Right before Earth Day tomorrow, the planet won a victory when the Treasury Department refused to grant ExxonMobil a waiver for a joint drilling deal in the Black Sea with Russia’s state oil company. Current U.S. sanctions against Russia after its annexation of Crimea require waivers. President Obama opposed the same plan in 2015 after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson created it as Exxon’s CEO. In the words of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “Are you crazy?” My cynic bone wonders what the current administration is planning that is worse that the waiver to the sanctions.
Thus far, DDT’s only victory in over 90 days was getting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court although it required breaking Senate rules. Gorsuch made his first public decision—to kill a man. In its rush to kill eight inmates on death row for 24-26 years before state drugs expired, Arkansas decided to kill them in eleven days. Judicial stays kept these men alive for a few days, but Gorsuch joined the conservative block on the high court to kill at least one of them. Ledell Lee, the first man executed, had fetal alcohol syndrome disorder with significant brain damage and intellectual disability. He has always claimed that he is innocent and that one of his lawyers was drunk and another was mentally ill. The state refused to allow him to take a DNA test to compare evidence collected at the scene of the crime. The judge in the case was having an affair with the prosecutor and later married her. None of the blood at the crime scene belonged to Lee, and forensic evidence of hairs has been discredited. It’s not surprising for Gorsuch to kill the Arkansas inmate because he had ruled in Colorado that a man should lose his job if he chose to save his life.
In the Company of Tyrants: Even conservatives are outraged that DDT called to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his new, almost dictatorial powers by winning a referendum after possible election tampering. Erdogan’s authoritarian rule has destroyed any separation of church and state in an Islamic regime and arrested any critics as well as a roundup of journalists. After last summer’s attempted coup, Erdogan had already detained, suspended, or dismissed almost 200,000 people including state officials and teachers. The new referendum would replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one and abolish the prime minister. Erdogan, who could stay in power until 2029, could intervene in the judiciary, control the nominees for parliament’s nominees, directly appoint top government officials, and declare a state of emergency with no justification. DDT’s congratulatory statement not only contradicts the official message from the U.S. State Department but also was made before the vote is final. It is still being contested. Reasons given for DDT’s congratulations include ignorance, carelessness, or an agreement with Erdogan’s ideology. Or it could simply be because he has business interests in Turkey: in the past, he said that he had a “conflict of interest” in the country (tower on right). If the referendum wins the “yes” votes, Turkey will become a total dictatorship.
Question of Chemical Attacks in Syria: DDT may hope that problems in North Korea keep people from wondering if his April 7 preemptive strikes on Syria—his first open act of war—was based on false information. Although the deaths of people on April 4 have not been contested, questions about the type of gas and the perpetrators remain because of no independent, international investigation. Two longtime experts in war studies and missile systems maintain that DDT’s intelligence report about Syria’s role is “false” and “fraudulent” as well as a “coverup.” They purport that the intelligence report about an air attack is not substantiated by evidence and that the official report did not use the methodologies that it claimed: the information released by the White House is political, not scientific. In 2013, President Obama was given incorrect information that Syria perpetrated an attack but did not retaliate because intelligence did not support that information. Instead, DDT, like George W. Bush, made preemptive strikes against a country that didn’t attack the United States, without accurate information. Support for the experts’ information is that there is no plan for an investigation—just a move forward to inflame North Korea into military action. The world has become a far more dangerous place in DDT’s less than 100 days.
Ships Far from North Korea: One piece of DDT’s saber-rattling in northeast Asia was to declare that he had ordered an “armada” (actually six ships) close to North Korea. Two weeks later the media discovered that the ships “steaming,” in Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s words, toward North Korea were headed in the opposite direction several thousand miles away after the Navy released photographs and the location of the Carl Vinson in the Sundra Strait, 3,500 miles away. The White House blamed the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for the mistake although U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mistakenly told Fox that the ships were rerouted from Singapore to the Korean peninsula as a “prudent” show of force. That’s DDT’s military’s second bad mistake this month: the earlier one referred to the biggest non-nuclear weapon that it used on Afghanistan as “the type of weapon for the type of target” and how it sent a message.
South Korea’s “Concern” with DDT: The egregious “mistake” about the ships’ location upset South Koreans who felt “bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally,” according to the New York Times. AP went farther with words such as “unpredictable,” “unhinged,” and “dangerous.” DDT also angered South Koreans by his assertion that the Korean Peninsula “used to be a part of China.” Invaded by its neighbor and forced to pay tribute, Koreans state that the idea that they were once Chinese subjects is highly insulting. DDT is alienating one country almost every every week–South Korea, Great Britain, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and China plus Canada after DDT scolded the nation for what the dairy industry did to our workers.” The addition of Colombia brings the total to nine.
Secret Meeting at Mar-a-Lago: Last weekend, DDT interrupted his golf games to meet undercover with former Columbian presidents Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana, former presidents of Colombia to undermine the current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to end Latin America’s longest armed conflict. The White House also lied about the meeting: it claimed just a brief “hello” because the two men were at the resort, but Pastrana thanked DDT for the “cordial and very frank conversation” about Colombia’s challenges. DDT also ignored any diplomatic coordination with the State Department. Columbia reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), an opponent of the peace plans, set up the meeting with the three men.
State Department v. Tillerson: During his campaign, DDT called the Iran Deal “the worst deal ever negotiated” and promised to rip it up on day one. This week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the deal a failure, warned this week that Iran’s nuclear weapons could be as bad as North Korea, and accused the country of causing “alarming and ongoing provocations.” At the same time, he wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) that Iran was upholding its commitments, and the State Department released the same positive information. In response to Tillerson’s criticism of Iran, its foreign minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, faulted the U.S. for trying to distract from its “abysmal” human rights record, which includes DDT’s Muslim ban, and the U.S. support of Israel, which Zarif claimed has an “illegal” nuclear arsenal. Tillerson made his comments about Iran as a disruptive force on the same day that he praised Saudi Arabia that is trying to reinstate Yemen’s ousted president by killing thousands of civilians in airstrikes.
Raising Prices: DDT signed his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order while in Wisconsin. Part of it changes rules for the H-1B visa program which keeps some highly skilled workers from coming to the U.S. and may send companies that employ them out of the country. At the same time, he saved the visa program for lower-paid workers, like his own because, as he said in the past, “it’s very, very hard to get people.” DDT wants to do away with the waivers in these mandates—except ones that let him buy all the products for his business more cheaply from foreign countries. DDT’s order has no weight unless Congress passes a law to support it or changes past laws, for example the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 that treats products made in foreign countries as domestic if the countries, almost 60 at this time, have a trade agreement with the United States. There are no plans to carry out his order, which would cause prices to skyrocket. China steel, for example, is 70 percent cheaper than what is made in the U.S., and a DDT order from last month raised steel prices 19 percent.
Obsession of Gold: Known for wasting taxpayer money in the United States, DDT is moving the selfishness to Britain on his upcoming visit in October. Despite the cost and the lack of security, he demands that he ride to a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in a golden coach—just like Mexican President Peña Nieto, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s the “ugly American” made more hideous than ever.
Tomorrow covers DDT’s damage in domestic issues.