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Guilty of Many Discourtesies...And Now a Couple of Felonies

The Transform Now Plowshares--- Greg Boertje-Obed, Sr. Megan Rice and Michael Walli---were found guilty Wednesday on two felony charges for their July 28, 2012 break-in at and protest at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, the nation's storehouse for bomb-grade uranium.Embarrassingly for the Dept. of Energy, the three cut through four security fences, scaled a heavily wooded ridge, and held vigil for some time at the "fortresslike Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility" before guards finally noticed and arrested them."Sister Rice said her only misgiving was that she had waited so long to stage a protest. 'My regret was I waited 70 years,' she said. 'It is manufacturing that which can only cause death.'She was asked why she hadnt felt obligated to inform the Catholic bishop in her area of her intentions. Rice responded: 'Ive been guilty of many discourtesies in my life.'"In Sister Rice's statement one can hear echoes of the humble audacity in Dan Berrigan's statement written 45 years ago this month on behalf of the Catonsville Nine: "Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, for the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise."

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Sorry for making light of this post but the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the picture of the three is Peter, Paul and Mary.

David N: what are your thoughts about those priests and nuns who marched in parades and participated in sit-ins and protests in support of racial integration in the 1960s ... more self-indulgence?What is these 3 had been doing what they did but in front of abortion clinics?

Sister Megan is a friend whose photo is on the walls of our Church as one of the "Path of the Peacemakers." Her care for others and her stories have been shared at our parish over many years and I know her trial has been a focus of attention.Her courge and witness continue to inspire us all even we don't know what is next in store for her.Bless you, Megan... and Peter and Paul.

I don't see what earthly good such shenanigans can do aside from perhaps making the perpetrators feel a warm glow of self-righteousness inside (and perhaps expose lax security). I include the Berrigans along with the above three. These kind of stunts seem to me to be more self-indulgent than anything else.

What courageous people they are; and Sr Megan is an inspiration. I read she's a Holy Child Sister; she does Cornelia Connelly proud.

Luke's post (for which I am grateful) has also got me wondering about the civil-rights (and feminist rights, and anti-war) activities of the 1960s, and the civil disobedience of these three.I am wondering whether the nation's appetite for civil disobedience has fizzled out. These Plowshares incidents have been happening at least sporadically for 25 years or more, but has it captured the nation's imagination? Has anything fundamentally changed? Has the Occupy movement accomplished anything regarding capitalism and investment?Has Operation Rescue-style civil disobedience been an unmixed success in the nation's attitudes toward abortion?Do the School of the Americas protests happen anymore? Did they accomplish anything?Does civil disobedience "work" anymore? Why did it seem to be effective for civil rights, but seemingly ineffective for the examples I named?

The faithful example of these three people is tremendous. It is a particular blessing that this story is posted on the 92nd birthday of Daniel Berrigan (alluded to above in this post, and the ensuing thread). One thing that has come up is the "earthly good" of these types of actions. Since they have inspired so many people, I would contend that they have nothing to do with the feelings of the actors. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" that human beings have a "moral responsibility to break unjust laws." So, the earthly good simply resides in doing the right thing in the face of injustice (whether the the injustice is nuclear weapons, capital punishment, abortion, etc.).So, I think for these resisters, it is not so important that this action "work" in the sense that we normally use the word (although I also think this question raises a very important point!). I think that our normal human understanding of it "working" would mean that no more weapons of mass destruction would be produced. Very simply, an action like this is effective if it 1) is carried out in a genuine sense of abiding by God's law; 2) Brings attention to a serious social injustice, even to a relatively small number of people.

@David Nickol -- I have similar thoughts about the self-indulgent stunt of Jesus when he overturned tables in the Temple in Jerusalem. I mean, I know what was going on there was corrupt, exploitative and in league with the murderous Roman Empire, but what earthly good came out of Jesus' shenanigans? Did he really think his actions would impede the well-oiled, profitable Temple/State machine?

The three should be decorated by the DOD for calling attention to the lax security measures at Oak Ridge. Imagine how much better things would be if similar activists in Bangla Desh had called attention to fire and building safety.

Are you pulling our leg, David N? I thnk Dan expressed well the conundrum of prophetic action. Its "effectiveness" may be always in doubt.Jim P., while your questions on one level make sense, I would challenge you to articulate a foolproof theory of how collective socila change happens-- and what is the role of non-violent, prophetic witness within that. Inaddition to Jack M's thoughts, I am always inspired by the vison that Paul articulated about the roles of Paul and Apollo but how God gives growth, not the individuals along the way, yet they are necessary. Personally, Merton's "Letter to a Young Activist" (Jim Forrest) is always a meditation.

Jim PauwelsI am not sure I understand your questions and what you expect of dissent and protest. But it seems to me that you do both a great disservice. David P. has rightly called you out on it. Is your intention to undermine the value of what these three prophetic protestors have done? Whether the "nation" is interested in their civil disobedience is immaterial. They are exercising their consciences against injustice and potential mass destruction. That is what should be lifted up here. Whether your standards of "accomplishment" are met seems insignificant. You show that you do not understand what prophetic witness is all about. You cannot measure its effect and that is not its purpose, for the witness is what matters not what results from it.

what are your thoughts about those priests and nuns who marched in parades and participated in sit-ins and protests in support of racial integration in the 1960s more self-indulgence?Jim McCrea,It seems to me there is a difference between calling attention to a problem and calling attention to yourself. It seems to me that true civil disobedience involves breaking laws that ought to be broken. I can't see why anyone would object to a law that prohibits breaking into a storage area for weapons-grade nuclear material.

I have similar thoughts about the self-indulgent stunt of Jesus when he overturned tables in the Temple in Jerusalem. I mean, I know what was going on there was corrupt, exploitative and in league with the murderous Roman Empire . . . . Jack Marth,I am afraid I don't see a parallel at all between Jesus cleansing the temple and "Transform Now Plowshares" breaking into a nuclear facility. It is altogether unclear to me what Jesus intended regarding the moneychangers at the Temple. I don't think there is any evidence that they were corrupt, and they performed an essential function for temple worship. Mary and Joseph almost certainly made use of their services (Luke 2:22-24).Have you read the rationale for the action taken by Transform Now Plowshares? Do you believe the United States is guilty of war crimes for modernizing nuclear weapons? I think the United States may very well be guilty of all kinds of reprehensible and inexcusable behavior for what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what we have done with drones. I think quite likely it was wrong to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But we haven't used nuclear weapons since 1945. Breaking into a government facility to register complaints about nuclear weapons is very 1960s. It's quaint.

While I appreciate the commitment and the efforts of these guys and others like Fr. John Dear and Fr. Roy Bourgeois, I think I agree with David N - I don't think this kind of protest will come to the attention of many people and I don't think it will make any difference to the government's policy on weapons. There must be more effective ways to work for disarmament.

I smile at the dismissive "quaint." To trivilaize what what one cannot appreciate...?I'm not ready to witness as they did and certainly need to think through these issues more, but I don't believe that the continued development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons is in any nation's or the world's interests. It's increasingly harder to preach non-proliferation (Israel, Iran, N Korea) iwhile the uS continues its present course-- unless one accepts that WE havfe the moral and intellectual superority and right to do so.

"Have you read the rationale for the action taken by Transform Now Plowshares? Do you believe the United States is guilty of war crimes for modernizing nuclear weapons?"I do.

David P wrote, "Jim P., while your questions on one level make sense, I would challenge you to articulate a foolproof theory of how collective socila change happens and what is the role of non-violent, prophetic witness within that."My comment didn't pertain to non-violent, prophetic witness per se, but specifically to civil disobedience. I'd think there are a number of non-violent / prophetic actions that can be taken that don't entail civil disobedience, such as holding a rally or a march, demonstrating or picketing near the facility in conformance with the law, utilizing traditional and/or social media to get the word out about the facility and its purpose, political activism and lobbying, etc., etc.I freely admit that I can't articulate a foolproof theory of collective social change (or anything else, for that matter). But the burden isn't on me; it's on these three and their supporters to articulate an explanation of the point of civil disobedience, in this instance and more generally. I'm suggesting that civil disobedience hasn't "worked" in recent decades, in the sense that it hasn't proven to be a catalyst for social change. If it's not effective in catalyzing social change, then why do it?In addition, it seems to me that there is a risk that it is counter-productive. My initial reaction, upon reading Luke's post, was that these three were so far "out there" that their witness could be ignored. I've had the same initial reaction when I've heard about anti-abortion protesters who destroy property in abortion clinics - acts of prophetic witness that seems to me to be more or less analogous to what these three Plowshares activists did. To put it bluntly: this sort of act seems dismissable. Perhaps my view in this regard is a minority view, but I don't think it is.

"I am not sure I understand your questions and what you expect of dissent and protest. But it seems to me that you do both a great disservice."Perhaps you don't; see my previous response to David Pasinski - my comment did not address "dissent and protest" in general, but civil disobedience specifically."Whether the nation is interested in their civil disobedience is immaterial. They are exercising their consciences against injustice and potential mass destruction. That is what should be lifted up here. Whether your standards of accomplishment are met seems insignificant. You show that you do not understand what prophetic witness is all about."Surely prophetic witness is a form of communication. God sent prophets to communicate to his people. Communication presupposes an audience. Who is the audience for this act of prophetic witness? You claim that it's unimportant whether or not the nation is interested in this act of civil disobedience. I don't buy it. After all, it is the nation, and only the nation, that can possibly change the nation's approach to weapons of mass destruction. If it is immaterial whether the only entity that can change an unjust situation witnesses an act of civil disobedience, then to what audience was this act of prophetic communication directed, and to what end?

I smile at the dismissive quaint. To trivilaize what what one cannot appreciate?David Pasinski,I find it curious that you approve of an action of lawbreaking intended as an indictment of the United States for allegedly committing a "war crime," but you are not willing to actually endorse the Transform Now Plowshares statement. They make specific arguments based on the US Constitution, international law, the United Nations Charter, and so on. Are you willing to endorse and defend their arguments? Or are you upholding the principle that those who have legal arguments have a right to break the law to call attention to their arguments as opposed to, say, pursuing their legal complaints through the courts?I understand the rationale for civil disobedience, but not every instance of breaking the law to call attention to a position on moral or legal issues is justifiable as civil disobedience, otherwise we would have to commend airplane hijackers and suicide bombers. I think in this case, calling the protest quaint is trivializing the trivial. What did it accomplish? Who is even paying attention? Are worthy motives enough to justify breaking laws as serious as those prohibiting breaking into and vandalizing government nuclear stockpiles?

I only feel guilty for not being there alongside you. If Christ judges us for what the USA has done to the poor, oppressed and exploited from South American genocides in our name, abortions carte blanche, we are screwed. Jesus forgive me !!

Irene Baldwin,Do you believe that the legal arguments in this document are correct and would hold up under the scrutiny of experts in international law? If so, why not attempt to pursue these matters legally, in court, rather than break legitimate laws to (unsuccessfully) attempt to call attention to them? It is my understanding of the Catholic tradition that a very high bar is set for those who would claim acts of lawbreaking are justifiable for reasons of conscience. I have not seen any attempt so far to justify the breaking of the law that occurred. No matter how strongly and sincerely a person may object morally to the United States stockpiling and modernizing its nuclear weapons, that is not an automatic justification to break any law in protest.

David Nickol: I believe we are complicit in the murder of innocents, I believe Weapons of Mass Destruction are immoral and can never be justified. I believe these peaceful resisters did what they needed to do to avoid being part of this complicity. I think it is extremely unfair to call their actions "self-righteous and "self-indulgent".I have no idea whether their arguments would survive scrutiny by experts in international law (not being myself an expert in international law).I am certain, though, that you are wrong that their efforts to draw attention to the issue were unsuccessful. It's drawn your own attention, hasn't it?

I have no idea whether their arguments would survive scrutiny by experts in international law (not being myself an expert in international law).Irene Baldwin,I see this attitude on blogs all the time, particularly regarding same-sex marriage. On the more conservative blogs, any argument against same-sex marriage goes unchallenged by opponents of same-sex marriage. It is a phenomenon related to the idea that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." A recent assertion was that "the homosexual pseudo-marriage movement is largely funded by the pornography industry." I am certain, though, that you are wrong that their efforts to draw attention to the issue were unsuccessful. Its drawn your own attention, hasnt it?I was totally unaware of the break-in at Oak Ridge until I saw Luke Hill's post. I have been aware since I was a child in grade school that the United States maintains a nuclear arsenal. The actions of Transform Now Plowshares doesn't make me think any differently about the United States as a nuclear power. It may be tragic that nuclear weapons exist in the world, but as long as China, Russia, Pakistan, North Korea have nuclear weapons, and Iran apparently is developing them, I am glad that the United States has thousands of nuclear warheads. I would not want to see this country disarm unilaterally.

Touche, Irene... at least you're engaging on this topic, David N., and perhaps we'd yet establish a dialogue, but I've decided to not post on this subject anymore. I think we might have a good conversation about "non-violent prophetic action," but perhaps we're not on the same page with the Scriptures on that either...At any rate, I guess we both hope that somehow peace will prevail and that these weapons will never be tempted to be used... and that this can be effected somehow...after that, we may split on strategies...and what "effectiveness" meansPeace

"I am certain, though, that you are wrong that their efforts to draw attention to the issue were unsuccessful. Its drawn your own attention, hasnt it?"Right - there may be something to this. The activists may be playing a "long game"here - even though this incident doesn't seem to change anything in and of itself, it may hearten like-minded people who will be inspired to act. That would seem to be the Rosa Parks script. (Or, for that matter, the Boston Tea Party script.)

FWIW - President Obama has acted to reduce the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons, and he continues to pursue that policy. In my view, this is one of his very greatest accomplishments, one for which he doesn't get nearly enough credit, no doubt because it doesn't play into a dominant political theme for our times.

David Nickol: Thanks for the insights on my attitude. I would also like to point you back to your initial comment on 5/9 where you casually dismissed the actions these people took at great personal cost to themselves as "self indulgent" and "self righteous". Those kinds of casually dismissive comments really are unkind and counterproductive to discussion.

@Jim Pauwels, I agree with you about "Rosa Parks" moments. And as other people have been saying so much more eloquently, I think there's something really important, too, about people taking action against a wrong they need to oppose even if no one else follows suit or knows they've done it.

Civil disobedience is an action taken when all other communication has failed. For a short introduction to its meaning see Daniel Berrigan's The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. We're we to think of Jesus' action against the money changers in the Temple as an act of civil disobedience, we might glimpse its meaning and purpose. He offered a prophetic action against a practice that he felt was untenable. Did his action put an end to the practice? No. Did that fact render his action unnecessary, futile, or insignificant? No.

The end game of the American civil rights movement began with one old woman, Rosa Parks, refusing to sit behind a sign separating white and black bus riders. It was the tiniest possible protest. When Martin Luther King, Jr. began his movement his earliest "demonstrations" were only tiny processions of a half a dozen of people walking down a highway with protest signs. In the beginning even some black people did not want the protests to continue because they "made trouble". As the size of the protests grew more and more white people including Southerners began to wonder about their time-honored assumptions. It was a long and painful process on all sides. But non-violence worked. The laws and hearts (most of them anyway) have been changed. The process began with one old woman whose feet hurt and who decided not to put up with the nonsense any more..

Were we to think of Jesus action against the money changers in the Temple as an act of civil disobedience, we might glimpse its meaning and purpose. He offered a prophetic action against a practice that he felt was untenable. Alan C. Mitchell,Setting aside the anti-nuclear protest for just a moment, I would be fascinated to hear what the practice was that Jesus felt was untenable. My understanding is that the functions of the moneychangers and of those who sold animals for sacrifice in the Temple were essential to the whole system of Temple sacrifices. Those who came from far and wide to Jerusalem to offer animals for sacrifice at the temple could hardly transport animals with them to offer as sacrifices, and in order to buy animals, they had to be able to exchange whatever currency they had brought with them. So it seems plausible that Jesus was actually attacking the offering of sacrifices at the Temple. Back on the topic, it is difficult for me to see an equivalence between Jesus at the Temple and Greg Boertje-Obed, Sr. Megan Rice, and Michael Walli at Oak Ridge. As depicted in the Gospels, Jesus is a prominent figure with a large followingsomeone who amazes people by speaking with authority. (Some might also argue that Jesus, as God incarnate, would know that his actions at the Temple would still be talked about 2000 years in the future.) Suppose Rick Warren, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and Billy Graham were to draw up a (convincing) legal indictment of the United States and perform an act of civil disobedience at Oak Ridge. That would truly call attention to the cause. I would not suspect them of being self-indulgent or carrying out acts for their own satisfaction.

Ann,Rosa Parks was refusing to obey an unjust law. I don't think laws that keep unauthorized citizens out of government nuclear storage facilities are unjust laws, no matter how opposed those citizens are to nuclear arms.

David N.Judging from the words attributed to him, Jesus protested the commercialization of the Temple itself. Prior to Herod the Great, animals for sacrifice were sold on the Mt. of Olives. Herod moved the enterprise to the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple.How important a figure Jesus was in his own day cannot be calculated from the Gospels written forty years after his death. I wonder if he thought of himself as God incarnate laying down a two thousand year legacy. We can never know that from the Gospels. As a Jew, he would have thought of such an idea as blasphemous.

How important a figure Jesus was in his own day cannot be calculated from the Gospels written forty years after his death.Alan C. Mitchell,Thank you for your reply. I am always thrilled that someone with your depth of knowledge of the New Testament comments here. I agree with what you say about Jesus and the Gospels, but it is nevertheless true, I think, that "as depicted in the Gospels, Jesus is a prominent figure with a large following," and that "some might also argue that Jesus, as God incarnate, would know that his actions at the Temple would still be talked about 2000 years in the future."Are there any new books on Jesus and what we may know about him from the New Testament that you could recommendbooks with more text than footnotes and do not require a reading knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic? I specify new, because I have a fairly decent library of books that fall into this category. What might be more helpful (or economical) is if I listed the books I already have and had you tell me which ones to read, since I buy many, many more books than I can possibly read.

David NickolOne of the most recent books on Jesus, that is getting good reviews is Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was by Gerhard Lohfink, published by Liturgical Press. Dan Harrington, S.J. thinks it is the best book on Jesus that has he knows, and he has read them all. Apparently, it is very readable and non-technical adding to its appeal. Here on Amazon: http://amzn.to/18zquwz

David Nickol-Here are some quick answers to your questions to me from early this morning. I'll attempt a more thorough response when I have more time. But here are a few points.I find much value in the socio-political readings of Gospels -- John Dominic Crossan and Ched Myers are 2 whom I have read. They tie the money changers to corruption and collaboration with the Roman occupiers. But even if you rely on more traditional readings, for example, that the cleansing of the Temple is really Jesus signaling his messianic supplanting of the Temple system regardless of corruption-- it is clear Jesus actions are symbolic. They are not meant to achieve the destruction of the Temple system itself, but be a symbol of what this reign of God he announces will mean.Likewise -- plowshares actions aren't meant to bring about the real disarmament they symbolically enact, but through a stark and jarring prophetic tradition, they remind us of what these weapons really are and how they stand in direct contradiction to God's law of love. I certainly think we need reminding that the sin of nuclear proliferation continues. Yes, broadly speaking -- continuing to modernize weapons of mass destruction which are designed to kill indiscriminately is criminal. If you check out the website of the Transform Plowshares they link some interesting documents -- including this one from Francis Boyle which gives a more thorough argument for the illegality of the weapons systems at issue:http://transformnowplowshares.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/prof-boyle-dec... "indictment" you link, like the action is best seen symbolically, not strictly a document that will lead to a court process.

It's the nature of the dynamics of a forum like this one that we're apt to find ourselves embroiled in disputes, and that when this happens, it can even harden our attitudes. The original point of my comment from 5/9 4:35 pm wasn't intended to be particularly critical of these three Plowshares protesters. What interests me in particular about their situation is, "I am wondering whether the nations appetite for civil disobedience has fizzled out." I sense less tolerance on the part of the general public for civil disobedience than was the case for the first 2/3 (at least) of the 20th century and, if history books are to be believed, in our history before then. To the extent this observation is true, it seems to mark a change in American attitudes. My allusion in a previous comment to the Boston Tea Party wasn't random; I've been reflecting that civil disobedience is an important feature of this nation's founding, and the founders seemed to envision that the people retained the right to disobey injustice on the part of government, even to the extent of replacing it with another if necessary. I'd think that there is a tradition of civil disobedience in the US that is an important part of the American character. It's a "mark", if you will, of what makes us American.I don't think of civil disobedience as a uniquely liberal or progressive trait, and in fact, if my reflections here have any validity, it can be thought of as an admirable conservative attitude, inasmuch as it is closely bound up with political freedom.If I am right that civil disobedience doesn't "work" as much as it used to as a galvanizing agent of social change, that may not be a criticism of these three protesters - it may be more a criticism of the American audience that has somehow become immune to it.

David N. --I don't think the perps were protesting the storage of the fuel. I think they were protesting the whole nuclear weapons program. That was just a dramatic way to do it.

By the way, I for one am just as concerned about the storage of the fuel as I am about dropping a few atom bombs. The potential for those storage facilities to pollute underground water supplies for many centuries is horrendous. Note that that Oak Ridge isn't all that far from the New Madrid fault, and the thought of an earthquake in the region is a possibility that is extremely frightening. The 1811-12 New Madrid earthquake shook windows in Washington D.C. and rang church bells in Boston! The whole Mississippi River down to the Gulf could be polluted for centuries.But let's keep our thinking simple. That's how we avoid problems, isn't it, folks?

But lets keep our thinking simple. Thats how we avoid problems, isnt it, folks?Ann,It seems to me that "protesting the whole nuclear weapons program" is simple thinking. Would you really like the United States to unilaterally disarm? Should the United States give up nuclear weapons while Iran is acquiring them? There are a whole host of issues, foreign (global) and domestic that make everything to do with nuclear weapons and nuclear power difficult to deal with. Of course storing nuclear material is dangerous, but so is finding a different place to store it, and so is moving it.

Alan C. Mitchell,Thanks so much for recommending the Lohfink book. As luck would have it, I had pre-ordered it on Amazon, so I got my copy the day it came out. But it no doubt would have gone unread without your recommendation. I have just recently retired and vowed to cut back on my profligate book buying, so a recommendation to read something I already own is particularly welcome.

David N - congrats on your retirement. I hope it's a smooth life transition for you.

"It seems to me that protesting the whole nuclear weapons program is simple thinking."David N. --My post which you are criticizing is about simple thinking, not just the general problem of long-term storage of atomic materials or the storage at Oak Ridge. Storage of atomic wastes is just one example of the sort of problem that results from too simple thinking. Specifically, atomic waste storage problems have resulted because we did not think long and hard enough about the consequences of building bombs and nuclear energy plants. In the latter case we Americans have thought only as far as the utility and cheapness of nuclear fuel. That is an instance of what can result when our thinking is simple, specifically when it doesn't consider the ramifications of our actions. Atomic waste storage facilities are all long term threats to the environment -- anything dependent on human judgment is always risky, and maintenance of those facilities depends on human judgment. But we Americans don't seem inclined to think long term thoughts about the environment. That's seems to be too complex for our way of thinking. That's why this very day we passed the 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. Some say at this point the greenhouse effect is possibly irreversible -- and that it can only get worse. This means increasing hurricanes and blizzards and droughts. My point again: if we were willing to think of the complexity of some of these problems we might not adopt solutions that only make them worse.

I am not opposed to unilateral disarmament. As far as I know, the US is the only country that has actually dropped an atomic bomb on people. If we disarm, while there will still be plenty of countries with the ability to destroy the planet, at least there will be one less of them.We have plenty of weapons to defend ourselves. If the nuclear option is one that should never be exercised, why have atomic bombs?

My point again: if we were willing to think of the complexity of some of these problems we might not adopt solutions that only make them worse.Ann,I am not so much disagreeing with you as taking your point a bit further and saying that the complexity of these problems is so great that there is a perfectly good chance that "not adopt[ing] solutions that only make them worse" may seem to be what you are doing at the time, but the "better" solutions turn out to have unintended consequences and wind up not being better at all.

Jim,Thanks! The transition was amazingly smooth, in that I had stopped working some time ago, so in order to retire, all I had to do was stop going to the office. :)

David N. --But in the case of nuclear waste pollution what could be a worse long-term consequence? It is part of inter-related energy problem that everyone now seems to admit that we have. But not enough people seem willing to learn enough science to even think rationally about solutions, much less pay for them . When their starving grandchildren are cursing them in the freezing dark then maybe they'll start to wonder what to do. Sounds apocalyptic? It is aocalyptic.

But in the case of nuclear waste pollution what could be a worse long-term consequence?Ann,Nuclear waste pollution is a risk, not a reality. On the other hand, because of fear of all things nuclear, we have relied heavily on fossil fuel, and now we have global warming, which potentially is global catastrophe for the whole human race. Also, from 1914 to 1918 we had a world war. From 1939 to 1945 we had another. It was ended by the dropping of two nuclear bombs, and since then, we have not had another world war, arguably because with the threat of mutually assured destruction, no one will ever risk another world war. Should the United States not have developed nuclear weapons when it thought the Nazis were possibly doing so? Had it been up to me, I would have authorized development of the bomb under the circumstances. Nuclear weapons and nuclear power can't simply be wished away. Who would disagree that we all should attempt to make better choices and look to the future to see what the consequences of those choices would be? But in reality, who is to say that in each step beginning with the Manhattan Project to our current situation, the decisions along the way were not reasonably considered the best that could be done under the circumstances? It is quite possible that what appear to be some of the great blessings of technology turn out to be our undoing.

"But in reality, who is to say that in each step beginning with the Manhattan Project to our current situation, the decisions along the way were not reasonably considered the best that could be done under the circumstances?"David N. --NO, real risks, as opposed to theoretical ones, are *not* nothing. A possible rattlesnake is just a theoretical risk, while a real rattler is a real risk and something a wise person attends to. Same with actual nuclear waste -- it poses real, not a theoretical, risk.No, nuclear waste can't be gotten rid of by wishing, nor by any other process short of shooting it into outer space (another highly dangerous proposal). It's there. The best we can do is not produce any more of it by developing alternative sources of power. It's a matter of the survival of the human race.Forgive me for repeating something I've mentioned before, but this is relevant here. My mother's best friend in college was a very brilliant physicist, so smart she actually worked on the atomic bomb which was an era when women physicists were not usually recognized as highly competent. My mother was distressed when she discovered that her dear friend Rose whom she had thought so highly of had chosen to work on that monster. She asked Rose how she could have contributed to such a project -- didn't the scientists know what the horrible results would be? Rose answered that of course they knew the physical results of detonating the bomb but they had not really thought of the whole result of it -- the horror of killing hundreds of thousands of people at one blow. Only after the bomb was dropped did they truly realize what they had done.So, No, I am quite sure that even highly intelligent and otherwise decent people are quite capable of putting their heads in the sand. I remember my mother's friend, and so I can say to you: Yes, I knew a scientist who did just that. And maybe that's why I get so upset when I see the same thing happening again, except that the results of our insane energy policies and projects will eventually be far, far worse than the Manhattan Project if we continue on our present course. The odds are all in favor of catastrophe..

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