Sunday, October 7, 2018

Blizzard warning for an unfit president

            In Colorado, where polls show Democrat Jared Polis leading the governor's race, Republican Walker Stapleton has all sorts of names for him: socialist, radical, dangerous. Polis's ads, by contrast, have just this for his rival: "Trump's yes man."

            That should do.

            Indeed, such word association is working across the country in state and national races. The atrociousness of the Great Orange Obfuscator is why so many Republican office-holders are feeling blue.

            A Quinnipiac Poll Sept. 10 found 55 percent of respondents do not consider Donald Trump fit to serve in his office. Let that sink in for a moment. It's not just that Trump is just not their cup of tea. It's that what's in the cup is anti-freeze.

            Trump over and over proved those respondents right. Most recently it was at a rally when he made sexual assault a comedy bit, with a crowd of assembled embarrassments chanting, "Lock her up" of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

            Performances like that are what inspire 42 percent in the same poll to say Trump is mentally unstable. Imagine that: not just unfit, but, in his own fine phrasing, "loco."

            Sure, Trump can gather a collection of soulless cut-outs to affirm his brand of debasement (see: Senate Republicans) but a large sector of this country is simply disgusted with him.

            Which brings us to the weather report.

            Hold on to your hair, Mr. President. Thanks to you, the House looks to become Democratic-controlled in the fall.

            A Democratic-controlled House means a blizzard -- of subpoenas – questions about everything you've done and everything you are.

            Should the Ds take over (fivethirtyeight.com makes the odds three out of four), the House at last will begin serving the investigatory function that this House has abdicated.

            First, Trump's taxes: The New York Times has just reported how his road to riches was contingent on sham corporations and tax dodges.

            Don't say you're surprised, Trump supporter. Admit it: He's crooked, but he's your kind of crook.

            Pursuant to the report, Sen. Orrin Hatch, of all people, said Trump "may have to give up his taxes."

            Let's acknowledge: It's no more likely that congressional Republicans will follow up on that notion as Kellyanne Conway will say, "Every quiver of my boss's lips is a lie."

            A Democrat-controlled House would demand Trump's tax records. Of course, after the Times expose', they'll have to get in line behind New York tax examiners.

            A Democrat-controlled House would get serious about investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election. Presumably with the help of Trump's tax records, it might find out about the role of Russian money in keeping Trump's business empire aloft.

            The most interesting claim made in Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury" was that made by Steve Bannon:

            "This is all about money laundering," said Bannon. He said the path to getting Trump "goes right though Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. It's as plain as the hair on your face."

            Since then, Manafort has been convicted of money laundering.

            Notwithstanding what Robert Mueller alleges and what the truth may be, what's obvious is that a Republican-controlled House will ignore any and all claims.

            We haven't mentioned impeachment yet, a process that begins in the House. Only with a Democratic takeover of the Senate would impeachment have any traction.

            With Democrats having to defend the lion's share of the seats up for election this year, many in red states, the odds against their success are long.

            However, with states like Texas, Tennessee and Arizona suddenly in play, Democratic control of both chambers – and an impeachment trial -- is not out of the question at all.

            Back in Colorado, one of the bigger political stories is that Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, who has won five terms against strong challengers, is on the ropes against a relative unknown, Jason Crow.

            How is Crow doing it? By showing clips of Coffman stating that he'll "stand up to Trump," and then showing that Coffman has voted 96 percent of the time with a president seen by a solid majority of Americans as unfit for the office he holds.

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

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The toxic public unraveling of a would-be justice

            I used to think that the way Texas seated judges was the worst.

            Last week, watching the steam pour from Brett Kavanaugh ears, I changed my mind.

            Our nation's founders had what appeared to be a great idea – lifetime, presumably nonpartisan, appointments based on Senate confirmation. That concept has become irredeemably poisoned.

            Should Kavanaugh ascend to the Supreme Court, he forever will be the embodiment of that toxicity, and it will have nothing to do with alleged sexual offenses.

            I used to consider Texas' direct election of judges to be the worst possible method of populating the bench. I wrote it, oh, 100 times. The system made judicial positions too political, too dependent on campaign cash and raw voter ignorance. At its worst, it made judges pander to the masses.

            That was bad. But to then hear Kavanaugh call the questions he now faces part of a "calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger" and "revenge on behalf of the Clintons," and to see the Republican-controlled committee advance his nomination to the floor, I decided, "No, this is far worse."

            Kavanaugh's partisan rant should disqualify him from the lifetime post he seeks. That post requires independence and dispassion about the parties that might appear before the court. He just showed his hand. He sprang a sprocket before our eyes. Like the president who appointed him, Kavanaugh is unfit.

            Kavanaugh is entitled to think what he thinks, just not to think it on the Supreme Court. .

            As for Kavanaugh's "partisan hit" claim, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford not only was highly credible in describing the assault she suffered. She also should have convinced anyone with ears that her coming forward was no favor to any political party.

            So far, Kavanaugh has done a serviceable job of keeping his story straight. His defenders? Not at all. They can't decide whether to vouch for his virginal nature or whether this is much ado about youthful hi jinks – "the politicization of one's adolescence," as one conservative commentator lamented.

            Republican Senate nominee Kevin Cramer of North Dakota dismissed the charges as trivial – just two drunk teens, and, "It didn't go anywhere."

            Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King offered the every-able-bodied-male-does-that defense: that if Kavanaugh gets rejected over these concerns, "No man will ever qualify for the Supreme Court again."

            Hey, guys: "Everybody does it" — even as weak and poisonously cynical as it is --doesn't happen to be Kavanaugh's defense. It's, "I didn't do it." Curiously, he hasn't sold that line to a polygraph like Dr. Ford has.

            Now, were Kavanaugh confirmed, what potentially looms with allegations by multiple women against him is a perjury rap.

            Back to the toxicity of this process, particularly under a toxic president. When President Obama nominated the plain vanilla eminence of Judge Merrick Garland, Obama didn't preen around saying he would deliver meat to his snarling base with his choice.

            With Kavanaugh, Trump delivered the venison.

            The fact that the GOP classified material about the judge's political positions on matters that would appear before the court bespoke the tenor of this appointment.

            Kavanaugh said Senate Democrats were trying to "Bork" him. He sees this episode from Bork's point of view instead of that of a Senate that questioned extreme writings about civil rights including the 14th Amendment and the right of privacy. Bork was rejected because of a hard-right judicial philosophy the Senate deemed out of the mainstream. Judicial philosophy is not what has delivered Kavanaugh to an FBI probe of alleged sexual assaults.

            The Constitution Center says "The verb 'bork' is used as slang, to 'defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way.'

            After Kavanaugh's appearance on national television Thursday, it appears he has Borked himself.

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Death toll with a capital 'T'

           The killers were silent, but the sensors at my feet were screaming out their names.

            I was in a plane flying over the Houston Ship Channel to see air pollution.

            A Baylor University scientist had invited me. The cramped single-engine had barely room for me and the sensors coughing out data on the nitrogen dioxide, particulates and hydrocarbons being cooked into ozone by the autumn swelter.

            On the ground below, someone was having an asthma attack.

            No biggie – unless that person died. And if so, it's the price of commerce. Right, Mr. President?

            Asthma is one of the facts of life in Houston. Google "Houston asthma" and understand.

            Often those life-or-death health crises are from a snoot-full of benzene, a prime byproduct of petrochemicals.

            However, when it gets up above in the milky blue sky over the Gulf, it's just so much profit.

            That's how the Trump administration is looking at air pollution – profit on high not to be impeded by any consideration of breathers below.

            The administration's own Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that lifting restrictions built into the Clean Air Act will kill hundreds of Americans.

            Republicans' apparent answer: "So what?"

            The restrictions in question are about coal-fired power plants.

            Coal: The market is turning away from it. Technology is finding ways around it, and yet a nation's air policies are held hostage to election-year posturing about it that helped Trump gain a few electoral votes.

            Trump calls it "beautiful, clean coal." There's nothing clean about it. What's known as clean-coal technology is oxymoronic, at least compared to alternatives.

            What coal-fired plants were required to do under President Obama's provisions of the Clean Air Act was to burn it as cleanly as is technologically possible.

            What the Trump plan does is remove requirements under which aging coal plants were going to have to do that.

            At least one-third of the coal-fired power plants in the country are not subject to advanced pollution controls, according to the EPA. They would be off the hook to get clean under this order.

            Now, a memo to Team Trump: Who allowed some numbers-cruncher at the EPA to tell the American people that this change could cause as many as 1,400 Americans to die by 2030?

            Couldn't these figures, and the numbers-cruncher himself, be deep-sixed somewhere? Maybe where they keep the figures on Trump's Russian money-laundering?

            Yes, many would die, says the EPA. Ah, the collateral damage of rewarding coal-mining states for their patronage.

            The fact is, at every turn, Trump is willing to let Americans die in the face of his deregulatory fury.

            Fifteen states are suing to block the administration's proposal to lift Obama administration restrictions on heavily polluting trucks, which calculated that its measure would save 1,600 lives a year from respiratory distress.

            You may not trust those figures or those people from whom it came. The question, then: What is your threshold for being concerned? Five lives? Two hundred?

            Back to the airplane that carried me over the Houston ship channel that day. We were aloft to gauge how far pollution traveled from the many plants in that petrochemical hive.

            Pollution from that locale travels whole time zones, sharing asthma-causing chemicals and particulates far and wide.

            This brings us to more ridiculousness from Trump. Last month the administration revealed a proposal that would allow states to set their own standards for pollution from coal-fired plants, as if air can be divvied up like a nice little subdivision.

            But it can't. The air, clean or dirty, envelops all, belongs to all. Use your voice, while you can.

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