear missiles.  The most carried is 24 Tridents on one of several US SSBNs (Ohio class.)  No subs in any of the other nuclear nations carry more than 16.

    I’d like to elaborate on what Mr. Nemo said.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to launch a submarine’s missiles unless the two launch officers on duty have received two separate authentication codes.  The missiles will not react to firing orders unless these codes are properly entered into the missile’s internal system.  The only source for those codes is outside the submarine.  It’s the same for all nuclear missiles and airplanes, at least in the US.  Without the code the missile is no more than an expensive paperweight, one without a fuse, so to speak.

  7. griff

    You mean you can’t accidentally bump the button with your elbow and start WWIII?

    I think the gist of the article has submarines sinking after collision and radiating the ocean. Much further down the probablility scale would be a rogue sub ala the movie “Crimson Tide”.

    Either way, the chances of your 401K disappearing or the economy collapsing in on itself is a far more likely danger we face.

  8. AustinRanter

    Homeland Security website had devoted a comprehensive summary of issues related to terrorism, bio-weapons, nukes, and etc., and the mission statement by President Obama that outlines his responsibilities to ensure national security.

    I have an incredible problem with the notion that we can be protected at all because as of this date, we still have virtually no north border, south border, or ship yard security.

    Over the past eight years that Bush preached that he was saving America from terrorist…while probably hundreds of cell groups have crossed the borders at Mexico and Canada without resistance. With literally thousand of shipping containers coming into our ports daily, it is impossible for the adequate inspection of all containers.

    There have been a number of security organization who have repeatedly shown how easy it is to take weapons aboard airplanes despite these so-called elaborate security measures that the government has placed in all U.S. airports.

    The only thing that’s truly been accomplished with AP security is that anybody over 75 years old, and especially if they are confined to a wheel chair, or use any walking device are now the focal point of exploitation. I guess they find these folks less suseptible of dashing away from the officers who virtually harrass these elderly citizens while they frisk them and rumage through their personal affects.

    The sheer idiocracy of our nation’s security systems defy logic and reason. There doesn’t appear to be any hope for “Change We Can Believe In”…when it comes to Homeland Security problems. At least not in any sensible and expendient manner.

    So, if you should be visiting our Mexican or Canadian cities, you might want to keep an eye out for anybody who seems to have mingled in with your family as you re-enter the states at the border. Be especially watchful if these minglers are over 75 years old. They might be sliding in a dirty bomb.

  9. Carl Nemo

    Hi griff,

    The USS Alabama SSBN 731 as utilized in the movie “Crimson Tide” did not go rogue. It’s VLF Emergency Alert System (EAS) receiver was damaged from the attack by a Russian Akula class sub.

    The initial EAS message indicated that a rogue Russian province was moving into a possible launch mode with orders for our sub to launch preemptively in the event they started to fuel up which they were in the process of doing based on the fragemented second message.

    The plot centered around a supreme battle of wills between Captain Ramsey (Gene Hackman) and his XO Lieutenanat Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington). Ramsey’s roots were from old school;ie., cold warrior naval tactics whereas Commander Hunter was from a modern era navy with a more cebebral approach to following orders. The XO, Hunter was for the repair of the EAS receiver with intent to verify the launch command due to the fact it had been interrupted by the attack of the Akula class sub whereas Captain Ramsey was bull-doggedly obsessed with simply carrying out the message order even though fragmented. After a mutiny against Captain Ramsey ensued followed by a planned counter action to regain command of his boat the action finalizes with the EAS receiver being repaired and another message received that instructs them to stand down. It’s probably one the best movies ever made concerning modern submarine warfare tactics in the event our subfleet is ordered to go nuclear.

    The film is based on the premise that, at the time, U.S. submarine commanders were authorized to launch missiles on their own initiative if they could not communicate with the President of the United States after the order to arm the missiles was received. At about this time, the procedure was changed so that missiles could only be launched if a direct order from the Commander-in-Chief was received, even if communications had been broken off in the meantime, via the use of permissive action links. This matched Russian policy on submarine-based missile launches, which had always required direct orders to launch. Today only on British nuclear submarines does the commander have the ability and authority to launch upon his own initiative… extract from Wiki

    As referenced only the British still have a policy where the commander has the ability to launch on his own authority, but this manual overide still takes multiple concurrence and physical coordination between his XO and weps officer, so even a crazed subdriver cannot simply launch by pushing a single button.

    Carl Nemo **==

  10. griff

    Thanks, I know the story. Actually it was just on the other day, but I did see it on DVD as well. I was being fecetious about the elbow launch, which is why I said such a “Crimson Tide” scenario would be further down the probability scale.

  11. Warren

    High-stakes games continue. 2/27/09

    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian fighters scrambled to intercept an approaching Russian bomber less than 24 hours before U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Ottawa last week, Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said on Friday.

    The Bear bomber did not enter Canada’s air space but the Canadian fighters had to tell the plane to turn back, MacKay told a news conference.

    Full article here.

    All it takes is the Russian pilot to misunderstand or not heed the command to ‘turn back’ and I don’t want to think of the consequences.