Monday, April 16, 2018

And the Democrats say, 'Thank you'

Until the other day, the most significant thing to know about Paul Nehlen was that he had been banned by Twitter.

This happened when he tweeted out a photo of Prince Harry and fiancée Meghan Markle in which he mocked her mixed race. He replaced her face with a re-creation of Cheddar Man, an ancient hominid with charcoal skin, as described paleontologists. Twitter suspended Nehlen's privileges.

Well, who knew this bit of fame was just the beginning?

When House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he was not running for office, Nehlen, an avowed white supremacist, became the GOP front-runner for Ryan's seat in Congress.

And the Democratic Party says, "Thank you."

At this point the Democrats' pen hand is cramping from thanking the Republicans for how they have set up a blue wave in November.

When Ryan announced he wasn't seeking re-election, he became the 45th House Republican doing so. Two hours after that announcement, Florida Congressman Dennis Ross became the 46th. More are surely to come. Then there are all the Republicans who will leave at voters' hands.

This is an uneasy prospect for a president who knows that what's at stake is control of the chamber where the impeachment process begins.

To the GOP's discomfort we can attribute one thing only. It has become the party of the most dishonest, corrupt and unpopular president in history. And the most racist since . . . owning others was a mark of nobility.

To this we can attribute one thing only. The GOP has become the party of the most dishonest, corrupt and unpopular president in history. And the most racist since – since slavery was a sign of nobility.

The scary truth for the party is that the more Republicans who depart, the more the GOP is going to assume Trump's likeness.

Consider that the front-runner to replace Ryan as speaker, House Whip Kevin McCarthy, is a true Trump favorite, wholly inclined to embrace the hard-right culture-war issues that have made Trump, in presidential approval polls, Mr. 40 Percent.

And the Democrats say, "Thank you."

True, Trump speaks to the soul of his party base in 2018. The problem for the GOP is that poll after poll shows a solid majority of Americans finds what he has to say repugnant.

Nonetheless, people like Nehlen who "speak Trump" are stepping forth to grab nominations left abandoned by so many GOP incumbents. It's going to help them in the primaries. And, in many cases, these Trump clones will help the GOP get creamed in the general election.

Speaking of Kevin McCarthy: There's a good reason why he and Trump should be compatible. Both have a history of philandering. In 2015 McCarthy withdrew his name from contention for House speaker amid allegations of an affair with another member of Congress.

Why would he be speaker material now? Maybe it's because in 2016 Trump showed that it might not matter that one's morals are subterranean.

Well, maybe not now. The march of the Trump Clones should frighten the GOP just as it encourages the Democrats. It certainly did when Trump gave his blessing to the morally shriveled Roy Moore of Alabama.

The retirements of Republican centrists like Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona and Sen. Bob Corker in Tennessee now lift Democrats' hopes against fringe-worthy Trump-speak Republicans.

Back to our racist friend Paul Nehlen: Regarding the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., at which a counter protester was run down by a racist assailant, Nehlen tweeted that it was an "incredible moment for white people who've had it up to here and aren't going to take it anymore."

Nehlen is exactly the type of candidate a major political party should not want or need, but he's also the type of candidate Trump would endorse. Indeed, Trump tweeted encouragement to Nehlen last year when the latter announced he would oppose the sitting Republican speaker of the House.

So smart of that man.

The Democrats say, "Thank you."

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


Monday, April 9, 2018

Scott Pruitt: secure in his sound-proof world

Does Nino hold Scott Pruitt's hand on plane flights?

We know now that Pruitt, has demanded that a special agent sit next to him in first-class in his many travels.

For that awesome task, he summoned retired special agent Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta. This in addition to a team of 20 agents scattered elsewhere in the plane and serving in his shadow 24 hours a day.

You'd think the man was Elvis, actually bigger.

Every day more emerges about the EPA that should offend a normal person's sensibilities. "Normal," of course, excludes Donald Trump, who has defended Pruitt, in spite of a raft of ethics atrocities.

The latest is the $3 million of your tax dollars Pruitt spent on his personal security detail, having tripled the security for someone in his position to a 20-person ear-bud contingent.

You have heard that Pruitt was flagged for charging taxpayers, like yourself, for international and domestic flights of specious intent, like trips back to his home state of Oklahoma and the far reaches of Morocco. . . Morocco?

Add to those plane tickets the cost of transporting Team "Nino" – headed by Perrotta, who sounds like a movie character whose suit smells like haddock. He advertises his specialty as a "threat analysis" and, gulp, "mitigation."

Perrotta advised on sweeping Pruitt's office for listening devices and installing a $43,000 sound-proof "secure communications booth" there.

Yes, Scott Pruitt feels comfortable in his own skin -- with a layer of Plexiglas between his skin and reality – reality like climate change and the consensus of EPA scientists.

Now, understand Pruitt's paranoia: He heads an agency formed to protect the environment, populated with people hired to protect the environment, and he's devoted himself to wrecking both – the agency and the environment.

He's literally made his bed with industry, as with the almost-free lobbyist-owned Washington apartment he was using until whistle-blowers notified you and me through the media.

We hear from more than one EPA insider that Pruitt asked to use the emergency sirens to get through Washington traffic. Oh, Scotty, in such a hurry to destroy what you were assigned to "protect."

We shouldn't be surprised that Trump doesn't want to fire Pruitt, though bipartisan support has emerged to do just that.

No one better epitomizes and carries out the Vendetta Politics of the Trump Era, targeting any policy with a hint of his predecessor's after-shave and eviscerating it.

A perfect example of this is the fuel standards the Obama administration negotiated with automakers as part of the industry rescue. Pruitt has said he's looking at revoking them.

These concessions are slated to average fleet efficiency by a stunning 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, something that's going to accomplish many important objectives – less pollution, less oil used, lower fuel prices, less spent on filling gas tanks.

Indeed, an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the average household could miss out on nearly $28,000 in fuel savings by 2030 should Pruitt get his way.

The group found that the standards Obama put in place, with the cooperation of the industry, have saved $58 billion in fuel costs since 2012.

            Of course, Pruitt, as with Nino Perrotta, he of the soft, fish-house hands, is just doing what his boss wants.

The Denver Post, editorially blasting Pruitt's fuel-efficiency proposals for all of the above reasons, wrote, "Perhaps the best hope is that Pruitt's scandals will catch up with him" and he'll get ousted.

Sorry, editorialists. Pruitt is doing the bidding of the revenge-driven man in the White House, the most corrupt and least ethical individual ever to hold his position. Whoever Trump chooses to do the job will continue to "do a job" on the EPA.

Maybe he'll just hand it off to Nino.

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

 


Monday, April 2, 2018

Second Amendment and its fraudulent hucksters

If the Anti-Saloon League could be consigned to ancient history, so can the National Rifle Association.

Remember the Anti-Saloon League? Of course you don't. It's a musty, dusty relic in history's cellar -- a cask of vinegar where once was a mighty potion.

Similarities? Oh, my.

Like the NRA, the self-righteous and ultra-powerful Anti-Saloon League was known by its acronym. Like the NRA, the ASL held enormous political sway. Like the NRA, it was run by a megalomaniac named Wayne.

The NRA's Wayne -- LaPierre – may have floated down to Earth on a golden staircase, but he's a piker compared to Anti-Saloon League director Wayne Wheeler. For a time Wheeler was the most powerful deal-maker in Washington on behalf of the most mighty interest group in history.

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It was so powerful it helped write a mistake into the U.S. Constitution.

How long has the NRA held policy-makers in the palm of its hand? Not nearly as long as the Anti-Saloon League did. Indeed, the ASL's grip was so ironclad that for 13 years – 1920-1933 – the 18th Amendment made Prohibition the law of the land.

Then the fever broke. And with it, reason and reasonable people defeated and defanged the ASL.

So, reasonable people: Be resolute in the face of the NRA's fire power. March, vote, show up at town halls. Force compromised lawmakers to defend the indefensible.

Firearms should be regulated. They are regulated, of course, but barely more so than pink hay-fever pills. Operating a firearm should entail more than operating the claw at your local arcade, but the NRA will fight that inconvenience to the death.

An arcade is the perfect analogy for the gun lobby, because gun rights are more about commerce than any freedom the founders imagined.

Commerce, as in: It's my right to buy any killing weapon I desire, and for merchants to make it easy for me. It is less about self-defense and personal freedom than it is about keeping up with the Joneses.

In expressing his admiration for the March for Our Lives, former Justice John Paul Stevens stirred mighty ripples by writing in the New York Times that the Second Amendment should be repealed.

It should, he writes, because its reference to a "well-regulated militia" is a relic of musket and fur-trapper days.

More so, Stevens writes that the Second should be repealed because the Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld laws that limit what kinds of weapons can be made available to civilians, the process for purchasing them, and the authority of communities to limit them.

He quotes former Chief Justice Warren Burger as saying the NRA had "perpetuated one of the greatest pieces of fraud . . . on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

The fraud is in the pitch that any effort that hampers the convenience of gun owners or limits one's choices at checkout is an assault on freedom.

The fact is that nothing has ever been proposed by any American governing body to "take away" lawful citizens' legal guns, and nothing of that sort will ever transpire. It's pure hysteria.

Stevens is right that the Second Amendment is antiquated and dangerous. However, it would be impossible to abolish – first legislatively and second in getting sufficient states to ratify.

What is more likely is that the majority of Americans who support gun sanity will vote out the officials who stand inert in the face of gun insanity.

Let that begin this November.

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