Monday, October 15, 2018

Hear no climate change; see no climate change; speak no climate change

           Wait, Florida Gov. Rick Scott: On whose information did you rely?

            You told Floridians to expect catastrophic storm surges from Hurricane Michael, as high as 12 feet. That proved to be correct. But where did you get that?

            Could it have been people who study weather? Or was it the Koch Brothers and the Carbon Mafia? Maybe casino king Sheldon Adelson?

            Republicans just can't stay consistent with whom it is they trust. Scientists who study weather were right about this climate event. Yet when scientists project catastrophic changes decades ahead -- rising sea levels and even more deadly storm surges because of global warming -- Republicans like Scott and our president plug their ears and hum loudly.

            Scott, now in a tight race for U.S. Senate with incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, has been offering himself to Floridians as an environmentalist. This is a little like Trump's offering himself as a unifier.

            Anyone in Florida who has paid any attention knows that Scott has been no friend of the environment.

            For one, he directed that state literature shed terms like "climate change," "global warming" and "sustainability."

            For another, he ignored voters who wanted the state to stem a catastrophic tide of blue-green and "red tide" algae in southern Florida estuaries.

            Now he is dealing with the most vicious storm to ever hit the Panhandle.

            Once again a super storm has affirmed what climate scientists say: Warmer ocean temperatures accentuate the severity of such events.

            Warmer-than-normal waters also make such storms less predictable. That means one of these days a lot of people will die when something that seems mild turns out to be monstrous.

            In fact, Michael started that way.

            So, Republicans, whom do you believe? Apparently you will accept the word of those who know what they're talking about when the storm is bearing down on you. You just don't want to believe anything about the specter haunting all living things down the road.

            A meme circulating on social media says, "Every disaster movie starts with a scientist being ignored." Yep.

            One ceases to be stunned by the opt-in ignorance of this president and his brethren in high offices across the land. But consider:

            An impact statement by Trump's own National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projected a beyond-catastrophic seven-degree increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.

            This was not done to encourage the nation to do something about the carbon-loading scientists linked to climate change. It was about how to, um, live with it.

            Yes, Mr. President, your own people agree with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- just not in the business-as-usual, sniff-and-shrug attitude you have about this very serious matter.

            Forget seven degrees, folks. The U.N. study is looking at 1.9 degrees as a threshold at which horrible things happen, particularly around our sea shores.

            Then again, horrible things will happen in the highlands and lowlands and in the in-betweens, with depleted snowpack and parched forests and fields, with monstrous wildfires, with glacier-fed rivers running dry, with just about every living thing in danger except maybe for those in limos and hallways of gold leaf.

            Sorry if this sounds hysterical, but that's what all those scientists say, and it's what we've been seeing with drought conditions, with super storms, with tidal surges beyond belief.

            Once again, Republicans: You apparently believe science when disaster is knocking at your door. Why can you not believe science when the projections are beyond next week?

            The central reason is that you have hitched your star to a set of blue-sky charlatans. And nobody wants to pay the price.

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Blizzard warning for an unfit president

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

            That should do.

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

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

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

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

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

            Which brings us to the weather report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Since then, Manafort has been convicted of money laundering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The toxic public unraveling of a would-be justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            With Kavanaugh, Trump delivered the venison.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Death toll with a capital 'T'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Republicans' apparent answer: "So what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Mr. Vice President, you are one big phony

           Mike Pence has offered to take a polygraph. Quick. Rush a device to his side.

            No – there's no chance whatsoever he's the senior official who wrote the anonymous New York Times commentary that branded his boss petty, amoral, and consistently acting in ways "detrimental to the health of this republic."

            Why do we know the author in The Times isn't Pence? That's simple. One whose spine is as jellified as his would never do something so brassy.

            However, let's play along with his pretense. This is all Pence is -- a pillar of pretense, of plastic piety. Ask him: Are you Anonymous? Then ask a whole lot more.

            Mr. Vice President, you've said you knew nothing about Mike Flynn's offer to the Russian ambassador to lift sanctions over attacks on the U.S. election system. You know, it's that collusion thing. Please reaffirm your response for the benefit of the electrodes on your forearm.

            Mr. Vice President, you said after the embarrassment in Helsinki that President Trump's interaction with Vladimir Putin was an example of "American strength in action." Did you get sufficient REM sleep the night before?

            Mr. Vice President, the other day you said the Space Force would "strengthen our security . . . ensure our prosperity . . . and carry American ideals into the boundless expanse of space." Was that you talking? Or was it cold medicine?

            Mr. Vice President, have you changed your mind at all since, as a congressman, you said, in reference to then President Clinton: "The very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the chief executive that we place on our next-door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous."

            Now that your boss has been implicated not only in shacking up with porn figures but making illegal pay-offs to them, have your moral standards gotten their customary 10,000-mile checkup?

            Mr. Vice President, you said the other day in regards to the discord over the Kavanaugh hearings that we need to return to a "more respectful time" in our politics.

            As one tweeter said in response:"Irony just died."

            Mr. Vice President, like all of the president's mouthpieces, in just about every statement you seem flatly and precisely devoted to insulting the intelligence of every thinking man and woman.

            You did that when, in defending Trump's border policy of separating children from their parents, you called the U.S. "the most welcoming country on Earth."

            You did it after his remark about not accepting refugees from "shithole countries." You said Trump's policy is not dictated by "race or creed." OK, it's just dictated by a basic lack of class or any inkling of dignity.

            None of your statements are to be taken at face value, Mr. Vice President, no matter how much your face assumes the tenor of a Da Vinci painting.

            Such was the case in May 2017, barely into the infantile days of the Trump administration, when you formed your own political action committee – the Great America Committee.

            It was the first time that a sitting vice president had done so.

            Sitting vice presidents have all the support they need from the national political party. Your move has the markings of someone with his eyes on someone else's office suite.

            Don't you, as Trump's greatest apologist, see this president fulfilling his four-year term?

            Mr. Vice President, Americans indeed would be served if we could strap you into a truth suit. They would see quickly that in casting their lot with serial prevaricators, we got two for the price of one.

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

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The worst -- and second-worst -- thing Trump has done

            The curly-haired tot bows his back and looks away, as if to attempt an escape. The woman, attempting a hug, quickly grows agitated.

            "I am your mommy, papi," she says in Spanish.

            He squirms to get away.

            "What is wrong with my son?" she sobs.

            He doesn't recognize her. They've been separate for more than three months. That's a lifetime at 3.

            The woman, once frantic with joy to see her son, gulps back the horror of realizing that happy endings are not always joyous when separated from one's child at the border.

            What will occur when and if the 500 children still imprisoned at the border by the Trump administration are reunited with their parents?

            Many of those youngsters will be jubilant. To many, their parents will be strangers.

            Yes, 500 children. Five, zero, zero. Still separated -- in spite of a court order, in spite of what Donald Trump said would happen months ago.

            Now, what does the Trump administration appear to be requesting? More time – and more detainees.

            This abomination Trump said he would cease – after he said he could do nothing about it and blamed others. Then after taking fire from every direction, including his daughter and his wife, he provided just enough lip service to make us look away – much like little Papi now looks away from the face of his mom.

            How serious was Trump about reversing the most inhumane directive since Japanese internment camps?

            Here's how serious: Last week the administration sought to change the rules under which the courts have ordered it to act.

            In question is the Flores Settlement Agreement, from a 1997 lawsuit over the holding and handling of immigrants at the border.

            The administration wants out from under the agreement that has bound others before it and has limited the extent to which the government can hold minors in immigrant jails.

            The objective, reports the Washington Post, is for the administration to be able to hold children longer and to rapidly escalate the building of detention facilities.

            Under the rules of the Flores Settlement that the government previously agreed to and now seeks to change, children cannot be separated from their parents for more than 20 days. And as a member of the human race, let me pronounce the 20-day limit as atrociously long unto itself.

            We aren't talking about ax murderers. We are talking about hope-for cleaning women and frightened asylum seekers. Papi's mom came seeking asylum from Honduras and found a nation more oppressive than what she fled.

            The administration had a July 19 deadline to reunite these families. Reportedly it was "racing" to do so. Actually, the only running it was doing was an attempt at an end run on court orders.

            U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee was having none of the administration's claims of being hamstrung about doing the right thing. She called Team Trump's court pleadings a "cynical attempt" to stall over an "ill-considered executive action."

            Ill-considered. That's one way of saying it. What we've done to these people should make every American ill.

            How about this, President Trump? Instead of jetting around to red-state rallies before people preening as cardboard cut-outs, you jet down to the border, look at the fruits of your leadership, and do what you said you'd do months ago.

            Does anyone remember this "non-politician," this man of action, telling us how he knew how to get things done? Tell that to Judge Gee.

            Of all the reproachable things this man has done, and the list is long (ask senior advisers), what he did to that mother and her child is the worst. The second-worst is what he's doing now about the fate of so many more like them: just taking his time.

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

Monday, September 3, 2018

Republicans strap on an orange suicide vest

            Let's acknowledge that Ted Cruz got something right once upon a time.

            It happened in 2016 -- when he called Donald Trump a "pathological liar" and a "sniveling coward."

            Now? Cruz will hug him tightly to his chest in a few weeks when Trump goes to Texas in a bid to save Cruz's Senate seat.

            This should be fun. The sniveling. The lying. The heebie-jeebies in static shockwaves between two who give each other the creeps.

            The thing is, after that rally, after Ted bathes himself in hand sanitizer after embracing a man who called him "lying Ted" and alleged that his father helped kill JFK, Cruz is going to find out it didn't help him at all.

            Donald Trump is not a winning proposition in 2018. Even if one assumes he is going to inspire his "base" to vote, those hard-core voters were going to do it anyway. What Trump is not going to do is inspire independent voters to drink his red Kool-Aid again or elect people who act like he does and who support his policies.

            And yet, in race after race, Republicans have nominated candidates who are the Trump-iest in the field. We get it. The "base" wants more of that belligerent, divisive, truth-be-damned style.

            They don't understand: "Like Trump" is no formula for victory this fall. Just the opposite.

            It's stunning to see a major party glom frantically onto an individual who, according to the latest Washington Post poll, 60 percent of Americans view unfavorably.

            That tracks other polls. At this writing, the cumulative polling by Fivethirtyeight.com shows Trump's unfavorable rating at 54.5 percent compared to 40.3 percent -- the grimmest indicator in months for the tweeter-in-chief.

            For many weeks the two lines on Fivethirtyeight's graph remained relatively stable and just about 10 points apart. That was plenty enough. What changed? It appears the president's unfavorable rating shot up just about when John McCain died and Trump acted like an ogre.

              At the first of the memorial services for McCain, an emotional Joe Biden used words one knew would get Trump's goat. Of McCain, he used the word "decency" four times and "dignity" six times.

            Talk about affronting Trump's loyalists, who proclaim:

            "We don't need no stinking decency. We need ruthlessness, coarseness and petty personal attacks in the wee hours."

            Biden might offer Americans a different flavor in 2020.

            Next came the service at the National Cathedral with a bipartisan throng that applauded Meghan McCain's memorable "America was already great," preceded by her reference to "cheap rhetoric" aimed at her POW father by an individual for whom sacrifice meant having to shed shoes for the podiatrist.

            The New York Times reported it, and no one could deny it: "For years Mr. Trump mocked and condemned the Arizona senator. In death, Mr. McCain found the way to have the last word."

            I know. Fake news.

            Now Arizona has buried him, and Arizonans consider who will represent them in the Senate.

            Arizona Republicans just chose from three candidates who, as in so many GOP primaries, pulled an acrobatic Cirque de Soleil act to prove which was the Trump-iest. Is this really an asset in the general election for GOP nominee Martha McSally? Hardly – especially since she is facing a strong, serious, seasoned Democrat in Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema.

            Could a Democrat taking that Senate seat in revulsion against Trump be the last word?

            I'm thinking not. That very well could come in 2020. Imagine: Centrists and independents join Democrats in Arizona to award that state's 11 electoral votes to a Democrat, and with it Trump's removal.

            Then again, with Trump's low regard among increasingly exasperated voters, this presidency will be over long before Arizona's time zone reports.

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

‘Cleansing the office’ of the presidency, eh?

            Of course Donald Trump colluded.

            He knew what soon-to-be National Security adviser Michael Flynn was doing when Flynn met with Ambassador Sergiey Kislyak to discuss easing sanctions placed on Russia for attacks on our democratic system.

            Who else would ease those sanctions? Ivanka?

            Of course Trump knew about a meeting involving a Russian delegation and key campaign figures, including his son and his son-in-law, in his tower.

            Of course he's obstructed justice.

            He dictated an explanation about that meeting that was a brazen and clumsy lie.

            He fired James Comey to blunt the investigation into Flynn's activities after pressuring the then-FBI director to back off. He also pressured other officials including his national security adviser Mike Rogers.

            Every day since, Trump has bullied investigators, while demanding that Attorney General Jeff Sessions serve his own interests and go after his political enemies.

            Of course Trump has engaged in illegal activities. His own then-attorney said so in pleading guilty to campaign finance violations. Trump is on tape doing so.

            If President Hillary Clinton or President Obama had been implicated in so much as a sliver of such scandal, this Congress would be on it like red ants on watermelon rind.

            Instead, House investigators "led" by Rep. Devin Nunez have done everything possible to undermine the investigation.

            This very well could change in November.

            Much is said about the House role in launching impeachment proceedings. Less is said about the House's general investigatory role – the power to subpoena the executive branch.

            In the two years of the Trump presidency, House Democrats have asked the Republican majority 52 times to issue subpoenas to the administration, each time refused.

            The 52 sought-after probes range far and wide, from foreign business arrangements with the Trump Organization to obscenely wasteful spending by Cabinet officials.

            They also include documentation of the Trump administration's response to the disasters in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and the Flint, Mich., municipal water debacle.

            This brings us back to impeachment, which is misrepresented simply as removal from office. No, it's a trial based on very serious accusations.

            Of course Trump should be impeached – tried over matters we already know about. Who knows what else we will need to know about when Robert Mueller makes his report?

            Impeachment is an evidentiary proceeding. It is seeking the truth, albeit in a political tribunal. Certainly, if Republican enablers control either or both chambers, removal of this president would seem out of the question.

            Nonetheless, it is the obligation of Congress to investigate what he has done.

            Once again, impeachment is about ascertaining truth. If the press is the enemy of the people, as Trump says, he has been, from Day 1, an avowed enemy of the truth.

            Back when he was in the House in 1999 and Bill Clinton was in Republican crosshairs for far less than what this president has done, now-Sen. Lindsey Graham said, "You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. Impeachment isn't about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office."

            Despite what was said then, Sen. Graham and his cohorts have no inclination to do something about the criminally corrupt man in the White House now. That is up to voters in November.

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

 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Beto and the blue wave

Ted Cruz, the man who went to Washington to make waves, is feeling an undertow back home.

The militantly self-assured Mr. Cruz went to Washington to splash salt water in others' faces. Now he squints into some nasty spray.

Could he be the first Texas Republican to lose a statewide office since 1994?

The odds against it remain great, but the polls, the crowds and – most amazingly -- the campaign dollars say, "Wait a minute."

A recent Texas Lyceum poll shows El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke trailing Cruz by 2 points.

Meanwhile, O'Rourke raised $6.7 million in the first quarter, more than twice Cruz's haul.

How so? To expedite matters, try one word: Trump.

The more truthful explanation is longer. It is two words: Beto O'Rourke.

The man is waging the most dogged campaign imaginable while impressing giant crowd after giant crowd with his presence and low-key eloquence.

O'Rourke has come a long way from an unknown to a major threat to Cruz. Relative to voter attitudes, he has a long way to go still.

Considering how close the race has become – another poll shows O'Rourke trailing by 6 points – the fact that most Texans already have an impression of Cruz and that 43 percent (according to a Quinnipiac poll in July) were still forming an opinion about O'Rourke shows that with his resources, O'Rourke can close that gap handily and more people get to know him.

Here are four good reasons why Cruz should worry -- some obvious, some not so obvious:

(1) A lying, racist, sexist president: He who makes sport of misrepresenting the truth, who inflames people of color, and who lives a life of misogyny is harming his party nationwide. To those skeptical of a "blue wave" in November: It's already happening.

In addition to high-profile pick-ups like Doug Jones' U.S. Senate victory in Alabama and Conor Lamb's taking the Pennsylvania's 18th District seat in Congress, Democrats have flipped 43 GOP-held seats in state and local races across the country.

            (2) Angry voters: The poli-sci rule of thumb is that in low-turnout elections, which off-year elections tend to be, the accent is on the angry vote.

We can attribute the GOP takeover of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 to that dynamic, with the angry white voters of the tea party the life force of the takeover of Congress.

We are seeing the same thing right now among angry progressive voters, with the revulsion toward Donald Trump and the sycophantic behavior of his Republican enablers the motivators.

According to Pew, turnout by Democrats in primaries this year is 84 percent higher than this point in 2014.

            (3) The Lupe factor: The outlook doesn't look good for Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lupe Valdez in her race against incumbent Greg Abbott. However, her nomination provides a silver lining for O'Rourke and other Democrats running.

To whatever degree it manifests itself, Valdez' presence on the ballot is going to boost turnout by Latinos in Texas, absolutely crucial to Democrats' chances.

            (4) The voter hassle boomerang: Could it be that Republicans' propensity to make it inconvenient to vote will blow up in their faces in November? Yes, it could.

When it comes to voting rights, Texas is one of the nation's greatest scofflaws. Just ask federal judges.

The latest run-up with the law: In April, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas had violated the National Voter Registration Act for failing to register residents to vote when they updated their drivers' license information online.

Generally it serves Republican interests to suppress turnout. However, in 2018, with swarms of Democrats ready to wade through molten lava to register their anger at the polls, it won't serve the party of Trump at all.

If off-year election history is our guide, Republicans soon could be asking, "Why didn't our people show up?"

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


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?

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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.