Nel's New Day

September 6, 2019

DDT: Week 137 – Alabama’s Hurricane, Pentagon’s Pandering

Almost 70 years ago, Herman Wouk wrote The Caine Mutiny, a fictionalized account of a mutiny on a U.S. destroyer-minesweeper during World War II. Worried about the potential loss of the ship during a storm, the executive officer takes command from Captain Queeg at the suggestion of the communications office who talks about Section 184 of the Navy regs. Citing Queeg’s incompetence, cowardice, and mental illness, the officer prevents the loss of the ship in a storm but is then tried by court martial. A highlight of the movie based on the book, featuring Humphrey Bogart as Queeg, is the scene in which Queeg breaks down under questioning about an episode regarding strawberries.

When Queeg shared a large tin of strawberries, a gift from another ship’s captain, with his officers, they were given one scoop while Queeg had two—like the scoops of ice cream that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) doles out. He gets two and everyone else gets one. That night, Queeg wants more strawberries and finds them missing. In a fury, he obsessively wakes his sailors and orders them to search throughout the ship for his strawberries before the out-of-control Queeg concocts the theory, never proved, that crewmen secretly copied keys to the icebox and obsessively forces more searching to locate them.

The Caine Mutiny led to the 25th Amendment  blocking one person such as the vice president to pronounce that a president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Instead the majority of the Cabinet must initiate the process, and two-thirds of the Congress must also agree. For the past 960 days, however, Republican leaders have ignored DDT’s obsessive lying, incompetence, and inability to maintain control of himself.

On the day of his inauguration, DDT insisted that his crowd was bigger than the crowd for any president’s inauguration and insisted on photographs that proved his lie. Since then, he continued with his own out-of-control, incompetent, obsessive behavior with wild claims about his winning the popular vote because of voter fraud, claiming all news he didn’t like to be fake news, and creating far more fantasies to show that he is a god who can control nature. His statement about Hurricane Dorian damaging Alabama, however, hit a high point.   

David Lauter put DDT’s “strawberry” episode with his Alabama proclamation and obsession of proving himself right into three acts. DDT’s behavior entire focus on the hurricane was the non-existent problem in Alabama while Dorian devastated the Bahamas (sounds like Alabama?) and killed possibly hundreds of people, threatened Florida, damaged North Carolina, and heads to the Northeast coast.

Act I – The Gathering Storm

Sunday, September 1: DDT’s first tweet – “In addition to Florida—South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

National Hurricane Center’s forecasts showed that any small chance of Dorian hitting the Gulf Coast disappeared at least a day earlier. Twenty minutes after DDT’s tweets, the National Weather Service’s Birmingham (AL) station tweeted to set the record straight and reassure Alabama residents that they were safe from a fearsome storm: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

Christopher Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wrote in an email, “The current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama.”

DDT repeated his personal warning to Alabama that afternoon in televised remarks from a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing.  

Act 2 – The TV Hour

Monday, September 2: ABC correspondent Jon Karl noted Trump’s mistake and the weather service’s response: “He also misstated the storm’s possible trajectory [and the weather service] corrected the president.” Karl also commented that DDT canceled his scheduled trip to Poland, supposedly to monitor the hurricane, but played golf at his Virginia country club.

DDT doesn’t admit mistakes, claims he works hard, criticizes President Obama for playing golf, and obsessively watches television while saying that he pays little attention to TV. He called Karl a “lightweight reporter” on Twitter and made his usual slurs against the media: “It was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some ‘hurt.’ Always good to be prepared! But the Fake News is only interested in demeaning and belittling. Didn’t play my whole sentence or statement. Bad people!” 

Act 3 – Closing the Ring

Wednesday, September 4: Cable news reported on the story, and DDT performed in the Oval Office by displaying a NOAA weather map showing the August 29 forecast track, in white but added a black Sharpie line over a sliver of southern Alabama. DDT said, “That was the original chart. It could’ve — was going towards the Gulf.” Altering official government weather forecasts is illegal with the possibility of a prison term and fine as well as dangerous for people who believe him.    

Thursday, September 5: Rear Adm. Peter Brown, a Coast Guard flag officer and White House homeland security and counter-terrorism advisor, issued a 225-word statement carefully explaining that his briefings to DDT “included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama.”

Coda – Protecting DDT

Friday, September 6: NOAA reversed its earlier message about the forecast not including Alabama and disavowed the September 1 tweet from the National Weather Service that corrected DDT about the danger in Alabama from Dorian: “Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time. From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

DDT, now feeling vindicated through the lies of a federal agency, tweeted: “The Fake News Media was fixated on the fact that I properly said, at the beginnings of Hurricane Dorian, that in addition to Florida & other states, Alabama may also be grazed or hit.”

James Spann, a meteorologist based in Alabama, wrote that the September 1 tweet from the National Weather Service in Birmingham that corrected DDT was “spot on and accurate.”

During all the crises of last week, including a Category 5 hurricane, DDT, fixated on his insistence of always being right, posted nine tweets and five maps about Alabama and the big storm to justify his mistake, ordered a White House official to release a 225-word statement defending his error that could endanger lives, and coerced NOAA into lying for him. He also called Fox correspondent John Roberts into his office to again lie about the hurricane hitting Alabama and “to hit back at Shepard Smith.”

On his show, Smith said

“Why would the president of the United States do this? He decries fake news that isn’t and disseminates fake news that is. Think China pays the tariffs. The wall is going up. Historic inauguration crowds. The Russia probe was a witch hunt. You need an ID to buy cereal. Noise from windmills causes cancer. It’s endless!”

DDT increasingly manipulates government agencies to enrich his personal businesses, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, for example refueling stops that an Air National Guard crew made last spring on a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies. The stops at a small airport 20 miles from DDT’s Scottish Turnberry resort and 50 miles outside Glasgow (Scotland) cost much more than charges at a military base in the UK, such as nearby Lakenheath Air Base in England. The military spent $11 million on 629 fuel purchase orders at the airport since October 2017, and the airport paid for a five-person crew to stay at DDT’s golf resort along with free rounds of golf. One crew member said that their per diem allowance wasn’t enough to cover food and drinks.

In the past, the same plane refueled at U.S. air bases in Germany, Spain, Azores, and Italy. Never in Scotland. Since April, the Pentagon has stonewalled the House Oversight Committee’s investigation requesting information about the reason for the location of the stops en route to the Middle East and the transport plane’s return and refused to send any documents to the committee.

The reason for stops at Turnberry may be to keep the golf resort from going under: in 2017 the property lost $4.5 million, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018. The golf resort must keep the airport to be at all viable. The Scottish government bought the debt-ridden airport in 2013 for £1. In June, the Scottish government said it will sell the airport that continues to lose money. U.S. taxpayer money is vital for the airport: the authorization of U.S. payments to Prestwick worth £1.4m in the first three months of 2019 is equivalent to revenue from passenger services in 2017 and 2018.

Over two months ago, a Scottish newspaper reported that the U.S. Defense Department is set to sign a contract to continue refueling until fall 2024 with over 35 transactions a month and another £8m from 12.4 million gallons of aviation fuel, three million more than the existing arrangement. Taxpayer spending at both the airport and at DDT’s property may be conflicts of interest and violations of the Emoluments Clause. Even worse, such actions could be illegal activities on the part of the Pentagon that appears to pander to DDT’s desires and further make the U.S. look like a dictatorship.   

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