What’s Trump smoking?
The president of the United States is interested in the application of nuclear weapons to control the weather. This is rich. The man considers global warming a Chinese hoax, and buys the line that even if the climate is warming it’s no big deal, let nature run its course. At least up until a hurricane threatens Mar-a-Lago on his watch, and then all of a sudden we need to waste a nuke to correct the weather.
All the news stories I hear these days make me feel old, because I grew up with this sort of thinking. Trump is a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s, when our federal government somehow came up with all sorts of nifty ideas for using Our Friend the Plucky Atom to do wonderful things like build roads and harbors and get rid of pesky mountains.
If we had a silly river that meandered all over the place, we could just set off an H-bomb here or there and straighten it right up.
Wouldn’t it be great if the Mississippi river just followed a straight line from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico and was 20 times deeper the whole way? “Let’s do it with nuclear bombs!” said visionaries.
The whole program was called Project Plowshare, and there were multiple plans within it. There were plans to use nukes to get at oil quickly. There were plans to dig canals, including one in Tennessee and one in Panama. The one in Panama would be a sea-level canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans and would therefore be better than the existing Panama Canal. It would be at sea level because the H-bombs would move the mountains out of the way.
They were going to cut through mountains near the Mojave Desert to build a level highway through it. Nobody wanted to drive up and down mountains.
An underground cavern with fused walls was going to be able to store massive quantities of natural gas under pressure. There were also proposals to do fracking back then, but with H-bombs.
Those were great times, when it seemed like everybody at the Atomic Energy Commission was smoking something they weren’t sharing with the rest of us.
It was as if the entire government was filled with Elon Musks. “Let’s build an atomic spaceship to Mars, nuke the polar ice caps there, drop some nuclear power plants on the planet and turn Mars into a terraformed paradise especially designed for megalomaniacs.”
Trump’s idea to neutralize hurricanes is not new to him. It was proposed at least as early as the Eisenhower administration by one of these same government scientists looking for cool ways to play with our surplus of nuclear bombs.
Other scientists around that time did what scientists like to do a lot: They collected at cheap diners and talked about the idea. They made calculations on paper napkins, and worked what would happen if a hurricane were nuked. They decided that the main consequence would be that the hurricane would blow fallout a long way off. Like, maybe Africa.
They also figured out that probably the hurricane itself wouldn’t be much bothered by the blast, because hurricanes are orders of magnitude more powerful than nuclear bombs, and spread out over a huge area. And you can be sure they came up with some blah-ty-blah science-y stuff about conservation of angular momentum or who knows what else nobody cares about.
Donald Trump was around 12 or 13 years old when the idea to nuke hurricanes was floated, and probably still a fan of “Atomic Mouse” comics. Weren’t we all?
The good news: We are party to a treaty with Russia banning such uses of nuclear weapons.
The bad news: We have a president who likes to suddenly declare treaties void, even though they have the force of law and ought to only be repealed by Congress.
The reason Trump gets away with canceling treaties is because of historical precedent set during previous administrations. In particular, the Supreme Court at the time of the Carter administration dismissed a conservative challenge (Goldwater v. Carter) to Carter’s cancellation of an international treaty. The thinking was that because Congress hadn’t itself acted to challenge the president, it wasn’t up to the court to step in.
That was one of those moments when I rooted for the conservative side.
A legal principle was shoved aside for the sake of political expediency. And here we are. Congress is still not stepping up to take responsibility for maintaining treaty law, 40 years later.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read the full September 4 - 10 issue.
© 2019 Real Change. All rights reserved.| Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change and donate now to support independent, award-winning journalism.