Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tuber with the evil eye

The first thing one sees when entering my local grocery store is the produce – fruits and vegetables of every kind.

Biomass for the masses -- these are not just things to be eaten. They are things to behold.

The leafy greens pose in the spritz. The peppers primp in green, crimson and gold. The tomatoes, the avocados, even the rutabagas, all shine under artisan lights.

Whoever designed my grocery store knew what he or she was doing with this, a literal feast for the eyes.

And then . . .

This week something blocks my path on the Road to Cornucopia.

That would be a bin of sweet potatoes.

Have you ever looked closely at a pile of sweet potatoes? More appropriately, have you ever felt sweet potatoes looking at you?

A sweet potato in a bin is pure confrontation. Either it points a ruddy finger at you in accusation, or it turns a bare rump at you.

Its eyes are angular and beady, right out of "Spy vs. Spy" comics.

Who would trust a sweet potato with a nation's holiday? Apparently many, despite my best efforts.

For many years, each Thanksgiving I have sought to inform readers that sweet potatoes shouldn't be treated as food. You can do all sorts of things with them, but you can't eat them.

I base this assertion on exhaustive research. I ate sweet potatoes once. Once.

Yes, that one time was 50-plus years ago. It feels like 50 minutes.

It's amazing how tastes can linger. I haven't had turnips since the Gerald Ford presidency. I still stumble over the thought.

Liver is very, very bad. Brussels sprouts taste like a mistake. But I didn't need to tell you that.

Apparently I need to tell many of you every year that you have seriously mischaracterized the sweet potato as edible.

This is not a matter of opinion. This is fact. My tongue affirms it.

What further affirms it is the attempts to mask the essence of sweet potato meat with a lot of unsuspecting marshmallows.

Every year I encounter scandalous efforts to foist sweet potatoes onto innocent palates. Recently Parade magazine feted the versatile cranberry, something I can salute. Then it rained on its parade with a recipe for "Cranberry, pecan and goat cheese sweet potato bites."

By the way, I ate goat cheese once. Once.

As said earlier, and as pointed out many times in my decades-long effort to inform: Sweet potatoes have many legitimate purposes – to be made into ethanol and plastic; to be made into ink, dyes and shoe polish, and so much more.

George Washington Carver demonstrated long ago that we need not eat sweet potatoes for them to be productive members of society.

So in that great man's honor this holiday season:

When sweet potatoes look your way, look away.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Your basic, average, ordinary, garden-variety cult

Clive Doyle, one of the very few Branch Davidians to escape the 1993 inferno that killed David Koresh and many of his followers, told CNN years later why he surrendered his young daughter to Koresh's appetites.

Doyle said he asked himself, "Is this God or is this horny old David?"

Then he consented.

"I couldn't argue, because he'd show you where it was in the Bible."

The comment comes to mind thinking about Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, of whom followers have said, "Horrifying evidence be damned; he's a man of God. We support him all the way."

Yes, just like your basic, average, ordinary, garden-variety cult.

We'll not compare Moore to Koresh point by point, atrocity by atrocity, except to say that Koresh made it with little girls. Moore aspired to.

Sexual depravity often fits into the cult leader profile, from Jim Jones to Warren Jeffs, and now to this guy. And, yes, like Mitch McConnell, I believe the women, and the Washington Post.

But, honestly, one needn't have a sex scandal involving this individual to make the case against Roy Moore. He has no business serving in higher office.

He was removed twice from the Alabama Supreme Court. The first time was for refusing to abide by a federal court order and the First Amendment in commissioning a Ten Commandments monument at the courthouse.

The second time was for refusing to abide by the law granting marriage equality to same-sex couples.

By review, in each of these instances, Moore deemed the law of the land not to be the U.S. Constitution. He deemed the law of the land to be Roy Moore.

That's not all.

Moore founded a tax-exempt non-profit called the Foundation for Moral Law, which was supposed to do charitable work. It's not clear what those charitable works were. What is clear: Moore made a bundle off it.

With his wife as its president, the foundation paid Moore $180,000 a year. From 2007 to 2012, he collected more than $1 million, "a number that far surpasses what the nonprofit declared in its public tax filings," reports the Post.

One of the contributors to the nonprofit (from which Moore profited so mightily) was a neo-Nazi organization founded by Willis Carto, a well-known Holocaust denier.

These things were known to the voting public before Moore's poll numbers crashed in the wake of the allegations by women who, as teens, said he either assaulted them or attempted to.

But Moore is popular with many in the so-called evangelical crowd for calling homosexuality an "act so heinous that it defies one's ability to describe it."

He also said, "There are some communities under Sharia law right now in our country" without being able to name any. (Of course, there aren't any.)

Basically, Moore is your average, ordinary, garden-variety demagogue who, until recently, could hide behind a shield of piety, like so many demagogues do.

Randall Balmer just calls Moore a con man. In a Washington Post commentary, the Dartmouth religion professor, who has had extensive dealings with the GOP Senate nominee, says Moore has made a career (and a legend?) out of "subterfuge and misrepresentation – as a constitutional authority, as a Baptist and as a spokesman for evangelical values."

Knowing what we know now, it doesn't take a religious scholar to detect the flim-flam in this man.

Watch his fans stick with him as they hope to stick it to gays, to Muslims and other brown-skinned people.

After all, they're sticking with the bankruptcy specialist in the White House despite all we know about him -- including his own self-proclaimed fleshy appetites. Cults are like that.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, November 13, 2017

To err always on the side of the maniac

We are told by the gun lobby's echo chamber (the Republican Party) that great numbers of armed civilians make this world a safer place. Tell that to police in Thornton, Colo.

They had responded to the scene of yet another mass shooting – three people dead in a Walmart check-out line. When it all came down, a few shoppers pulled their guns, though the shooter walked calmly out of the store and drove away.

Police said that the presence of people wielding firearms "absolutely" slowed their ascertaining, via surveillance video, who the assailant was. In fact, it took five hours.

Ah, but . . . Ack, ack.

Days later, President Trump got to parrot the NRA "good guy with a gun" line when a civilian wounded the Sutherland Springs, Texas, mass killer, who ultimately killed himself.

As much as one would applaud the "good guy," Trump's advice is irresponsible -- a trait that is frightfully par for his course.

We don't want civilians pursuing gunmen, no more so than we would want them poking around crime scenes. That's why we hire police.

What people – the vast majority of us – urge is that everything possible be done to keep firearms out of maniacs' hands. They also urge that the man on the street, whatever his state of sanity, not have the killing capacity of, say, your average Marine storming a bunker.

Meanwhile, the Siamese Trigger Twins – the NRA and GOP -- do everything possible to prevent any sane response to gun carnage.

They are absolutely content to let sick people kill in bunches. Their approach to guns is consumerist alone. It's all about convenience for customers. They tell the targets to "get small," while ducking and dodging, and sending "thoughts and prayers" via Twitter.

They are the ones who have gotten small.

This is a recording: "Now is not the time to talk gun issues when so many have just died." So thoughtful. So reverent. Such a dodge.

The military didn't do its job of alerting the FBI about Devin Kelley's domestic violence. But the FBI is in no position to do its job regardless. Reports since the Sutherland Springs massacre indicate how the background check process is so hopelessly underfunded and understaffed. It's a joke, and it's exactly what we get when the NRA serves as our shadow government.

Understand, if a licensed gun dealer had denied Kelley his firearms, he would have purchased the same online or from a garage dealer or a gun show, and the gun-lobby puppets on Capitol Hill wouldn't do a thing about it.

Notice how little has transpired since even the NRA and its lawmaking marionettes called for a ban of the bump stocks that made it so effortless for a shooter to mow down waves of victims in Las Vegas.

Notice that one of the first pieces of legislation signed by President Bump Stock was one that made it easier for people with severe mental illness to buy guns.

Notice also that the NRA is pushing legislation to ease restrictions on gun silencers and the purchase of armor-piercing bullets, all necessary to defend the home and to plunk cans and sage grouse.

 We can see now why the man who shot up the church in Texas had a massive military-style arsenal and magazines capable of holding more than 400 rounds of ammo.

The NRA expects results, because in Congress' customer-friendly approach to instruments of death, the maniac is always right.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, November 6, 2017

Shameless merchants of debt

Boasting of his supposed business wizardry, in 2016 Donald Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "I'm the king of debt. I love debt." He didn't mention also being a connoisseur of bankruptcy.

Ah, debt, sweet as wine. Love it, don't you?

You may not, in fact. However the affaire d'amour pulses and throbs this week in our Republican-controlled Congress.

If Congress follows through on Trump's urgings -- and the House seems quite inclined, the Republican tax plan would saddle the nation with $2.5 trillion in new debt over the next decade.

Hey, tea party people. You kept telling us additional debt was a bad thing.

Wasn't it the original sin to borrow, under Barack Obama, to rescue the nation from the worst economic moment since the Depression? Yes it was. I heard you say so.

Now? It would appear you love debt. You want it in gobs, especially that debt means tax breaks for people who don't need them.

Actually, this is not new, and not a news. It's not even a change of heart.

Ronald Reagan's budgets employed a "magic asterisk" that basically meant he – and we -- would look the other way when things didn't add up.

Dick Cheney famously said, "Deficits don't matter." He and George W. Bush turned a deaf ear to John McCain's denunciations of funding two wars at once off the books.

When Reagan used his immense popularity to restructure the tax system, closing loopholes and reducing tax brackets, he could have insisted on harvesting some revenue to help curb the red ink that had been accumulating under his leadership.

Instead, the tax plan he signed was revenue-neutral.

The Republicans at the time showed they were more interested in trickle-down schemes than in paying for the government they had bought. That included the largest peacetime military buildup in the history of the world.

Now, "revenue neutral" seems the height of responsibility. What Trump and the House Republicans are doing is constructing a fiscal hole that will require future generations to account for the largesse of the moment.

Yes, the taxpayers of tomorrow would have to find revenue that this tax plan shut off by way of corporate tax cuts to enrich CEOs and stockholders.

They would have to find revenue lost when this tax plan abolished the alternative minimum tax (AMT) to benefit people like Trump. Oh, yes; the only tax return we've seen from Trump, from 2005, showed him paying $31 million via the AMT.

Ah, but he assured us that the tax changes he's promoting wouldn't help himself. The only way to know this would be to see his tax returns and if he's been paying any tax at all those years since.

As it is, we can trust one thing only – that this is one more lie in a sandstorm of them.

The House tax bill stands to enrich the rich further, and for what? I'll tell you what: to aid designs to strangle the federal government by artificial means.

Sen. Chuck Schumer has it right when he says that the ultimate objective of these tax plans is to make it harder to justify spending for things we need – infrastructure, health care, aid to the poorest of the poor.

The thing about those magic asterisks of the Reagan years: The bad math was wholly intentional. The deficits were the design. That red ink made it easier for so-called fiscal conservatives to say we couldn't afford so much government.

For this Congress, that red ink would be sign that they could pass one, just one, policy. Something they have not done in the 10 months that Republicans have controlled the House, the Senate and the White House.

If this monstrosity passes, Trump who got where he is via the "debt and dodge" approach to business, would be there with pen in hand. To sign in red?

Yes, let's run the United States just like he would – into bankruptcy.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: