I am like a meteorologist for pant-shitting. Based on what I am seeing on the Tri-County Super Doppler Shit Radar, I have asked the National Weather Service, in cooperation with the Oversight Committee on Pantular Integrity, to issue a severe pant soiling watch for the next three days. As soon as Defense Secretary Gates announced some changes to our national nuclear strategy on Tuesday afternoon it was readily apparent that the forthcoming torrent of explosive wingnut diarrhea would have all of us seeking shelter and filling sandbags.

We can't show any weakness in front of the Russians!!!!!111!!!

The changes are pretty prosaic, of course. The DoD will no longer pursue "next generation" nuclear technology, which essentially means smaller warheads made with more accessible materials. Imagine the horror of a world without the proliferation of smaller, cheaper nukes. We're also committing to refrain from using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations, although I'm sure the next Republican president will take care of that one. Overall the aim appears to be a more reasonably sized, less expensive stockpile rather than the Cold War-sized the-Russkies-are-acomin' arsenal on which we currently sit. I mean, whatever nuclear threats we face would fall under the umbrella of terrorism, not World War III scenarios from Caspar Weinberger's wet dreams.

The funny thing about this is that the U.S. doesn't really have a nuclear weapons infrastructure anymore. We outsourced that years ago. Bechtel, the privately-held "engineering services" company that exists solely off of Federal contracts (bang-up job on the Katrina trailers, champs!) has the nuclear arsenal. The DoD merely gets access to it. In theory.

As has been the case since the Manhattan Project, nuclear weapons are developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, neither of which is run by the Federal government. Both are operated under contract by Bechtel. Our nuclear materials and waste reprocessing takes place at the Hanford Site in Washington, the Y-12 Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the Savannah River Site in Georgia, which are run under contract by Bechtel, Bechtel, and Bechtel, respectively. Pantex, which is and always has been the nation's sole nuclear weapons assembly, maintenance, and disassembly facility, has been auctioned off to Bechtel (with an assist from Lockheed Martin, to whom Sandia National Laboratory was sold). And nuclear testing, which is all subcritical since the abandonment of nuclear testing in 1991, takes place at the vast Nevada Test Site controlled by…that's right. Congratulations, Bechtel, for being the first kid on your block to collect the entire industry.

You have to give the Boomers a little credit for consistency, though: when they decided to privatize everything, they didn't exclude the one government program they actually care about. Certainly the free market, and specifically a fiercely secretive, privately held conglomerate of former Bush/Reagan administration officials, can maintain a nuclear arsenal better than the military can.