Monday, December 10, 2018

Vote suppression: It's what Republicans do

            "Voter fraud is a felony!"

            So says the mega-decibel warning (did President Trump provide the punctuation?) posted in black and red in minority communities across the country.

            The billboards show how serious the Republicans who paid for them are about this stuff, more or less.

            We say "more or less," because when clear evidence of actual voter fraud presented itself months ago in a North Carolina congressional primary, Associated Press reported, "GOP officials did little to scrutinize the results."

            Now a whole election in a North Carolina congressional race in that same district may get tossed into the Dumpster over the very same concerns.

            The allegation is that GOP-hired operatives were going to the homes of absentee voters who hadn't turned in their ballots, offering to deliver them to polling locations and either trashing or altering them. The ballots, not surprisingly, were from largely minority communities.

            Another day, another scheme by Republicans to trash the vote.

            If that sounds broad-brush, it's because broad-brush tactics by Republicans have become so common in suppressing the vote, with people of color targeted.

            Such was the case when Brian Kemp, running for governor of Georgia while oh-so-conveniently also running the election as secretary of state, put in doubt the voting statuses of thousands of voters, the preponderance of them having black or brown skin.

            On and on it goes, this pernicious, anti-democratic gambit.

            Such was the case in North Dakota when Republicans made it difficult to impossible for Native Americans to vote due to the lack of street addresses in the reservation residences.

            Such was the case in Latino-majority Dodge City, Kan., where Republican officials moved the city's one polling place – that's just one place for a population of 27,000 – outside the city. (The average elsewhere in Kansas is one polling place per 1,200 voters).

            Such has been the case in state after state with restrictive laws that judge after judge has deemed to be targeted at people of color.

            One tactic the GOP likes is to limit the time voters have to get to the polls. The better to marginalize the working poor and those without transportation.

            Hence, among its grab-bag of power-grab efforts before a Democratic governor took office, one thing the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature did was pass a law to slash early voting schedules.

            The most abominable feature of all of these efforts is that they harm the constitutional rights of poor people, particularly people of color, and the Republicans know it. Indeed, they appear to thirst for it, though many colors are the future of the American electorate.

            The GOP, writes Jamil Smith in Rolling Stone, "has only one demonstrated strategy for competing in a browning America: Whiten it, physically and electorally."

            Harrumph if you will, but no one should be fooled by GOP vote-suppression tactics.

             Federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos was not fooled. She ruled that Texas' voter I.D. law, which is basically like so many GOP-written laws of its ilk, had the clear and tactical intent of discriminating against black and Hispanic voters.

            The law survived later appeals (another favorite tactic being to appeal and re-appeal rulings while elections continue to happen year after year) but no one should be fooled about its political designs.

            It's beyond ironic, now, that a party whose standard-bearer came into office squawking, without a shred of evidence, about illegal votes, now is embroiled in an actual vote-fraud imbroglio in North Carolina.

            As Paul Waldman writes in the Washington Post, reasonable people should all hope that in light of these matters, Republicans will "give up their repulsively disingenuous claim that their vote suppression measures are actually about 'voter fraud' and 'the integrity of the ballot' and just say, forthrightly, they don't actually care about voter fraud."

            Now, that would make a great billboard, with an exclamation point.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Trump's intriguing definition of 'zero'

           "For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia," said Donald Trump on July 26, 2016.

            That "the record" on which he swore was Twitter rather than, say, before congressional investigators, ultimately may prove beside the point.

            Trump was lying to the constituents he sought to serve as president.

            A question from a constituent: Why lie?

            As many a fact-checker attests, when Trump's lips are moving, untruth generally emanates. Some lies, however, are of more consequence than others.

            This whopper now has Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress. Cohen, who was negotiating with Russian interests about building a Trump tower in Moscow (to be named Zero Investments Tower?), acknowledged misrepresenting the extent to which he and his boss were working with Russian interests on the matter.

            If Ken Starr went after Bill Clinton for the definition of "is," Robert Mueller now is interested in Donald Trump's definition of "zero." As every American should be.

            More important is for us all to understand why Trump would lie about it.

            After Cohen's guilty plea, Trump said of his Moscow dealings that "everybody knew. I mean, we were very open about it."

            You mean the Russian empire-building designs of which there were "zero"?

            Cohen admitted that the Trump Organization was pursuing the project as late as June 2016, the same month of the Trump Tower meeting with Russians meant to share "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

            In written responses to questions from Robert Mueller, Trump has said he didn't know about that meeting.

            In his tower. Attended by his son. Attended by his son-in-law. Attended by his campaign manager.

            Trump didn't "know" about this – zero knowledge – until he dictated, aboard Air Force One, a letter providing a contemptuous story that the meeting was to discuss the adoption of Russian children – a tale that Donald Jr. later admitted wasn't true.

            Regardless, Trump has said that it isn't a crime to get dirt on an opponent.

            So why didn't he simply insert himself into the meeting, maybe have the speaker phone squawking? Did he have "Fox and Friends" to watch?

            Following this train of thought: If someone far away, on some couch somewhere, hacked into the Democratic National Committee's computer system, who wouldn't use dirt that emerged against the nasty, rotten Dems?

            Richard Nixon's boys were asking the same back before there were emails to hack.

            Trump biographer Tim O'Brien says that with Trump's trail of deception, "the unforgiving force of the U.S. justice system, which (Trump) has tried to undermine since becoming president, is encircling him." Mueller appears to have locked in, writes O'Brien, on the "fact pattern" of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

            This could include the apparent engagement of two key Trump insiders, Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, with Wikileaks, the vessel for the sharing of those hacked DNC emails.

            Then there were Hillary Clinton's emails.

            "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said in a July 2016 press conference.

            That same month, Mueller asserts in the indictment of Russian hackers, those clandestine figures attempted to "spearphish" email accounts at a domain used for Clinton's personal emails.

            It's significant that the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has already wrapped up its investigation and concluded that, as Trump says, there was "no collusion."

            Democrats who will run that show in 2019 have more questions, though. One person they want to testify is the now-forthcoming Michael Cohen.

            Can Cohen be trusted? Here's what Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said, "Obviously, you have to be a little bit ginger with anybody who's been lying for a long time," while calling him now, "a truth-telling refugee in Trump world." Call him Patient Zero.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Enlistments for one man's amusement

          For all his depth, a mark of Abraham Lincoln's greatness was a deep humility.

          When saluted by Union volunteers in 1864, he remarked that he was "exceedingly obliged to you for this mark of respect."

          He continued, "It is said that we have the best government world ever knew, and I am glad to meet you, the supporters of that government."

          Lincoln revered the troops so highly that he exposed himself to enemy fire more than once, his stove-top hat a frighteningly handy sniper target.

          His successors were not so brazen, but presidents who have committed troops have taken pains to visit them: Eisenhower at the Korean Peninsula, Lyndon Johnson at Cam Rahn Bay, George H.W. Bush in Riyadh, George W. Bush in Baghdad, Barack Obama in remote parts of Afghanistan.

          And Donald Trump in Palm Beach County. On the phone.

          True to form, humility was out the window during his Thanksgiving Day call, staged while in the background servants set up a feast for him and his well-fed friends.

          As it turns out, Trump called the troops mostly to brag about himself. It's all he knows.

          It's one more bit of evidence that Trump's claim about doing so very much for our troops is just so much wind. What he has done is to make the U.S. military his personal accoutrement.

          Proposing to spend millions of dollars we don't have on a Russia-style military parade. Employing pre-election hysteria to send 5,800 troops to the border as razor-wire caddies. For Trump, as with Kim Jong-un, military is just another self-indulgence.

          A deployment of the size now at the border, by the way, is more than the United States committed to defeating ISIS.

          And for what? The only authorized combat function there is defending Border Patrol agents if attacked by migrants. Otherwise, at a price tag of $210 million, these men and women will while away the holidays, doing next to nothing that they were trained to do.

          Retired Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme NATO commander, denounced Trump's border deployment in the strongest terms -- in part because it's not a military mission, and in part because it takes troops away from training for actual military functions.

          "Nobody has been better for the military than me," says Trump. It's a statement of opinion, so we can't count it among his countless lies.

          Another claim that's been sandblasted by reality: "I've done more for vets than any president has done, certainly in many, many decades."

          Tell that to the veterans now months in arrears in housing assistance guaranteed to them under the GI Bill. Called to explain the problem to a congressional subcommittee, the Department of Veterans Affairs says it's due to a computer problem.

          If so, one would expect such a big, big friend of veterans (Trump), to climb all over this matter and get it fixed.

          As with most things, Trump is all talk. If it rains, he'll send his regrets and then blame the Secret Service.

          That was the case, in his now infamous decision to not go to a 100th anniversary of World War I ceremony in Paris attended by other world leaders and by his own chief of staff.

           Less discussed was the fact that also Trump became the first president in recent history to not make an appearance on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery.

          Days later, the White House held a ceremony to honor veterans, which turned out, mostly, to be an event to honor you-know-whom for his great leadership.

          At that photo-op, Trump criticized his predecessor for failing to serve veterans. The fact is that among other achievements under Obama, the VA made historic inroads into dealing with veterans' homelessness. And Trump has done . . .

          The military? The VA? It's all a toy for the Golden Boy.

          Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.