Monday, October 16, 2017

Bed sheet flapping from the Oval Office

While you're at it, Mr. President, burn the furniture.

You've shoved the sofa up against the door. You've cut the phone lines. You've hung a bed sheet out the window. You've stripped off that dress shirt, donning that red tie as a head band.

"Attica. Attica."

Donald Trump can't tell Congress what to do, doesn't trust anybody or anything. Doesn't trust the process. Doesn't trust Kelly or Tillerson.

But he has Twitter. He has the White House intercom. Now hear this: The inmate-in-chief has taken over the asylum.

Trump's announcement that he will cease subsidies built into the Affordable Care Act, and his decertifying the Iran nuclear agreement, show an individual who 10 months on has tired of deliberative governing. He will hold us all hostage as long as he can hold out.

Robert Mueller, you are now on the clock.

What Trump did last week in cutting the subsidies for the ACA will hurt millions of Americans? It will drive up insurance costs for many. It will cause more insurers to exit the health exchanges.

Trump said that we'd have a "great health care system" that "covers everyone" under his leadership.

This doesn't sound like that.

It sounds a little like someone prone to pick a fight with a streetlight.

If he wants a fight, a whole bunch of state attorneys general are game. Those states are going to fight tooth and nail to prevent Trump from doing this, and so are insurers, and so are medical professionals.

When Congress was considering this option, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that enough insurers would leave the market that about 5 percent of the nation would have no insurer from which to choose in the individual market.

This is outrageous, and seemingly illegal, since the ACA requires individuals to have coverage or pay a fine.

However, this is not just about the people who will be harmed.

This is about federal stewardship. The CBO says Trump's edict will drive up the deficit by $194 billion by the end of the decade, as the government will spend more on tax credits without the subsidies.

Speaking of stewardship, Trump's action on the Iran deal leaves in limbo something that many nations labored to bring about.

Trump and Republican opponents of the agreement say that it allows Iran to continue its nuclear program. That depends on what "nuclear program" means. Nuclear energy? There's a big difference between power plants and bombs.

As for nuclear weapons, the agreement forbids Iran from ever acquiring them, and subjects Iran to indefinite monitoring.

Did Iran benefit from the agreement? Of course it did, in the unfreezing of stranded assets and the lifting of crushing sanctions. Having international eyes fixed on its nuclear designs was absolutely worth it to Iran. The deal was a carefully negotiated give and take, so everyone got something in in the bargain.

Imagine if we had been able to get ahead of the curve relative to North Korea's nuclear program by lifting its pariah status a generation to avert the arms race that again threatens the planet. This is what President Obama and international allies accomplished with the Iran agreement.

Speaking of intercom hijinks: Just as Trump's second-grade taunts of Kim Jong-Un do not make this a safer planet (Right, Secretary Tillerson?), neither can his ditching of a painstakingly crafted agreement to halt Iran's nuclear program.

But a safer world, or a better health-care system, don't appear to be Trump's objectives. His main objective is to show that he's in charge and Obama.

While you're at it, Mr. President, burn every other presidential portrait, particularly of you-know-who.

"Unable or unwilling to completely erase his predecessor's signature initiatives," writes the Associated Press, Trump has "turned to another approach, wreaking havoc."

A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that 71 percent of Americans want Trump to improve the ACA, not disable it. But of course, Trump has cut the phone lines. How should he know?

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

The NRA's prostitution ring

The Denver Post's top headline after one of the gun lobby's very best customers killed 59 people from above read thusly: "NRA supports restriction."

Yes, the top story was what the NRA might do after all that killing.

It wasn't, "Congress admits cowardice in the face of carnage." It wasn't, "President lifts thumb to avert next slaughter."

It wasn't even, "Thoughts and prayers waft over Las Vegas."

It was, "What does the NRA think about this?"

Understand: The NRA's deigning to consider any restrictions at all on a hyper-killing device called a bump stock is headline news. It's: "China calls for safer toys." It's "Medellin Cartel urges: 'Just say no.'"

That "NRA supports (fill in the blank)" is Page 1 fodder may be the greatest indictment of our political system, next to Donald Trump's ascendancy.

The NRA is a group of hobbyists -- people with time and gun powder residue on their hands.

What a group of hobbyists says should be of no interest to anyone except to fellow hobbyists – say, if the next NRA convention opts for cold cuts over cutlets.

To make NRA an adviser for public policy on anything involving firearms is akin to the Fraternal Order of Vespa Riders dictating traffic policy.

What actual people think about gun policies – and solid majorities support stricter gun laws such as universal background checks – is immaterial.

The same applies, for instance, to environmental protection. But when the Trump administration wants advice on that matter, it turns to the special interests affected.

Recent news coverage has flagged Environmental Protection Administration director Scott Pruitt as one of the profligate offenders in the Trump administration's jetting around on taxpayers' dollars for spurious reasons.

What is more significant, though, is what the New York Times reports: that Pruitt's itinerary as EPA director reveals almost non-stop canoodling with corporations that have vested concerns in his decisions.

These include meeting with major campaign donors like coal mining behemoth Alliance Resource Partners, which is now thinking the $2 million it gave the Trump campaign was one heck of an investment.

Well, back to the NRA. Public disclosures reveal that it spent more on lobbying in the first two quarters of this year -- $3.2 million just through June -- than it did in all of last year.

You wonder where all those dollars went.

No mystery as to what those dollars have wrought. One of the first things Trump did as president was sign a Republican bill to roll back an Obama administration rule adding people deemed mentally incompetent to the national background check database.

Yes, this was Job 1 for a new president. Those gun hobbyists have clout.

Because the man who killed so many in Las Vegas passed a background check doesn't mean we should throw up our hands on the rightness of such checks for all gun purchases, including online purchases like the Aurora theater gunman used to amass his arsenal.

However, when President Obama sought to impose such a restriction after the massacre of innocents at Sandy Hook, the "thoughts and prayers" bravehearts in Congress shot it down.

No doubt the hobbyists' lobbyists helped steady the aim for the GOP.

This week conservative media are making a big production of the fact that some Democrats received campaign contributions from now-certifiably sleazy, if not criminal, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

This might concern us if Weinstein were, like Big Coal and the gun lobby, helping formulate public policy. He's not. It's hardly a concern at all.

We seem resolved to ignore what vested industries have done to steal our democracy.

In other news, the president of the Brazil Olympic Committee was arrested for buying votes to bring the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro.

It's a criminal offense to buy a sports spectacle. But you'll never see gun merchants or big polluters doing a perp walk for buying our government.

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

No wall, but Trump does have his foxhole

What a tremendous statue this will make:

Donald Trump aboard his golf cart, his polo shirt overstuffed, his ball cap pulled down to his brow, observing the world from his secure tee box.

An image for the ages, like Washington in the rowboat and MacArthur in the surf. Let us start carving the man for posterity.

He is a self-portrait in insularity: While Puerto Rico strangled on muck and cried out for clean water, Trump struck a pose behind a plastic windshield -- and picked maybe the most pointlessly venal fight imaginable.

You might say Carmin Yulin Cruz, mayor of San Juan, picked it. After all, she was in the midst of death and despair when she reacted to Trump's "really good news story" line about her Puerto Rico with, no, it's a "people are dying story."

Trump could have said, "Pardon me for being flippant. This is serious." Instead, he was flippant.

Trump's two-tweet response was that Cruz had "been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump . . . Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."

Yes, that's our president: not interested in serving the people of this nation – and that includes Puerto Ricans. He's solely about self-service. The viceroy has been offended.

The mark of a great leader is the ability to see beyond the fray and lead where necessity lies. Trump sees what's on his TV cluster and gets a cramp in his Twitter hand.

What a glorious battle he waged against silent football players who might take a knee, exhorting crowds to boo and owners to fire the SOBs. History will remember this.

He said he wasn't criticizing black players. Of course, he knows what the whole matter is about; it's about being black.

He's not black. Why should he care?

Now, if difficulties arise for rust-haired, overly tan bankruptcy masters, you've got a fight from the man.

The racial divisions that are carving up this nation are getting more acute by the day, and Trump is happy to oblige.

As with his interchange with Mayor Cruz, he's not going to back down. He's not going to concede.

Stop that "come together" nonsense, people. The Trump presidency is going to be about trench warfare.

The man has dug his foxhole and spends every day fortifying it, digging deeper. These will be four years of poison gas and hand grenades. Right, Steve Bannon?

Every day and in every way, Trump and the Republican Party are making it known that they are determined to hold and administer power without the help of black and brown people.

Over and over, the courts have admonished the GOP for redistricting and vote-suppression shenanigans aimed at marginalizing people of color. The Republicans couldn't care less. That's how they plan to hold and administer power.

The Electoral College gives inordinate power to white-flight districts and white-dominated states. We get it. We got it. We got President Trump from it.

Yes, a lot of Americans needed to be reminded that Puerto Rico was, is, one of us. Of course, if you consider "us" to be human beings, that applies everywhere, say where desperate people seek refugee status.

The Trumpite response to Black Lives Matter is, "All lives matter." You really couldn't tell that after nine months of this presidency.

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

A small man in a big office

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear" – George Orwell.

This strand of freedom means nothing at all to Donald Trump.

At every turn he shows no grasp, and certainly no reverence, for the fundamental liberty enshrined in our Constitution: to speak one's mind without retribution.

So of course, pandering as he did to a red-meat Alabama crowd, he said the other day that football players who take a knee during the national anthem show "total lack of respect for everything we stand for."

Sorry, Sir, but per this precious freedom, you are the one showing no respect.

Yes, we hear people – many in that Alabama crowd -- exalt "freedom," but they don't really mean it. They exalt the type of liberty awarded to the motorist with the most horse power, or the developer with the best attorneys.

They exalt the type of freedom that will keep outsiders from moving into their neighborhoods.

They exalt the type of freedom that entitles a civilian to sling an AK-47 over his shoulder, or that which comes with imposing the majority's religion on everyone.

In the most recent matter, the one that just roiled the NFL, Trump seeks to be a royal demagogue over a handful of athletes who peacefully have registered their dissatisfaction with our country by kneeling during the national anthem. They do not jump around and shout obscenities. They register their grievance in the most respectful way possible. In the case of Colin Kaepernick, it's been at great risk to his career.

Trump is more troubled by this – by a player silently taking a knee – than a white supremacist chanting, "Jews will not replace us."

For someone in the most powerful position in the United States to act this way shows someone sorely out of his shoe size.

On the campaign trail he said people who burn the American flag should be jailed and kicked out of the country. The U.S. Supreme Court, with Antonin Scalia writing the opinion, said that's what totalitarians do.

You will bow to the flag, or your head will be removed. You know, like ISIS does.

A flag is a symbol, like these letters. The government can't dictate symbolic speech. If it can tell people how to comport themselves around symbols on cloth, it can do the same with all other symbols, and all other symbolic speech.

It's interesting: Before making that grandstand appeal as presidential candidate, on David Letterman's late-night show, Trump agreed when Letterman voiced disdain for an effort to amend the Constitution to ban flag desecration. Though not supporting flag-burning, Letterman said our nation "is far greater than that symbol, and that symbol is standing for freedom of expression."

Said Trump, "Sure. You're 100 percent right."

Sadly, in office, not only has Trump done the dictator's dance regarding that symbolic expression, he's called to change the laws so elected officials can sue the news media. Except in special circumstances, that's something a unanimous Supreme Court prohibited in the landmark Times vs. Sullivan ruling in 1964.

Libel suits by elected officials would have a chilling effect on a free and probing press, said the court.  Ah, but Trump has called the press "the enemy."

This man who is so very big in the high-rise world truly is a flyweight when it comes to the weighty matters that distinguish this nation from others marked by totalitarians and the tantrums of power.

A bigger man, George Washington, said this of free speech: If it is taken away, "then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Downgrading Hurricane Steve

He started out as a radar image on the outer reaches of the American psyche, with little likelihood of harming anyone.

Winds shifted. He became a threat to the mainland. His image appeared on our TV screens. The breathless watch ensued.

Now the threat has passed. No longer a storm: Steve Bannon is not even a tropical depression.

Donald Trump doesn't think climate change exists, but for some reason he believes Steve Bannon is for real.

Yes. Trump shuns scientists while ascribing to comic-book advisors.

What is it about these guys? Bannon, Stephen Miller, Mick Mulvaney, Steve Mnuchin. They act like "Dick Tracy" villains, with Trump as Big Boy Caprice.

Or, they're Imperial Army generals of the Galactic Empire. Their chests are bruised from saluting the orange emperor.

EPA administrator Scott ("The Phantom Menace") Pruitt has become the Darth Maul of anything that might help the planet.

Jeff Sessions is pale, ashen (Attorney) General Tyranus, accustomed to the clench of the Emperor's thought waves around his throat.

Bannon is from another show, at least in his mind. He's a character on "Power Rangers" – no, not the White Ranger -- or the red, green, black, yellow or blue one. He's Zordon, the torso-less floating head that gives the Power Rangers their chalk talks.

Bannon's head used to float about in the Oval Office. Now, having been removed from his post as Donald Trump's special advisor, he floats back out of the outer rim of shamelessness to relish in the squeak of his captain's chair at Breitbart.

One can say many things about what's really bad during the Time of Trump. But the fact that millions had to endure Bannon's floating face in a segment of high-rated "60 Minutes" may say it all.

He told Charlie Rose that anyone who criticized Trump on the "Billy Bush Weekend" – when we all got to hear Trump jabber about assaulting women courtesy of "Access Hollywood" – was dead to the campaign. That's you, Chris Christie.

            He talked of going all alt-right to take out various Republican lawmakers in primary challenges, a strategy that would cost the GOP a whole bunch of campaign dollars. Bravo, say Democrats.

Regardless, reports Time magazine, "Now that Bannon has broken cover, he doesn't seem so menacing." And that applies to the movement he's come to embody, albeit in body-less form.

Let's put him aside, as one would a clown when more interesting acts present themselves.

In a recent somber essay in Time after the horrible events in Charlottesville, historian and author Jon Meacham ruminated on the awful similarities between Trumpism (and Bannonism) and the populist strains that made George Wallace a political force.

"Wallace brought something intriguing to the modern politics of hate in America: a visceral connection to the crowds, an appeal that confounded elites."

So, too, with Trump, writes Meacham, whose words in the paragraph, framed a black-and-white photo of former Klan leader David Duke, another pledged to salute the man.

Meacham, mere days after Charlottesville, didn't sound optimistic about what was to come.

The country, he writes, looks to its president "for a steadying hand in stormy times of unease and vitriol. At the moment we look in vain."

Ah, but the very next weekend a planned white nationalist rally in Seattle was absolutely swamped by forces of sanity, unity and kindness. The white supremacists were made so insignificant as to be invisible. I wonder what Steve Bannon thought of his movement that day.

It was the American people who, resoundingly, provided the "steadying hand" that the president didn't.

What did Steve Bannon think about that from his swivel chair?

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

 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

No special eyewear needed for this sight

Watching terrifying radar of what scientists predicted -- Irma's march up the Florida peninsula -- a thought occurred about a tranquil and serendipitous observation days earlier.

That brilliant day we knew exactly when the sun and moon would intersect – the solar eclipse. Yes, down to the second. Science gave us a drumroll. We trusted it.

I wondered why President Trump didn't stay inside and harrumph those eclipse predictions away. Why trust scientists?

What was Florida Gov. Rick Scott doing on eclipse day? What about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott? Along with majorities in both states' legislatures, neither chooses to believe what science says about the biggest story in the world.

From his Florida home, Rush Limbaugh called the projected lethality of Irma a "liberal hoax" – before hustling his bushy tail out of town ahead of it.

Though the media are hooked to "breaking" events, the biggest story is not that which hits when TV crews are on the scene in rain slickers.

It's what happens every day, gradually, almost invisibly, like species being rubbed out by development, like pine beetles gnawing away at forests.

Like sea levels rising.

Like tropical storms becoming much more potent, dumping rainfall amounts not seen before.

Like politicians and their enablers seeing evidence they choose not to acknowledge.

Sea levels were rising long before Irma put Florida in a headlock. Global sea levels measured by NOAA are at historic highs and rising at increasing rates. This is no surprise. Scientists said it would happen as global temperatures rose.

Scientists have theorized that as global temperatures rose, extreme storms would become more extreme.

In March, a team of international climate scientists confirmed this. The study looked at events like Texas' devastating 2011 drought, flooding in Pakistan in 2010, and the 2015 California wildfires. It tied them to how climate change causes the jet stream to stall and to prolong and intensify the worst climatological events.

These matters may help explain the prolonged horrors of Harvey and the fact that Irma was twice Hurricane Andrew's size. Even if they don't, we have enough evidence to be treating climate change as the most serious matter ever besetting the planet.

That's right. Ever.

We're talking about vanishing glaciers, the streams from which, like the Ganges in India and Bangladesh, have sustained whole regions.

We're talking about something as grave as the Great Barrier Reef destroyed by too-warm waters.

We're talking about those pine beetles – on whom the only check is the kind of prolonged, bitter Rocky Mountain freeze that climate change has consigned to another era.

Back to Florida: Gov. Scott warned Floridians to be ahead of the storm. But when it comes to getting ahead of the kinds of events that have placed Florida in such a precarious situation, he's not been interested. He's put a virtual gag order on discussing climate change, just as the Trump administration has done.

Ah, yes. In the wake of Harvey, Irma, Jose and Katia, with historic fires in the Northwest thrown in for good measure, Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, said now's not the time to discuss such matters. It's time to deal with the damage from all the natural havoc.

Actually, Mr. Pruitt, your job is protecting the environment. But since you've spent most of your life protecting industry at the expense of the environment, you've had lots of experience for what you are not doing now.

When is the time to discuss climate change? No time, according to you and your arrogant club of profit-seekers.

Yes, we knew exactly when the sun and moon would intersect. Down to the second. We knew exactly what was happening then.

About the climate, we know exactly what is happening now. And we don't need special glasses to see it.

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Meet human needs? Nah, let’s play tea party games

It took only a few days and 50 inches of rain.

President Trump, who was threatening to shut down the government just the other day, suddenly realizes that, maybe, government has some things to do other than deliver to him his shiny border-wall bauble.

Texas Sens. Ted Cruz, John Cornyn and other Texas anti-spending posers suddenly find meaning and merit in the words "emergency spending."

Emergency spending was an olive they couldn't swallow without extended tea party-style posturing after Superstorm Sandy decimated the Atlantic Northeast in 2012.

Now reality has hit them with a 1,000-year storm in the Lone Star State.

After Sandy, Cruz and Cornyn stalled and strutted over the money the Northeast needed.

Cruz said the Sandy aid package was "two-thirds pork."

The Fact Checker at the Washington Post, citing a Congressional Budget Office report that said that "virtually all" of the bill was directly related to storm damage, awarded Cruz "three Pinocchios" for his claim.

Cruz and Cornyn have mastered the art of "Grammstanding" attributed to former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm -- a constant and loud opponent of federal spending, but faster than a speeding bullet claiming credit for spending to come Texas' way. He was a force of nature, and hypocrisy.

Post-Sandy, Cruz and Co., including tea party stalwart, then-South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney -- now Trump's budget director -- said that the spending should be offset by budget cuts.

It's always amazing to see people like Mulvaney advocate monstrous increases in military spending without a wisp of the "budget austerity" the "conservatives" preach about everything else, particularly spending that helps low-income Americans.

Heaven forbid, for instance, that the government should help the working poor with preventive health care

Well, a lot of Texans are in desperate need. And many have nothing now and will get nothing, no matter what emanates from Washington.

As Washington Post columnist Dave Von Drehle wrote in Harvey's wake, "Paradoxical as it may seem, the less a person has the harder it is to replace it." Poorer people don't have the reserves and the insurance policies and the second homes or wealthy friends who can deliver them from that despair.

Oh, and while we're talking about human needs: In February, Trump tweeted, ""The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018."

It was idiotic then, and truly moronic now with the environmental disaster in the Houston area – floodwaters having inundated seven toxic waste sites. Yes, you might say it's, "All hands on deck," government-wise, making Trump's idea of government a disaster unto itself.

To score cheap points with people who don't see the big picture, he pretends that this weekend's blue-sky forecast and means perfect weather to come.

An example of this is the Trump administration's rollback of an Obama administration rule meant to make it easier for communities using federal emergency aid to rebuild based on future threats.

Governors had pointed out that current law requires rebuilding a site or structure as it was before, not reconfiguring it to adjust for such things as sea-level rise. In effect, under this requirement, structures inundated in Houston would be sitting ducks for the next major storm.

Smart. So smart.

Trump's 2018 budget, by the way, would sock FEMA by $667 million. After Harvey, he talks about needing an additional $8 billion for the Texas gulf coast. Which is it, Mr. President?

Trump and the tea party purists like Cruz said we didn't need all that government. A few days and 50 inches of rain later in Texas, they now say we do.

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

 

Monday, August 28, 2017

The unbridled ride of Donnie Rebel

The headline said, "Echoes of Vietnam in Trump's about-face on Afghanistan."

Said my wife, "He'd have to have a face for that to happen."

Yep.

Here was a guy who in 2013 tweeted that U.S. involvement there was "a complete waste." Now he says it's worth thousands more American troops.

He's just a bundle of convictions.

Speaking of convictions: With a hurricane on the march that would yield the rainstorm of 10 centuries and paralyze America's fourth-largest city and half of the Gulf Coast, Donald Trump figured it was that sweet spot in time to erase the federal rap facing fellow birther, and virtuoso race-profiler, Joe Arpaio.

Yep.

With Hurricane Harvey bearing down on Texas, Trump found time to tweet that, after he graced Texas with his photo-opulence, he would head to Missouri ("that I won by a lot in '16") to campaign against Democratic Sen. Clair McCaskill, 'cause she doesn't support "big tax cuts."

Yep.  Let's talk about waging war, dealing with a mega-disaster, and having less money to do both because tax cuts are tremendous, particularly for the tremendously wealthy.

So, be assured that Trump was laser-focused on the biggest cataclysm to hit America since, um, him.

Put away those clinical attempts to explain away his behavior based on psycho-derangement or ADHD. How irresponsible. In his case, we have the garden-variety blood disease HCCL – He Couldn't Care Less. We see this disorder in many 16-year-old males.

In a Huffington Post commentary, Marina Fang observed that in such cavalier acts of caprice in the face of Hurricane Harvey, like his actions in the wake of Charlottesville, Trump "has abandoned essential duties of this office, failing to provide basic measured responses to violence and natural disasters."

The baffling thing about HCCL: With the actual world in upheaval, a sufferer can be roused to give a damn about things that can be wholly insignificant, say, about Twizzlers, or about a misplaced fidget spinner.

In Trump's case, he planted his feet, and further damaged his presidency, to defend the racist statuary that several local communities decided is wholly unnecessary.

We can understand what this is all about. As Republican tickets have done almost without fail since desegregation, Trump-Pence swept the South. Let us say, he owes some voters for this.

Judging by historically obscene approval ratings, his advisors might suggest Trump is trying too hard.

I'm trying to picture Trump, as he contemplated his presidency, imagining himself taking time out from the rigors to explain that "some very fine people" unwittingly found themselves at a joint rally of Nazis and white supremacists.

This, however, is what happens with an acute case of HCCL.

Jimmy Kimmel, offering Trump voters a mulligan after a huge mistake, offered a solution: Since it's a steep climb to remove him from office, offer the man a figurehead role in which he could preen and tweet, and not affect policy at all.

Kimmel suggested that Trump be made king.

Kimmel is onto something, but making Trump king would mean he would reign (if ceremonially) over all of us.

The suggestion here is that with his devotion to the region and its historic cause, Trump be offered the presidency of the Confederacy.

Though we occasionally hear of threats by Texans to secede, or from Florida to slide off the Continental Shelf, we know nothing will ever come of it. The South is going nowhere. Trust us. So, let Trump, the Rebel, assume the shade of gray he fancies.

He's a Yankee from Queens, but call him Beauregard if it feels good. Call him Donnie Reb.

Like a fidget spinner, that would keep him occupied.

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Trump: a man with no soul (he pawned it)

Adventures in spinelessness:

The year Jesse Owens burned bright under Nazism's glare, a grave injustice was obscured beneath the Olympic flame.

Avery Brundage, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, held out two American Jewish sprinters from the 1936 Games so as not to anger Adolph Hitler should Jews mount the medal stand.

Why? Simple. Brundage had a financial stake in not offending. Brundage's construction company was bidding for German contracts.

The ranks of those who would grant dispensation for this coward's errand surely are microscopic. We do, however, know one man who would award Brundage a hearty thumbs up: Donald Trump.

If Robert Mueller is the gumshoe we assume him to be, we will come to know the extent to which Trump, the developer, has sold his soul to insidious outsiders.

"Follow the money" is no throw-away line when it leads, for instance, to Germany's Deutsche Bank, which over that last 20 years has loaned Trump $4 billion, necessitated largely because the Orange Scofflaw's credit had dried up on these shores.

As Vanity Fair reports, the bank has strong and seedy ties to Russia that the German government is investigating, and about which it can expect to hear from Mueller, if he hasn't called already.

Trump's simian "speak-see-hear no evil" posture on Russia's election meddling said everything. His refusal to release his taxes (being audited, he said this time last year) screams as much.

Someone has something on him.

But even Trump will acknowledge that not everything comes down to money. Often it comes down to power, and deals with any number of devils, like these:

Trump is owned by the "alt-right": That explains why he just couldn't denounce Nazi hoodlums, as his handlers wished that he would, and leave it at that.

Just as Breitbart knows that white supremacists have helped make it a player on the national scene, so, too, with Trump. Or what's a Steve Bannon for?

If the tea party is the life force of the Republican Party, the alt-right it the life force of Trumpism.

Note the absence of women at the torch-bearing marches and bullhorn symphonies of these dangerous dudes. It's Donald Trump's core support: angry white men.

Angry men like Jack Posobiec, a Trump supporter who the Washington Post theorized as being the brainchild behind a sign reading "Rape Melania" that was doctored into pictures of anti-Trump rallies. See how horrible Trump's opponents are? Ah, that fake news.

The alt-right goons are doing Trump's bidding the way goons do. Sweaty white supremacists have been foot soldiers in his quest for power. He owes them and now owns the problems they cause.

Trump is owned by the religious right: Isn't it amazing that leaders of the religious right are so silent about Trump's – well, everything? His racism. His sexism. His misogyny. His dogged dishonesty in business and in office.

Jerry Falwell Jr. was telling CNN over the weekend how this president is a man of deep beliefs. Yes, deep. So deep no one can find them.

Donald J. Trump is as alien to what Christ stood for as a brush salesman on the moon. But to the pious right he proved to be a useful ally in holding court in red-state culture wars, so he played its game. It was a Faustian twosome.

Trump held his nose and kissed preachers' rings. And the preachers held their noses as he did, glomming onto his disreputableness in their never-ending quest to order gestation by state mandate, to further stigmatize gays and lesbians, and to treat transgender individuals like mythical ogres.

So we know what motivates these neo-partisans (new term for these "evangelical leaders"). We still have no idea what Donald Trump stands for, none, except maybe what the Deutsche Bank ledger has to say.

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trump's foot was on that accelerator

Where was Sebastian Gorka to set us straight?

When a Nazi sympathizer ran down people protesting a "Unite the Right" rally in Virginia, why didn't the Trump administration have Gorka speak for it like he did when a bomb destroyed a mosque in Bloomington, Minn.?

At that time, Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, cautioned us about making assumptions. It might have been a "fake hate crime," one of a "series of hate crimes" that "turned out to actually have been propagated by the left."

You've heard of those fake hate crimes, no doubt. No?

That kind of explanation will be difficult to prosecute in Charlottesville. We know who the killer was.

Driver aside, however. We also know who stomped on the accelerator: President Trump.

He didn't drive the car. He just provided the fuel.

If you consider that an unconscionable claim, his handling of events in Charlottesville say everything.

It was an equal-opportunity abomination, he said, blaming "many sides" for what might emanate when young Nazis, Klan members and white supremacists gather to do – you know – what they do.

Then after two days and a penumbra of surrogates trying to explain away his feckless explanation, he said something that actually sounded condemnatory toward white supremacists and hard-right terrorists.

If he had condemnation in mind, he wasn't just two days late. Why didn't he say something the night before when torch-bearing white supremacists shattered the sanctum of the University of Virginia?

Let's face it. In condemning this flammable hatred, Trump is months in arrears.

Why didn't he send Gorka out to say the events in Charlottesville were concocted by the fake news media?

Then-candidate Trump, who is "very smart" – ask him -- acted dim when asked about being endorsed enthusiastically by former Klan Grand Hoo-Hah David Duke. Trump said he didn't know much about the man.

What's to know except the cone of the man's cap?

Saturday after the incident at Charlottesville, Duke sounded like he wanted Trump to send out the National Guard to protect his fellow salamanders from themselves.

"It was White Americans who put you in office," tweeted Duke to Trump in what sounded like an SOS to a blood brother.

I know that Trump apologists are going to say that "guilt by association" is an unfair slur. But, my goodness, it's not simply a matter of association when an avowed right supremacist like Steve Bannon is one of the president's most trusted advisers.

And then there's Gorka.

At Trump's inaugural ball, Gorka wore something that is stunningly symbolic of the team he was joining.

The Vitezi Rend cross signifies a group to which Gorka's father belonged and which was identified by the State Department as having collaborated with Nazis. Its members have denied or dismissed the dimensions of the Holocaust.

Fake news, you know.

This is the caliber of counsel our president has sought out. The other day when Trump made his reckless and rash statements about "fire and fury" aimed at North Korea, and when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to tamp down matters as a diplomat should, Gorka basically said Tillerson should clam and let the war mongers talk.

"The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical," said Gorka.

When Gorka had to explain himself, he blamed the "fake news industry" for putting Tillerson in a position to have to say something. Actually, we should assume Tillerson is in that position because he is secretary of state.

What a gallery of scoundrels our president has assembled, from Bannon, to Gorka, to Stephen Miller, who presumes now to speak for the Statue of Liberty about immigration. And don't forget the segregationist Trump appointed attorney general.

But when it comes to fanning the flames of race-based hatred, understand that Donald Trump can do it all by himself.

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

 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

When Trump says 'leaks,' you say 'truth'

Historians will note how Donald Trump used social media to say what he wanted -- unfiltered by media gatekeepers.

Let history note, however, that the tables have turned.

With so many insiders so willing to leak what they know, Americans are getting boatloads of damning information -- unfiltered by Trump.

Right now Trump wants us to be alarmed about leaks, as opposed to – you know, everything else about him. Here's another word for leaks: truth.

Truth about meeting with Russians peddling campaign dirt. Truth about Don Sr. covering up why Don Jr. did it.

Truth about how an oaf conducts business, like telling Russians in the Oval Office exactly why he fired James Comey – to stop an investigation.

And consider the oafishness displayed in leaked transcripts of two calls abroad.

First, and most embarrassing, was the Jan. 28 call where Trump berated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about a matter of which our president showed no grasp (a 2016 agreement to resettle some boat-arrival refugees, each to be vetted thoroughly by our government. Trump said they were in "prison." No -- a refugee camp).

Or consider the mortifying Jan. 27 call with the president of Mexico. Despite his bluster about it, he called the border wall "the least important thing we are talking about." Politically, though, "This might be the most important," and he wanted Mexico to pay for it.

When Mexico's Enrique Peña Nieto refused, Trump told him: "But you can't say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I can't live with that."

It turns out that Trump can't live with the press, period.

After all, the press is in the truth business, and Trump is in the Trump business.

In a gesture clearly meant to regain favor with his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that in addition to ramping up investigations to find leakers, the government might file charges against reporters who share leaked information.

Sessions framed this as a matter of national security. It sounded a lot like what the Nixon administration was saying when it sought to block publication of the Pentagon Papers, which showed the shady manipulation of truth in prosecuting the Vietnam War.

The Supreme Court sided with truth and the First Amendment in 1971 when it ruled the government could not stop publications from printing information it had obtained lawfully.

Before it's over, Trump will have left Nixon in the dust, both for overall corruption and for antipathy for truth.

Fortunately, with The New York Times and The Washington Post more leading the way, the press has behaved in spectacular fashion in nudging along investigations into collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice by Trump.

Trump so wishes he could clamp down on a free press (maybe have critics terminated?)  as happens in Putinland.

He's talked about changing libel laws to make it easier for public figures to sue. That would take a constitutional amendment to overrule court precedent, but Trump knows not of what he speaks.

He should be satisfied having his own Putin-style media arm, also known as Fox News.

Unfortunately for him, Fox is losing its mojo amid its own scandals, and MSNBC, with truth-seeking superstars Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, is on the rise.

Oh, and let's not forget Stephen Colbert, whose barbs about Trump are as hilarious as they are informative, and which have boosted him to the top of late-night ratings.

Once upon a time presidents stood for truth. Not this one. Truth is his mortal enemy.

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Now playing in Washington: ‘The Unconscionables’

           Where does one begin?

Maybe with a sneeringly political speech – that part of it which was remotely coherent -- to captive Boy Scouts.

(Donald Trump gauged crowd size as a personal tribute. No, Sir. Big numbers can be anticipated at a national jamboree.)

Maybe with a cross-eyed game of darts in the Senate hoping something – anything -- would stick that would give Mitch McConnell, Trump, and Mr. Wallpaper, Mike Pence, a "win" on health care.

(Satirist Andy Borowitz pictured Ted Cruz, in tears, pledging, "The dream of keeping poor people from seeing a doctor must never die.")

Maybe with a tweet banning able-bodied, patriotic, dedicated, transgendered volunteers from our military.

(Trump: ". . .after consultation with my generals." Pentagon: sound of crickets.)

Maybe an admonition to a captive audience of police to "rough up" suspects.

(Trump got applause from some cops in attendance. Then police organizations called the suggestion absurd. In no way will they do their business the Trump way.)

At any other time, any of these would have been the most unconscionable, most venal thing someone had done in years in Washington.

(Sure, it was only a week – Hell Week for The Donald, capped by what some commentators dubbed "Failure Friday.")

But, no, it wasn't the most unconscionable thing. Indeed, you most likely have not heard yet.

The most indefensible action of the week comes with two tea party bills to cripple the Congressional Budget Office by eliminating the CBO's Budget Analysis Division.

Hmmm. What might have motivated this? Might it have been the truth-telling by CBO analysts about how many people would lose health coverage under Republican maneuvers intended to do just that?

Yes, that is what motivates the matter: facts. Or at least educated projections that might give some policymakers pause.

Republicans have assailed the CBO for not saying what they want it to hear. They say, for instance, that CBO projections about coverage under the Affordable Care Act were overly rosy, and projections about the Republican plans would be overly glum.

This is fascinating. What did congressional Republicans want but to "get gummint out of health care" and thereby yank peoples' health coverage? Right, Ted? Right, Mitch?

Even if the result of the "mean, mean, mean" House bill (thanks for the kind depiction, President Trump) were, say, 18 million fewer with health care instead of the CBO's 24 million, so what?

So you'd have a disaster in terms of human needs being abandoned.

The effort to drop the CBO off a pier in concrete ankle weights is just the latest effort to "neutralize the messenger" to justify insanity and institutionalize ignorance.

It's happening with the gag imposed on scientists who tell us what the evidence says about climate change.

The same is happening with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Some conservatives (including Trump) want to defund it because it doesn't deliver to them what "Fox and Friends" might in NPR's "Morning Edition."

And, of course, the same is happening with the news media -- you know, the "enemy."

The fact is that the Washington media have done an astounding job of bringing to the public astounding evidence of goings-on involving Team Collusion and the Russians.

Death by a thousand leaks? The way Trump has besmirched his office, undermined the institutions and treated the people under his watch, the precipitation has just begun.

Yes, blame the media. Blame the messengers. Blame them for what you can see with your own eyes.

In broad terms, not at all limited to the Bamboozler in Chief, we are witnessing the most incompetent, vicious – and -- this is important -- ineffective brand of governing ever foisted upon this nation.

At the soonest opportunity, America must pull the plug on "The Unconscionables."

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