Monday, August 13, 2018

Moment of truth for Trump’s EPA? No way

            James Hansen was stunningly prescient.

            Thirty years ago, 1988, the NASA scientist testified to Congress that the planet would warm 1.9 degrees by 2017.

            So, how close was he? You judge. NASA figures show global temperatures climbed 1.6 degrees since 1988.

            Yes, that's what one calls truth, as opposed to what Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency is pushing.

            It used to be that the EPA, like NASA, represented scientific authority. Then Trump fashioned it into a house of mirrors.

            Want legitimate information from its finely honed team of evaders and deniers? Watch them wriggle away and hide.

            Last week a federal court ordered the EPA to observe the Obama-era ban on the farm use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The poison had already been banned for household use but remained a staple for many farmers.

            Pesticide maker Dow Chemical lobbied then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration. It got what it wanted.

            The Trump EPA had an opportunity to show evidence for doing what it did, despite the suspected danger to infants that precipitated the ban. Basically the justification is: "We did it because we could," or more likely, "because Dow asked."

            The Trump EPA is not interested in providing evidence to support what it does. It is simply interested in undoing whatever Obama did. Because it's not a presidency, not running the country. It's a competition.

            One of the most important, and least-discussed, legal battles in the country right now is taking place in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where plaintiffs have called Team Trump's bluff on the issue of man-caused climate change.

            A group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the evidence former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt used to support his claim that human activity is "not a primary" contributor to global warming.

            Yes, Team Trump. Enlighten us.

            But – surprise: The Trump EPA isn't interested in shedding light on any evidence it might have but on sand-bagging, causing the senior judge on the court to threaten the administration with contempt of court.

            Yes, if the Trump EPA had "the goods" on this matter, this climate change claim made by experts like James Hansen, we could end all discussions post haste and get on to weightier matters like football players' taking a knee.

            But that's not this president's interest. Again, his interest is waging a policy vendetta against all things linked to his predecessor and, of course, ministering to the urges of his corporate supporters.

            It's pertinent to understand that Trump did not populate the EPA to protect the environment but to fit within the worldview of people who took a blood oath against it.

            The leader of that pack would be Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, who famously called climate change a hoax and produced a snowball on the floor of the Senate to bolster whatever case he had.

            Trump turned to Inhofe to pick the man to run the EPA, and that man was Pruitt, former Oklahoma attorney general, who spent most of his time in office in the Okie state suing the EPA.

            When Pruitt had to bail out of the EPA in a raft of scandal, Trump turned to next most (least?) qualified Oklahoman to do the job, former Inhofe chief of staff, former coal lobbyist, Tom Wheeler.

            So, understand, the EPA under Trump isn't interested in protecting the environment. It is interested in protecting business interests friendly to the president.

            It has no science to support its policies. All it has is political science.

            It is up to the voters this fall, and two autumns hence, to repudiate the latter.

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


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cyber-reality and he who cries ‘fake news’

Ah, fake news.

In determining that Russian actors went on a social media disinformation rampage in 2016, analysts cited many markers. One was that bogus pro-Trump, anti-Hillary posts featured "language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation" of our language.

Not to throw anyone off the trail, but that could either be Russians or it could be a U.S. president who writes like a third-grader.

Ah, fake news.

OK, give him credit. Trump is skillful enough to have replicated Donald Jr.'s syntax when he composed a letter to Robert Mueller claiming that the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians had to do with adoption.

News bulletin:  Trump just tweeted what we all knew was true all along, the solicitation of campaign dirt from foreigners -- the collusion he said over and over never happened.

OK, so it happened, but it's "totally legal."

So why lie about it?

Now his dodge is that he didn't know about a meeting in his own tower, with his own son, with his son-in-law, with his campaign manager. If it was "totally legal," why does that matter?

Fake news.

Trump feigned ignorance about that hush money over his sexploits. Then more audio magic: a tape from his former attorney betrays the truth.

Cash or check? Good question. Really good. It opens up the possibility that the people (ie. New York state prosecutors) might ultimately get to see Trump's taxes.

Trump likes to claim ownership of "fake news" in bashing the press, but at every turn, suspicions raised by reporters prove to be verifiable.

Yes, reporters have made errors and omissions in reporting all of this, errors to which news organizations dutifully owned up. When has Trump owned up to even one of his outright lies?

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

Trump accuses the news media of distorting what happened following his disastrous Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin. That was no distortion, Mr. President. That was the magic of video recording. You stood before cameras and said what you said. We heard it.

Back to the real story that underpins this matter and which has had Robert Mueller working overtime.

While Trump has called the Russia matter a "hoax," the clear consensus of the intelligence community is just the opposite. Russians not only hacked the computers of Trump's opponents but nosed their way into state voting systems.

Sens. Claire McCaskill and Jean Shaheen, both Democrats, say that Russians attempted to hack into their Senate computer systems.

Trump's own Department of Homeland Security just launched the National Risk Management Center to fight cyberattacks against critical infrastructure like credit card systems and the electric grid.

And yet, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee last week rejected $250 million to beef up state voting systems from cyberattacks.

Bad decision, said Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy: "As we focus on the past, we are missing what is happening and what will happen again."

Clearly Senate Republicans judge that we can't afford such things. And that may be true when we are saving our dimes to pay for that wall – costing $150 million a year -- it appears Mexico won't be buying for us.

And don't forget the need for that $12 million military parade Trump wants.

It's really quite fascinating. Trump assembled a now-defunct Presidential Commission on Voter Integrity, seeking information on every American voter, until states refused to play along. He's just riveted on vote security.

Yet when the whole of the national intelligence community identifies a foreign attack on voter systems, it's fake news, says the man with the tweeter toy.

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


Monday, July 30, 2018

Direct appeal to the Blow It All Up Gang

Please shut down the government, Mr. President.

Don't make it an idle threat this time.

You say that you must have that wall. Without it you won't permit any government. So go ahead. Let's go with that.

We are inside 100 days from an election that is going to retire many in your legions of Capitol Hill enablers. Go ahead and assist in that venting.

Shut 'er down. We know this will hurt people. It will shutter, again, national parks. It will put federal employees on furlough. We went through this before when Ted Cruz played Teddy Roosevelt and egged Republicans over that hill. Going on six whole years, it is Ted's signature (and only?) deed in office.

The shutdown: It cost the federal government billions of dollars. Fortunately, policy-makers pretty quickly found out that the cause was not worth the hurt.

But go ahead this time, Mr. Trump. Pull the plug.

A lot of your supporters pulled the lever in 2016 with the fantasy notion of blowing it all up by putting a cad and gadabout in office. Whatever ensued, they reasoned -- what the heck? It's just government.

Anyway, democratic government? Who needs it? We need a dictator with lots of hair, and a wall.

True to said impulse, Trump has appointed to Cabinet positions and agencies individuals sworn to blow them up.

On the presidential campaign trail, Rick Perry said he would abolish the Energy Department. OK, he couldn't remember "Energy Department" when he attempted to count to three. Then Trump appointed him to run it. This is like a giraffe hooking up with a squid on Match.com.

We have an Interior Department secretary, Ryan Zinke, who titularly is running that show, but effectively is letting developers and Big Energy run it.

Indicative of Zinke's attitude: A new advisory board created presumably to put the clamps on those who import the heads and hides of African game is stocked with Republican big-game hunters.

We certainly wouldn't want to stunt Donald Jr.'s urges as he stalks four-legged beasts far greater than he.

As for blowing up international alliances and trade agreements, Trump has taken on that mission all by himself.

This week GOP mega-financier Charles Koch said what economist after economist has said, and quite a few Republicans in Congress: Trump's trade war risks triggering a major recession.

To that, Steve Bannon tweeted that such Republican critics "should shut up and get with the program."

That's democracy: Sit up straight and shut up.

Did we say a national election is coming up? The polls do not look good for Republican candidates in the Midwest, aka Trump Country. A slew of national, state and local races have gone to Democrats, even in districts that Trump carried handily.

We've seen Democrat Doug Jones win the Senate seat in Alabama. We've seen underdog Democrat Connor Lamb win a congressional seat in a safe Republican district in Pennsylvania.

At the state level, we've seen 43 Democrats flip Republican seats in statehouses since Trump took office.

Trump has made this governing thing all about him. Well, so is this blowback thing, this blue wave.

You see, "blowing it up" is not proving to be good politics. For Trump to threaten a government shutdown, with a national election so near, shows he is less intent on governing than he is on destroying and undermining the institutions that serve us.

Yes, it will hurt the country; it will hurt people; but it will hurt the Party of Trump more.

Shut it down, Mr. President, and make it more likely that real stewards of democracy will be assigned the task Nov. 6.

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


Monday, July 23, 2018

Five places suited for a Trump convention

Nobody wants a convention of Trumpsters.

A convention of Republicans, maybe, but not -- well, let Charlotte, N.C., City Council member Larken Eggleston explain it:

"If it were Mitt Romney or damn near anybody besides Donald Trump," he told the Los Angeles Times, inviting the national GOP convention would be a slam dunk. However, not this convention.

Eggleston grudgingly cast the deciding vote in favor of what has proved to be one of the more heated disputes in recent Charlotte history: whether to invite Trump to town. Charlotte will do it, but with considerable reservations.

Indeed, this is so controversial that while mayors traditionally make welcoming statements at these conventions, Charlotte's mayor has said she will not.

You're thinking: Surely other major cities offered themselves. No.

Charlotte wasn't at the front of the pack. There was no pack.

As another council member said, Charlotte was in this position "not because we stepped forward, but because everyone else stepped back."

As the Times reported, the only other bid came from the Nevada Republican Party, offering Las Vegas. Vegas' city government – Who? Us? -- quickly squelched that.

San Antonio welcome Trump? With its Latino population? It wisely backed away from the detonating device.

 As the Times observed, race – and Trump's racism – is proving to be a big concern.

The GOP's difficulty the Times attributes to "diminishing support" for Trump and his party in major cities that have become more culturally diverse -- which is all of them.

Should the Party of Trump continue on its path to all-white homogeny, it can plan on scheduling its conventions at cities whose populations are in the single digits.

We're talking about red America – vast stretches of almost nothing, and certainly nothing approaching the diversity that historically has characterized this nation.

Bonanza, Utah, population 1, would welcome the Republican Party of the future. So would Buford, Wyo., and its single resident. Brewster, Fla., is a little more cosmopolitan, with three.

By the standards of today's GOP, Elkhorn, Mont., population 10, is a regular megalopolis.

OK, so Charlotte is "in," though it is already thinking it made a big mistake. With the protests and clashes over two years of Trump, this gathering could make Chicago 1968 as tame as this year's National Square Dancing Convention. (Kansas City, by the way, aced out a crowded field for that plum.)

OK, so where could a convention of Trumpsters be welcome? Let's count them down.

(5) 2020 National Rifle Association Convention (Indianapolis) – The NRA seems to have no problems finding a place to rave on about its increasing brand of militarism and maniacal absolutism. Trump can just slum it there. A bonus: Russian funds reportedly funneled through the NRA can pay for all the drinks. Heck, Russia can pay for everything.

(4) Mar-a-Lago – A great idea; OK, my wife's idea. "Trump can make a bunch of money from the convention." Yes, Dear. He can ramp up green fees. He can quintuple the prices in the mini bars. He can charge for the little soaps. He can meter the in-shower shampoo dispensers. He can make a killing.

(3) Burns, Ore. – Haven't heard of it? It's aptly named. Near Burns is where ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son Steve, supporters of right-wing firebrand Clive Bundy, set fire to federal lands in a grazing dispute. Sent to prison for arson – also known as terrorism when committed by darker-tinted individuals – they were recently pardoned by Trump. One more reason why he's a hero in Zero Population Country.

(2) Any Ted Nugent concert – Really, this is a great idea. Instead of Nugent being the entertainment for yet another GOP gathering, Trump can be the entertainment at a Ted Nugent gathering. A duet of "Vlad Scratch Fever," maybe?

(1) Moscow.

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

 

 


Monday, July 16, 2018

So much like Watergate, and so much worse

"During the past year the wildest accusations have been given banner headlines and ready credence as well." – Richard Nixon, 1972.

"The Fake News is working overtime." – Donald Trump, 2018.

Mr. President, we now have indictments that would link the Russian government -- not the fat person you imagined on a bed somewhere -- to an attack on our election system.

With these indictments come something you don't want us to ponder: even more similarities between the last scandal that removed a president and that which swirls around you right now.

Forty-four years apart: two burglaries of the Democratic National Committee -- one in 1972 with screwdrivers in the dark of night, one in 2016 with hackers in the light of day.

The one in '72 involved Cuban burglars. This one involves Russians.

This scandal involves a whole bunch more than a political theft.

It involves Russians waging a concerted social media war of bogus posts to benefit the man who would claim "fake news" as his own coinage.

It involves Russians attempting to compromise state voting systems.

It involves Russians obtaining, according to the indictment, information on 500,000 voters in Iowa.

It involves Russians hacking "into computers of a company that supplied software used to verify voter registration information" according to Trump's own Justice Department.

Trump has responded as we might expect to this. He headed to Moscow and Vladimir Putin's knee with candy and flowers.

Oh, and the White House pronounced itself cleared of any culpability.

Every time Team Trump does this, be reminded of the 1972 statement by Richard Kleindienst, Richard Nixon's man in the Justice Department, that an "extensive" investigation had cleared the president and his associates of law-breaking.

Actually, the investigation had just begun.

Two years later, Kleindienst would be convicted of misleading Congress and would, like 48 others who broke the law, get a taste of jail time.

Watch Republicans and Trump supporters absolutely frantic to discredit the FBI. Be reminded that the White House went to great extents to corral the FBI investigation into Watergate.

Indeed, the probe into Nixon would have been squelched were it not for Mark Felt, No. 2 at the FBI, who kept the investigation alive despite administration interference. Such a heroic role actually dwarfed Felt's better-known role: serving as Deep Throat to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

The budding Mueller probe began just over one year ago, and it's impossible to know where its investigation will take us. However, with 27 individuals indicted so far, three convicted already, and key figures prepared to cooperate, a "witch hunt" it is not.

Whatever the case, and whatever emanates, this is a far bigger deal than Watergate.

Mueller's first conviction remains the biggest: the guilty plea from former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn for lying about his interactions with the Russian ambassador before Trump assumed office.

On behalf of the administration-to-be, Flynn is alleged to have offered to waive sanctions Russia had earned for, what? For its attempts to influence the 2016 elections.

By the way, Flynn has yet to be sentenced, and that means there's still time for him to cooperate with Mueller regarding what Trump knew and when he knew it.

One of the other people facing criminal indictment, Paul Manafort, was in the Trump Tower meeting when he and others, including Don Jr., met with Russians expecting "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. Then they said it was about adoptions. Then they changed their story.

No, this is far from over, and Trump is far from being cleared. After all, we have this from him on the campaign trail: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

"Forget the myths the media have created about the White House. The truth is these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand." – Deep Throat, 1974.

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

Trump has made lying his defining feature

"Nice guy; good-looking guy (Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) comes in (and says), 'Donald, we have no trade deficit.' I said, 'Wrong, Justin, you do.' I didn't even know . . . I had no idea. I just said, 'You're wrong.' "

So said our president to a private fund-raiser. Someone with a tape recorder shared it.

What is most serious when it applies to a global leader? Not knowing what one is talking about or knowing what one is talking about and simply lying about it?

Tragically, in the Age of Him, the distinction hardly matters.

In tried-and-true form, what we know to be Trumpism can be summed up over and over by actions based on claims that can't be backed up by facts.

True -- some lies seem benign, even quaint – like Trump's assertions about the size of his inaugural crowd.

Other lies beget really bad public policy. Trump's assertion that 3 million Americans voted illegally (and illegal voters were trucked into New Hampshire) resulted in a commission on voter fraud and the demand that states hand over voter data.

That commission, ultimately disbanded, turned out to be the only fraud.

A claim that Canada has a massive trade surplus with the United States is used to rationalize tariffs on our northern neighbors. In fact, the Department of Commerce's own 2017 statistics show a $2.8 billion trade surplus with Canada.

With a NATO summit approaching, Trump has been doing what he does best, misrepresenting the truth.

In a speech in South Carolina, he got his supporters frothy by saying that the United States is responsible for 90 percent of NATO spending.

If that were the case, a major change in our relationship with your NATO allies would be in order. The fact is, however, that the United States provides 22 percent of the NATO budget.

Maybe 22 percent is too much. Maybe we need to renegotiate. But Trump's hysterical claim is beyond irresponsible and most of us would not accept such a story from our children, spouses or siblings or best friends.

Trump was beyond incorrigible in claiming that the tax cuts he signed would not benefit him. Of course they did – spectacularly. The alternative minimum tax (AMT), which the measure abolished, was one of the few means by which the federal government got anything out of Citizen Trump.

Though we haven't seen recent tax returns (he can't release them, under audit – another lie), we do know that in 2005 Trump paid $35 million via the AMT. CNN reports that he was liable for only $5.6 million without it.

So, why didn't Trump simply level with Americans, say, "I will benefit quite a bit from these changes and it will be good for the economy"? No, he had to lie in the most bald-faced way.

Why? Because our president simply cannot tell the truth. And he is arrogant enough to know that among his supporters, disrespectful untruths do not matter one bit. Because he's lying for the people.

Recently I encountered an individual who said matter-of-factly that he supported Trump because Trump had financed his own campaign, something the campaigning Trump said he could do. It's a claim that the National Rifle Association and its $21 million in donations will find interesting.

Trump, by the way, harvested more from the gun lobby than any presidential candidate in history. Throw in Cambridge Analytica's part-owner Robert Mercer ($25.5 million) and casino king Sheldon Adelson ($20 million). Yep. Self-financed, Bub.

             New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, noting that a vast majority of Republicans have no problem with Trump's abject lack of credibility, calls it "motivated gullibility."

His supporters choose not to acknowledge the lies. After all, truth is immaterial in the Age of Him.

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


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Oh, yes, we are better than this -- really

"A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles." – Emma Lazarus.

"A nice piece of brass." – Donald Trump.

Understand: That first depiction of the Statue of Liberty is for real; the other is only an attempt to track the gerbils churning in one man's mind.

The first words are lesser-known from the poem that included, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free."

They're just words, of course -- and so dismissed by clinically bizarre Trump adviser Stephen Miller at a press conference.

Miller, not even fit to preside over a high school key club, nonetheless lectured the Capitol press that Lazarus' passage was an add-on to the factory model. So disregard.

Whatever his brain trust might think of Lady Liberty, Trump's actions have sapped her of her might, her light – at least until we elect someone else as her steward.

Of late, we've had the horror of children's pleading for their parents from behind chain-link.

Then we had a one-vote majority in the Supreme Court ruling a travel ban spun of pure racism is within Trump's power.

Curious: The ruling five called the policy race-neutral, ignoring such hints as, "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" from Trump on the campaign trail.

However, when the same court ruled that the Colorado Commission on Civil Rights was wrong to rule against a Denver bake-shop owner for refusing to prepare a cake for a gay couple, it cited the language of commission members which showed "clear and impermissible hostility" to people who use their religion to justify said discrimination.

Curious.

OK. Those rulings are behind us, with discrimination the winner.

So, Time magazine asks, have matters like these come to define us as a nation? "The story we tell the world is the story we tell ourselves," writes Karl Vick.

What are the American people saying? The fact is that poll after poll shows most of us do not agree with most of what Trump is doing.

As the president is putting the clamps on immigration, a new poll by the Los Angeles Times finds "support for tighter immigration has steadily declined" to only 25 percent.

When Gallup asked Americans last week if more immigration is a good thing for the country, 75 percent said "yes," the highest number Gallup has recorded since it started asking the question in 2001.

And while polls had shown a "Trump effect" building antipathy toward Muslims in general (what a legacy, Mr. President), 66 percent of Americans polled by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding agreed with the statement that negative statements by politicians about Muslims are "harmful to our country."

It is significant, indeed, that in writing the majority for the court that deemed the travel ban legal, Justice Anthony Kennedy had some words that analysts judged to be a scolding of the president.

Kennedy wrote that Trump's job is to adhere not just to the letter of the law – that equal treatment stuff in the Bill of Rights -- but to also its "meaning and promise."

He wrote, "An anxious world must know that our government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward, and lasts."

Extending outward, like a lamp held out over the ocean's waves.

By the way, the Statue of Liberty isn't made of brass but copper, 62,000 pounds, which if sold as scrap could fetch a pretty penny on the international market.

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

 


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Inside the GOP Rationalization Chamber

I can't believe what I'm saying here, but Stephen Colbert miscalculated.

Of the abominable act of sending children to chain-link big-box jails at the border, he said: "Either you could be horrified or you could be working for Donald Trump."

It was unclear if in his calculation Colbert considers Fox News personnel to be salaried Trump employees. However, we sadly must acknowledge: Quite a few Americans were totally fine with this terrible deed.

Nearly one in five polled by CBS News – 17 percent – said they supported the policy. One wonders: What else would they endorse for brown-skinned little ones? Enhanced interrogation?

After all, we've separated non-white children from parents before -- on the slave auctioning block, in the parceling of space for Japanese internment camps and more. See? Nothing new here.

These apologists for an off-the-rails president have scored a 100 – a perfect score -- on a new rating system we will call the Unconscionability Index.

These are the very ones of whom Trump said that he could "stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody," and they would explain it away with candy-apple impunity.

And let's face it; as president, Trump has done just about everything this side of a shooting spree.

He has lied at a rate that's staggering even for a bankruptcy king. In his first 500 days, the Washington Post Fact-Checker credited him with 3,251 misleading or wholly false claims. Of course, there are petty political lies, and there are lies to save one's political life.

He lied – dictating it on Air Force One -- to cover for Don Jr. about a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian contingent, one which had every marker of the thing Team Trump says never happened: collusion.

He ordered his staff to lie about the pretext for firing James Comey before committing the truth, off the record, to two Russian emissaries and, for good measure, on the record, to NBC's Lester Holt.

He changed his story multiple times in explaining why he fired former national security advisor Mike Flynn.

Flynn's real firing offense was that criminal thing, that collusion thing – assuring the Russians that the not-yet-president would lift sanctions imposed on Russia for its efforts to sabotage the 2016 elections. And we are to assume Trump knew nothing about that.

Sure, just as Trump knew nothing about the $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

He lied when he minimized Paul Manafort's role in his campaign, saying the indicted, Russian-connected wheeler-dealer "worked for me for a very short period of time – for what, 49 days or something?" Manafort was Trump's campaign manager for 145 days.

In 2016, Trump supporters issued hyena screams alleging conflicts of interest involving the Clinton Foundation in its work to combat global poverty and illness.

However, the Rationalization Chamber has nothing to say about the Trump Foundation's serving as Trump's personal and political piggy bank. The New York attorney general had something to say in a new lawsuit: that the Trump Foundation, much like Trump University, is nothing but a scam.

Back to Russia: Even if Trump never colluded with the Russians, the degree to which he pooh-poohed a concerted foreign attack on our elections is impeachable unto itself.  

Oh, and back to Fox News: John Dean, whose words were central to the impeachment of a president, has theorized that if such a network had been around in 1974 to serve as a rationalization chamber, Richard Nixon might have finished his second term despite his crimes.

True or not, you know Nixon wished he could have a 24/7 mouthpiece to plead his own "witch hunt" case. Sadly for him, cable news had yet to be invented.

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


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Biblical quotes, child abuse and ‘zero tolerance’ folly

Crossing the street on foot the other day, a terrible thought crossed my mind.

It was a vision, actually: of my offspring broiling in a remote tent city under the blazing Southwest sun at the behest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

You see, I was committing a crime at the time -- jaywalking.

Sure, it's just a Class A traffic infraction, but I'd better stop it anyway. Based on the "zero tolerance" policy modeled by the Trump administration, one day my family could be ripped away from me for insubordination in the presence of pedestrian signals.

As of this writing, since April about 2,000 children have been separated from their families when they arrived illegally in this country.

Their parents have committed a crime, proclaimed Sessions, grinning as he invoked Romans 13 about obeying the government.

Well. Immigration experts point out that 90 percent of these offenders are charged with misdemeanors. Yikes. Where is that crosswalk?

Previously, back when people with a conscience governed our land, families like these were assigned civil hearings that led to deportation or other remedies. Sounds civil.

Zero tolerance? What the Trump administration is doing is child abuse. It's the language of bayonets and the Gestapo.

Our president says he hates it. Then he says it's the fault of laws passed by the Democrats. That's a lie, or least a claim that can't be affirmed by any fact-checker not on Fox News' payroll.

Anyway, Trump has never needed facts to explain anything he does.

Zero tolerance: It sounds velvety tripping off the tongue but invariably results in abrasions and abominations, like a second-grader treated as a criminal for possessing a butter knife at school.

Sessions' justification of his policy is that it sends a message to potential violators. I can't argue with that.

Sessions, therefore, would agree with a big-thinker friend of mine who, though he opposes the death penalty, explained that if we wanted no crime whatsoever we would make the most minor of offenses – like littering -- punishable by death.

That would send all reasoning individuals a message about the law.

Murder and rape? As my egghead friend pointed out correctly, deranged people aren't deterred by reason, or the gallows. Jaywalkers, though . . .

The attorney general is no big thinker, but maybe he is onto something.

If the misdemeanor of being in this country illegally merits the dismemberment of one's family, why not do the same for other misdemeanors – like exceeding the speed limit by 25 mph or throwing a burning butt out one's car window?

Take those offenders – they broke the law, you know, criminal law – and separate them from their children. Put the children in isolation camps where they can't even be held by caring adults. Crate them away like artifacts.

Trump supporters: Is this your definition of "pro-life"? Do you check the origination of the child in question, and if it's from, say, El Salvador, treat that life like a used tire?

As for that Bible thing: Romans 13 has some pretty stern things to say about adulterers -- ahem, Mr. President -- and various other offenders, even those who missed the memo on circumcision.

Suggest for us, Mr. Sessions, how we shall command such individuals' attention.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


Monday, June 11, 2018

Is 'ounce of prevention' beyond comprehension?

The explosion didn't destroy the small Texas town of West. It only took out 120 of its homes, its nursing home and three of its schools.

Add to that tally the deaths of 15, including 12 first-responders who showed up to a fire alarm, not knowing they were about to be vaporized. More than 150 were injured in the town of less than 3,000.

Witnesses compared the 2013 detonation at the West Fertilizer Co. – caused when flames ignited a stockpile of ammonium nitrate -- to that of a nuclear bomb. Thus it was investigated like one.

The Obama administration took seriously the task of preventing such accidents and informing nearby residents and first-responders of the dangers.

The rules adopted after the West explosion involved better inspections and better information for surrounding communities and those who serve them.

Now the Trump administration has shown – guess what? – that it will take most seriously the desires of industry relatively to these matters, doing so at the expense of – guess what? -- safety.

Days after the five-year anniversary of the April 17, 2013, blast, EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced he would rescind the rules.

West Mayor Tommy Muska calls it dangerous policy. "If we don't regulate this, it will happen again," he told the Austin American-Statesman.

Of course it will. But that's the future. For now, let's cut corners to satisfy business concerns and to justify policies that put the interests of a few above the interest of many. People will forget who did what by the next time disaster strikes.

Whether it's protecting our water or our air, or extending the life of our planet, Republican leaders seem wholly content to focus on short-term, bottom-line considerations.

The notion of taking the long view of anything -- "An ounce of prevention..." -- is not their job. Rolling back common-sense protections at the behest of moneyed interests — that's more like it.

On another policy front, consider what Republicans in the House proposed recently when renewal of the annual farm bill came up.

The GOP-controlled Committee on Agriculture voted to gut immensely successful land conservation programs.

We're talking about initiatives dating back to federal responses to the Dust Bowl era, 1930-1936.

The committee voted to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program, which provides financial incentives for farmers to perform conservation practices like grazing management and the planting of cover crops and range grasses to prevent soil erosion.

These policies are smart. The Dust Bowl wasn't caused by nature. It was caused by man – specifically the overplanting of crops because the getting was so good. Even during severe drought, planting practices were all about the next crop, not about the future beyond it, when the rain didn't come or when markets turned sour.

House Republicans didn't abandon soil conservation entirely in the newest farm bill, but in dollar terms it would represent a severe pullback in support. To do what? To justify unjustifiable tax cuts, we must assume.

The good news is that the farm bill, which also took draconian swipes at food stamp assistance, was defeated by a bipartisan backlash. But pay close attention. The same themes will return when the bill does.

Did we mention the Dust Bowl? As the mayor of West said about a horrific tragedy in his town, if we don't regulate such a thing, "It will happen again."

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