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.

https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

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.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Parkland teens: March now; vote later

What level of gall ranks lower than "unconscionable"?

Whatever that is, it's how they measure the doorways at Fox News headquarters.

Before the March for Our Lives, Fox interviewed the amazing student survivors/organizers from Parkland, Fla. Then, seriousness aside, Fox turned the mike over to the original killer clown, Rush Limbaugh, to tear at their intentions, just as NRA monkey men and other Fox News talking heads have done since these amazing individuals started speaking out.

Hearing Limbaugh after such heroic young people, said one Twitter post, was like "chasing a glass of fine scotch with hippo urine."

Fox's Tucker Carlson said that big-money leftists like Michael Bloomberg were the real organizers behind the march and were "hiding behind the victims."

(Oh, and what kind of play did Fox News give to the March for Our Lives? I didn't see what it broadcast, but the night of the march, Foxnews.com barely acknowledged it, except under "Entertainment" -- the fact that Paul McCartney participated.)

In the face of the most compelling show of emotion and outrage in decades, the folks who cower in Thoughts and Prayers Corner won't acknowledge that they are on the wrong side of history, and far under water per public opinion on what to do about gun violence.

The heroic teens of Parkland have triggered an outburst the National Rifle Association can't quell. The only option now is to assassinate their characters.

Recall how the scions of the South sought to demonize Martin Luther King and his followers as Communists and branded voting rights efforts as the work of "outside agitators." That's how evil generally works. Discredit the victims.

So, how can we discredit one of the most amazing and dramatic events of our time – children exiting the bloody halls of their high school and heading straight to the halls of power? Here are some of the ways:

First, say the young people are manipulated.

Nice try. This is their handiwork, including a dictum that no adult should get the microphone at the March 24 event in Washington.

Second, say they are misinformed.

Ah, but they have shown an amazing command of the facts, in part, reports the Miami Herald, because of an ambitious debate program in the Broward County School District under which students are speaking extemporaneously at early ages.

Third, say their mission is futile.

This sounded plausible until the Parkland students and others who traveled to the Florida Capitol got a Republican-controlled legislature and a Republican government to pass a modest package of laws that had the NRA howling like a hound dog in a lye bath.

So, now, what? NRA pawns control Congress, a certain road block to anything that might change the equation that makes it harder to purchase Sudafed than a firearm In other words, nice try, heroic youngsters.

Ah, but simply attempting to get these scoundrels to see the light is not the impossible mission they've set for themselves.

No. Registering young people to vote in the midterm elections is that mission. That's not so impossible.

The Parkland kids' goal is for four out of five young people to vote in November's election.

They have been joined by HeadCount.org, which stirs together the synergies of democracy and pop music in hopes of making this happen.

When bullets flew at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, they were told to duck and hide. When they exited, they were told to duck and hide. They are through ducking. They are through hiding. They are now far more interested in marching, and in voting.

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

 


Monday, March 19, 2018

This week on '(U.S.) House Makeover'

The Republican Party just spent $10 million on one congressional election in Pennsylvania and reaped nothing but agony. Calculators out: What it spent amounted to $100 per vote cast for the loser (Donald Trump).

For the GOP in this election year, the agony has just begun.

You might claim that the loser in Pennsylvania Congressional District 18 was Rick Saccone, who lost to Democrat Conor Lamb. That's true only technically.

Two-Ton Trump was the Biggest Loser in a district he won by 20 points in 2016 and in a race he cast as being all about him, as is everything else.

Not only did he campaign in the district with a rally in which he hardly mentioned Saccone. Mike Pence campaigned there, too. So did Donald Jr.

Not only did the president he stake his reputation to a Saccone victory, he also bet the nation's economy.

Observers were at a loss as to why Trump suddenly announced steel and aluminum tariffs, though GOP free-traders recoiled and Trump chief economic adviser Gary Cohn resigned.

How to explain? Simple. Trump's presidency is on the line, and this big test was in steel country.

And so the makeover of the U.S. House begins. The makeover of the Senate has already commenced with Democrats claiming the vacant seat in Alabama.

The Democrats have been on a winning streak – Virginia, New Jersey, Washington state, Alabama, Pennsylvania -- and they have this joke of a president to thank.

If "joke" sounds disrespectful, know that the matter goes both ways. When someone disrespects his office like Trump has, "joke" is being too kind.

Consider what Trump did the other day when, as he told a private audience, he admitted he didn't know what he was talking about when he chastised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the trade deficit he said Canada inflicts on us.

Actually, the United States has a trade surplus with Canada. Supposedly Trump, novice on every other thing, was supposedly Mr. Experience on trade.

This is the 21st century mark of being "so smart." Trump thinks he can say anything he wants and his followers will follow.

Then again, what happened to that overwhelming support Trump enjoyed in Pennsylvania?

The Trump voters who've turned on him thought they'd found the answer for what ails us in him. It turned out it was just a crank call.

Before last week, Democrats needed to win back 24 seats to take control of the House. Make that 23.

A raft of Republican retirements in the House, and with the tenuous fates of Republicans in districts that went to Hillary Clinton, make that a very attainable goal.

This is a pretty big deal regarding the future of this president. Aside from the spending bills and other legislation that emanate in the House, impeachment does as well.

The firing of FBI second-in-command Andrew McCabe, and Trump's sophomoric end-zone dance about it, is one wrinkle in the obstruction-a-thon that continues over collusion with Russia.

Speaking of the House: The House Intelligence Committee last week announced that, as the president says, there's "no collusion." The subpoenaing of business records from the Trump Organization pertaining to business deals in Russia indicates Robert Mueller is at least one person withholding judgment on that claim.

Team Trump has said repeatedly that Mueller's probe has reached an end. At this rate, Democrats could control the House before Mueller shuts down his operations.

Back to that Pennsylvania House race. The seat was vacated when the incumbent Republican, religious-right champion Rep. Tim Murphy, resigned after admitting to having an affair. What's worse, Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, was alleged to have suggested that his paramour have an abortion.

Such upstanding men, this breed of leaders. Let's ask Stormy Daniels what she thinks of that.

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


Monday, March 12, 2018

At Pruitt’s EPA, changing ‘P’ to ‘D’

The Trump administration has inspired some amazing magazine covers, like Time's depicting the tweeter-in-chief poking in his palm as he leans like a giant vagrant against a cratering Washington Monument. Brutal.

However, that's tame compared to Newsweek Feb. 16.

Under "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" in 50-point type, wounded and dying Disney-esque creatures flee and fall before Trump's man at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Headline: "Scott Pruitt is having a wonderful time destroying the EPA."

Yes, the man assigned to head the nation's environmental watchdog has left that dog chained out in the elements and is feeding it a steady diet of mercury and trichloroethylene.

Meanwhile, he uses his status to run for higher office, waste tax dollars on personal missives, and profit at the good graces of polluters.

Pruitt's tenure "is the regulatory equivalent of the German blitzkreig across Poland," writes Newsweek's Alexander Nazaryan.

The former Oklahoma attorney general, who spent the lion's share of his time there flinging junk suits at the EPA, now seeks to destroy it from within.

It won't work, writes Nazaryan, because environmental law isn't something one ideologue can toss out like an empty Skoal tin.

That doesn't mean Pruitt hasn't and won't inflict lasting damage. One horrific wound has been the departure of more than 700 EPA staffers, many of them scientists, who quit.

In their place, to the extent that Pruitt sees fit to fill any of the vacancies, are recruits direct from industry: polluters and profiteers and climate deniers.

"It's hard to think of another instance in America public life in which the interests of corporations were placed so far above the interests of the American people," writes Nazaryan.

Pruitt says his motivation is job creation. He boasts, for instance, that the first year of Trump policies created 50,000 jobs in the coal industry. Not quite, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Try 2,000.

Pruitt's assault on a host of regulations, dating back to the Obama administration and beyond, are offered as means of freeing up employers to hire more people.

The Environmental Integrity Project has analyzed the linkage between EPA regulations and job loss. It has found that only 0.2 percent of mass layoffs – 50 workers or more – are related to government intervention or regulations. By contrast, for every job lost due to regulations, 15 are lost due to cost-cutting reorganization.

What this means is whatever harm Trump and Pruitt manage to do to the Earth will be inflicted principally to soothe CEOs and stockholders fixated on their profit margins.

Recently Pruitt held a presumably public meeting in North Dakota to get feedback on his plan to revamp provisions of the Clean Water Act. When average citizens showed up at the meeting, however, they found out they were not invited.

This, reports Tribune-Media Services, is the way Pruitt works. When he seeks input, his audience is hand-picked and "industry-friendly," like representatives of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Meanwhile, representatives of the Navajo Nation have complained that their concerns about clean-water rules have been ignored.

This is what Pruitt does, merrily, merrily.

If he were honest, a virtue yet to visit the Trump administration, Pruitt would go ahead and change the name of his agency to EDA – Environmental Degradation Agency.

His first item of business as Oklahoma attorney general was to halt a lawsuit filed by his predecessor against chicken farmers alleged to have polluted the Illinois River. Oh, and he did so after receiving $40,000 from those farmers.

And so it goes. Pruitt has upped his game doing the bidding of the Koch brothers and Dow Chemical as he eyes a U.S. Senate run or, hey, maybe the presidency someday.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. They'd be delighted to have no EPA.

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


Monday, March 5, 2018

Porn star's payoff and other Trump debts

Do you care about Donald Trump and the porn star? You are entitled not to, and not to care as well about the Playmate who said he, um, engaged her and then offered to pay.

In both instances, said activities would have occurred two years into his marriage to Melania. Busy man.

USA Today recently asked: Should we care? Do we have to? As everyone knows, infidelity has been a part of many presidential narratives.

However, something is different about the porn star matter. Not surprisingly, it involves money.

What you may know about is that Trump's attorney paid $130,000 for the silence of the stage-named Stormy Daniels, enthraller of small audiences in such big hits as "The Witches of Breastwick" and "Dripping Wet Sex 4."

What you may not know is what the Washington Post now reports: When Trump dallied on the agreed-upon hush fund, she threatened to go public before the 2016 election.

So Trump attorney Michael Cohen did what one would for any exceedingly slimy client. He created a limited-liability company that served as a vehicle for the payoff.

Now, once again, you are entitled to not care. Except for that money thing, because it may have broken the law.

Public interest group Common Cause has filed inquiries with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department to investigate whether the money in question came from Trump or from his campaign stash. The latter would violate federal finance law.

Carnal deeds aside, this should add to a thousand points of fascination about Trump and his money.

It would appear that all the pennies he has he owes back to someone.

Last year's Pulitzer Prize in public affairs reporting went to David Farenthold of the Washington Post for revealing the extent to which Trump's charitable foundation – ultimately shut down by the New York attorney general -- was a joke and a fraud.

Among other things, its funds had gone to a Republican candidate (illegal) and to trinkets like a portrait of the Orange Stallion himself. Charity? Not nearly as much as Trump claimed.

Truly, however, this is micro potatoes compared to what Robert Mueller is investigating: How Trump used others' money, particularly that of overseas lenders.

As Mueller presses allegations of money-laundering against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, recall that Steve Bannon told author Michael Wolff, "This is all about money laundering. (Mueller's) path to Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner."

Mueller has subpoenaed records from Germany's Deutsche Bank, which "was the only major commercial bank willing to lend to Trump after his string of bankruptcies," reports NPR.

Trump has denied having business deals inside Russia, but NPR reports that money from the former Soviet Union has helped finance projects for him in New York and Canada.

What we have is a supposed business wizard who, because of how often he leaned on the "bankruptcy" button, has had to turn to overseas sources of support.

There's extreme symmetry to Trump's reliance on other's money – aka debt. For that is how he proposes to finance the tax cuts he has touted as president.

Whereas analyses pointed to $1.5 trillion in additional debt, an analysis by Politico points to $2.3 trillion over 10 years.

Trump seeks to profit in office exactly the way he did as a businessman and builder, coasting on someone else's dime.

The other day I encountered someone who said he voted for Trump and gave but one simple rationale:

"He paid for his own campaign."

This is news to most who paid any attention to anything at all about Trump, particularly to the $30 million he received from the National Rifle Association and $15 million from the Big Daddy of big data, Robert Mercer.

Paid for his own campaign? The man can't even keep his porn stars mum.

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


Monday, February 26, 2018

Evangelicals' dance with the devil

Billy Graham is dead, and Christianity isn't feeling too good itself.

So charismatic, so compelling, no American rang up more ratings points for his faith than "America's pastor," but that was yesterday.

Now? Church attendance steadily declines. Meanwhile, the numbers of those who declare themselves spiritual but not religious grow.

Surely the reasons for this are many, but one is clear:

Many who advertise themselves as Christian have been digging a hole for their brand for years. They have sapped Christianity of its essence, which is love, and replaced it with two higher virtues: possession and possessions.

They took the "gold" from the "golden rule" and sent it offshore for tax purposes. They divined God's plan to be that they – white heterosexuals -- shall rule.

They set aside "hope" and "charity" in favor of "hate" and "blame" -- the first for Muslims and gay people, and the second for desperate Mexicans who come without papers to clean their toilets and pick their fruit.

Prince of Peace? This variant of faith is as militant as imaginable -- each war a holy war, and one's shiny firearm as much an accoutrement as the cross.

However, the most damning thing about so many self-proclaimed evangelicals and their leaders is the horse on which they have bet their previous winnings: Donald Trump.

True, Billy Graham helped politicize faith by being too cozy with politicians like Joseph McCarthy. He famously said Richard Nixon's "moral and ethical principles wouldn't allow him to do anything illegal."

However, at least Graham modeled inclusivity and straddled the divide, befriending and counseling presidents of either stripe.

Not so with the man who inherits Graham's empire, the hyper-partisan Franklin Graham.

He's defamed the multitudes by calling Islam "a very wicked religion . . . a religion of war."

He can't speak of homosexuals and transgender individuals without assigning to their desires the "LBGT agenda," whatever that is.

You may buy into Franklin Graham's spiel, but ask the young people you know and understand why so many young people want nothing to do with Graham's church, or the church itself.

That's tragic, because the church that actually models the love of Christ is something needed in a world torn by divisiveness and conflict. I was raised in a loving Methodist congregation. I know what good the church can do. This is not that.

Now we have a moral charlatan as president, less Christlike than anyone imaginable, and evangelical leaders line up to kiss his ring.

Sexual predator or not, serial adulterer or not, Trump is their guy -- he who figured out that mouthing their party line (even when changing his previous positions) would help him win the Republican nomination.

Asked about revelations of Trump's alleged affair with a porn star replete with a $130,000 pay-off, Tony Perkins of the selectively pious Family Research Council said Trump gets a "mulligan." OK, Mr. Perkins, what say you about the alleged affair between Trump and a Playmate with another payoff? How many mulligans does Trump get? Unlimited, clearly.

Back to that whole "LGBT agenda." Franklin Graham, and the churches that share his attitudes, couldn't be more out-of-touch with the majority of Americans, particularly young Americans who support LGBT rights – make that human rights without qualification. Most young people I know want nothing to do with this, or any, self-righteous bigotry.

Amid evidence that Christian church attendance is declining, interestingly I heard from a Unitarian friend who said attendance at his congregation is surging. His congregation isn't about excluding people or dividing people. It's not about colors or cloth or condemnation. It's exclusively about that Golden Rule stuff.

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


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Turn the corner against gun-culture politics

A 19-year-old drove a killing machine right through a Florida high school the other day, killing 17 and injuring many more.

It just shows you that no matter what traffic laws we have, people will die. So let's all agree to do nothing. It's pointless.

Well, all right. The killer tore through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High with an AR-15, not a Dodge truck. But, hey, what can you do?

After all, he was old enough to drive.

Anyway, why talk about the means by which he killed? He could have used a machete, quoth the AR-15 lobby. He could have used poison gas. He could have detonated a nail bomb.

The 9/11 killers used box cutters, you know, and jet planes.

What was a nation to do then? Nothing, of course.

Take away people's box cutters and only the people with jet planes at their disposal will fly them into skyscrapers.

But, wait. As we recall, the heinous deeds of those attackers caused America to turn itself inside out, to wage two wars, create a new Cabinet department, to change how airports and seaports and surveillance agencies operated.

The 9/11 toll was staggering – 2,996 dead. And yet, behold the yawn over the fact that 15,549 Americans died by gunfire last year and that 1,881 have died at the end of a gun this year. Yes, it's only February.

That makes the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High, and before that inside a prayerful church church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and before that in Las Vegas, and before that in Orlando, less than unusual and more of the usual.

To address gun violence as the threat it is, one that faces every family in America and every community, it calls for a 9/11-style culture shift. It calls for laws that treat gun violence as a national emergency.

Or we could do nothing.

President Trump – what a guy in a time of horror and tragedy. The students of that high school had just had their childhoods and their childhood friends ripped from them, and he was lecturing them, via tweet, that they should have been more alert.

Don't take offense, grieving child. That tweet wasn't really meant for you. It was meant for the National Rifle Association – a signal that "do nothing" will be federal policy on guns until, say, 2020.

Or maybe something will happen sooner if Americans refuse to vote for, in Bob Weiss' words, "gun whore" politicians.

Who is Bob Weiss? He's a California father who lost his daughter Veronika in 2014 when a gunman killed six people and injured 14 near the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Yawn.

He was one for whom those "thoughts and prayers" wafted across the land from politicians bought and sold by the gun lobby.

President Trump last week said that no one should have to endure what Bob Weiss did. Watch Trump do nothing to ensure that.

He and his fellow Republicans, or at least most of them, won't even grab the low fruit of banning the bump stock, the mechanism that enabled Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock to fire off 1,100 rounds before killing himself.

A few decades ago policymakers decided that a culture shift was in order to confront a public health emergency: carnage of the nation's highways.

            Though some said people would just ignore it, in 1973 a national speed limit was enacted. The result? Though many continued to ignore it, highway fatalities declined by 17 percent in one year.

Imagine if that happened with gun violence. That would have meant 2,466 of last year's gun violence victims would be around today to vote out lawmakers and presidents who do nothing.

You can see why the gun lobby wants nothing done.

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Fabricator hears Mueller's foot steps

Donald Trump lies more often without consequence than anyone to ever grace his position. Being a frequent liar, however, doesn't make him a good one.

As fabrication has proved to be his primary function in the White House, that's sad. It's a massive waste of entrepreneurial talent.

Let's see. Trump said dozens of times on the campaign trail that his campaign team had no interaction with the Russians.

In fact, at least 12 Trump associates had contacts with Russians during the campaign and transition. CNN reports 19 face-to-face meetings with Kremlin-linked individuals and 51 assorted communications.

To what degree you might give this man the benefit of the doubt, 51 is considerably more than none.

Trump has said he never met George Papadopoulos, indicted for lying to the FBI about interacting with the Russians. That's not even a good lie, per a widely circulated photo.

And Papadopoulos, who first spilled the beans to an Aussie diplomat about Russian-stolen "dirt" on Hillary, was far more than the "coffee boy" Team Trump claims.

He helped write Trump's first foreign policy speech. He served as point person for a presidential meeting with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

"No collusion"? Papadopoulos knows. And he is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.

This takes us back to Trump, the great liar who isn't very good at it. He says he wants to talk to Mueller. His attorneys say, "Oh, God, no."

Says "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough: "His own lawyers think he's too stupid and too much of a liar to stand up to the heat."

For good reason. Trump constructed a lie to explain the firing of James Comey. Trump constructed a lie to explain the Trump Tower meeting between a Russian delegation and Trump's son, son-in-law and others – you know, the meeting convened to discuss adoption, surely something near and dear to Don Jr.'s and Jared Kushner's hearts.

This lying stuff can be contagious. Now even supposed straight-arrow John Kelly is caught with his tongue in the door jamb.

Kelly wants us to believe that only last week did he become aware of abuse allegations against just-ousted Trump aide Rob Porter, and, that as soon as he knew, Porter was out the door.

That could not possibly be true. The FBI learned about the claims in the process of doing his security clearance. Surely, this information penetrated the consciousness of Mr. Conscience in the Trump White House.

Oh, and on the issue of lies and security clearances, Kushner has yet to answer to why, in obtaining his security clearance, he initially failed to list 100 calls or meetings with foreign officials from more than 20 countries. (Later he added an addendum to his applications.)

This all goes back to a culture of deceit. And the principal and most heinous deceit pertains to Russia's attack on our country's elections system as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

Trump has shrugged and winked and nodded as we have heard story after story about what Russia did to undermine our elections system, from fake posts in social media, to stealing and publishing embarrassing emails from the Democratic Party, to literally worming its way into state elections systems.

Trump and his acolytes want us to believe that the president is being set up by a biased criminal justice system. That's a joke.

That justice system is trying to investigate the crime of the century, one by which a hostile foreign power helped a man who got fewer votes than his opponent ascend to the White House.

Yes, this is the person who claimed he'd won by a landslide, that 3 million votes had been cast illegally, that illegal voters had been trucked across state lines to defeat him.

He entered lying and never stopped. For the everyday citizen, keeping track of the falsehoods is impossible. Good journalism helps, though. And at least one person, Mueller, has been keeping score.

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