Streetcar to Disaster

Last night we joined our friends Darrell and Mary Anne at the Mercado San Augustin, a hipsterish collective of shops and eating places in a Mexican-style enclosed patio a few blocks from downtown Tucson. The Mercado sits at the southwestern end of Tucson’s streetcar tracks, and after dinner we hopped on for a ride. It was our first experience with the new streetcar (now two years old, which shows you how often we get out these days). Old Tucson is booming, and the streetcar seems to help pull it all together. Our little town is turning into a real city.

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Getting into town and back was fraught with peril. A thunderstorm rolled through our northeastern neighborhood a few minutes before we left, and it was still raining hard when we pulled out of the driveway. A mile from home the direct route into the city was blocked by police cars with flashing lights: fallen trees were blocking a four-lane road. We turned around and took a longer, more out of the way route, and two miles later ran into another roadblock: this time it was the fire department, responding to an apartment complex where huge trees had collapsed into the second-story units, smashing walls and balconies. There was one cleared lane, and eventually we got through … to more downed trees and a series of non-functioning stoplights. A half-hour trip turned into a hour-long drive from hell, but we got there.

I’m casually following the story of the jogger who pushed a woman into the path of a bus in London. What lodges in my mind is the part where the jogger, doubling back on his route fifteen minutes later, ran past the woman he’d tried to kill while ignoring her attempts to talk to him. Also this: that the incident occurred three months ago, and since then this asshole’s been living his life, to all appearances free of guilt and remorse. Now London police say they’ve arrested an American investment banker, who says he can prove he was in the US on the day the woman was shoved, so we’ll have to wait and see if they have the right guy.

Imagine being able to live with yourself after doing something like that, to go on with life as if nothing had happened. I can’t. If the culprit turns out to be American, I bet I can guess who he voted for.

My problem has always been that I’m stuck in the reality-based community. As Karl Rove once said, back near the beginning of George W. Bush’s first term, “That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality.”

I’m starting to fear our unelected president creates his own reality, that he actually believes the things he says. He probably does believe he’d have won the popular vote if only three to five million illegal aliens hadn’t voted for Hillary. He probably does believe he’s done more in the first six months of his administration than any president ever.

More to the point, he seems to believe the military and other government agencies scramble to implement his every word, and I worry about how this belief might affect his decisions.

Trump’s tweets about kicking trans servicemen and women out of the military, for example: to my knowledge it hasn’t happened, and military leaders have been clear in saying it won’t happen until they receive actionable orders from the commander in chief … which they haven’t. But yesterday, answering questions from the press, Trump said things about his trans ban that suggest he thinks it’s a done deal, that he gave an order and the military had carried it out.

Which takes me to North Korea and Trump’s bellicose “fire and fury” rhetoric. I hope he’s not thinking about a pre-emptive nuclear strike, but if he is his recent statements claiming credit for revamping our nuclear arsenal are alarming. Our nuclear arsenal hasn’t been revamped or modernized or changed in any significant way. True, there is a long-term project to modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons, but it was proposed by President Obama, not Trump, and it’ll take three decades and a trillion dollars (even supposing Congress will ever appropriate the money) to complete. Trump acts as if he believes it’s been done.

Maybe Trump is thinking of conventional military force when he threatens to rain down fire and fury on the Norks. Maybe that’s what he meant this morning when he said this on Twitter: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

Does he believe this? Christ, I hope not, because it isn’t true. While our forces in Korea can certainly react to a North Korean strike against South Korea, any US-led conventional strike against North Korea would be preceded by a months-long buildup of troops, armor, aircraft, ships, and weapons. West coast seaports would be overwhelmed with military shipping. Tens of thousands of American military personnel would be receiving orders to US bases in South Korea and Japan. Entire units, with their equipment, would be deploying to WestPac.

You can’t hide mobilization on that scale. We’d know if it was happening. It isn’t. But Trump seems to think it already has.

Does Trump believe his wishes, expressed in tweets and Q&A sessions with the press, are commands? It’s starting to look that way. We already know his staff shields him from day-to-day reality. They may well be nodding and saying “Sure, boss,” when he makes baseless claims. If so, he might decide to act on his own unrealistic view of the world. For all the talk about Kim Jong Un being irrational, Trump’s the one I worry about.

By the way, are we still taking his word he’s sober?

© 2017, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.


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