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.

                                                    


Monday, June 4, 2018

Serious case of parasitism in executive branch

John Dean famously warned Richard Nixon of a "cancer on the presidency."

The diagnosis today would be that the presidency has a tapeworm.

That would seem to be assessment of Adam Serwer, senior editor of The Atlantic. He writes to empathize with those flustered as they attempt to connect the dots between the varied outrages and scandals associated with this president.

Russian collusion? Sexploits and hush money? Pay for play? Financial crimes and conflicts? Which thread merits our attention? All of them, writes Serwer.

"There are not many Trump scandals," Serwer writes. "There is one Trump scandal. Singular."

That singular scandal, he writes, is general corruption by many people -- individuals whose DNA compels them to use power "for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people."

Spin the wheel of corruption. Team Trump hits on every stroke:

Budget director Mick Mulvaney admits that as congressman he met only with representatives of entities that contributed to his re-election.

Trump's choices for Cabinet have made like contestants on "Supermarket Sweep," their shopping carts stacked to the ceiling at taxpayers' expense.

The Trump children have picked up overseas favors like daisies in the spring.

Trump International Hotel has entertained foreign emissaries despite the clear conflict.

Trump's attorneys say it's legal, but a federal judge says attorneys general in Maryland and the District of Columbia can proceed with a lawsuit alleging that such conflicts violate the emoluments clause – prohibiting a sitting president from accepting payments from foreign governments.

So, in practical matters, which of these above might serve the function of removal?

Maybe none of the above.

Face it. If removal by impeachment is your pleasure, it takes two to tango – two houses of Congress, and a supermajority in one. Out of the question.

I've always said that the remedy for Trump (before 2020, that is) is not the political system (Congress) but the criminal justice system. Clearly, with how Trump has comported himself in business, and who's now investigating him, criminal indictments are hardly out of the question.

This notion didn't come from my small brain but from an enormous noggin – that of Steve Bannon. Of the Mueller probe, he told author Michael Wolff, "It's all about money laundering."

You don't say, Mr. Bannon.

Mueller has enlisted some of the nation's top investigators of financial crimes. Otherwise, Paul Manafort might not be a household name.

State attorneys in the New York and Washington regions are on the vine as well about these very matters.

An illuminating article by business writer Garrett Graff explains what this is about. Money laundering is the means of shuffling around illegal earnings and playing keep-away from the government when it comes to tax time.

A trademark of money laundering is massive in-cash transactions. Cash is hard to trace, hard to track, Graff writes in Wired.

For that reason, investigators would be highly interested in Citizen Trump's buying a $12.6 million Scottish estate and a $16.2 million Virginia winery – all in cash.

Similar activities have been attributed to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who, Graff quotes an expert in tracking the financing of terrorism, has shown a pattern of "atypical financial transactions."

Wait – did someone say "terrorism"?

No law enforcement entity is probing Team Trump for that – as of today.

The terror connection is this: Post-9/11 the Patriot Act gave investigators new tools to get a handle on financial activities that stretched across oceans.

Graff says such tools could come into play in determining if Russian money has helped and is helping keep the Trump empire afloat.

What an irony it would be if a GOP political cudgel in the "war on terror" became the device that ushered this president into civilian life -- and into the world of corrections.

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


Monday, May 28, 2018

Blowing smoke about stewardship of our natural assets

It goes and goes and goes -- the stretching of credulity by the team of scoundrels Donald Trump has assembled to oversee our air, our forests, our waters.

We have Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt with his $3.5 million round-the-clock security detail and the $43,000 soundproof phone booth he had built in his own office.

We have Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke seeking to lease property for fracking in the pristine Sangre de Cristo Range, not a mile from the silent shifting of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado.

In either case, we have ironclad industry control of agencies formed to be honest brokers regarding public assets – our lands and our environment. Yes, the word is "our."

In the meantime, we have Republicans in control of Congress who are abiding by their partisan oath to cut taxes, thereby straining the fiscal resources we have to protect or maintain our wild assets.

There's that "we" and "our" again.

Facing a $12 billion backlog in maintaining national parks (and we wonder why . . .), I'm not sure what Zinke expected when his department proposed more than doubling the fees for entry to a host of national parks.

The idea was pelted with pine cones. Back to the drawing board. 

Now Republicans have proposed addressing those fiscal needs with something loftily called the National Park Restoration Act.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., calls it a "long-term commitment to the parks" by his party. Forgive me, but as I read those words, all I can hear is, "Let's do this on the cheap. We have Big Energy to serve."

Which is exactly what the act would do.

The revenue Gardner and proponents envision would come from energy development on public lands, things like the fracking Zinke wants on Bureau of Land Management property near the Sand Dunes.

The act is nothing more than a justification for more energy development in those public lands. At the same time, it makes the well-being of national parks contingent on an unstable and unpredictable revenue source. And after all, that revenue would go somewhere else, so this is simply a shell game for what the general fund should do.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the natural world, Scott Pruitt has signed on a dramatic increase in the use of wood-burning power plants, declaring it a "carbon-neutral" means of providing energy.

Pruitt's argument is that if trees are cut for biomass operations and replanted, the new trees will cancel out the carbon lost from the logging and that released from incineration.

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of scientists call this bunk. Not surprisingly, Pruitt is ignoring the science.

For one thing, regrowth of natural forests takes a century or more, while the planet stews in its juices.

For another, biomass ranks with coal in emitting carbon dioxide and particulates.

And burning wood to generate electricity is hardly cost-effective, and in fact is costlier than utility-scale wind and solar.

What this is, not surprisingly, is a "giveaway to the forest-products industry," writes a trio of top environmental scholars in a New York Times commentary. Of course, like the National Park Restoration Act, it is framed as something that's good for us and our wild assets.

The team Trump has assembled to oversee these matters has only one set of assets in mind -- as do those in Congress in neglecting their role of serious natural stewardship. The assets that matter are those measured on corporate ledgers.

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


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dim foresight: Place seed corn in microwave, press ‘start’

The old farmer says, "Don't eat your seed corn. You need it for planting."

What would Steve Mnuchin say about that? Donald Trump's treasury secretary clearly would say, "It depends. Can it be sold on the futures market?"

We know what Trump's man heading the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, would say: "Seed corn makes great fritters. Fry 'em up."

Team Trump is all about immediate gratification -- aka the next meal -- or at least the next election: not so much as a glance down the road past that.

Trump and Republicans in Congress engineered a tax cut that will drive up the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. For what? Principally, so that America's wealthiest will be wealthier.

Yes, most of us will pay less in taxes. That will mean mainly two things:  (1) more debt for your children and grandchildren; (2) strained public services for all.

Somebody in the tea party – for whom red ink was Satan's tonic -- explain that bargain.

Wait, say supporters of short-side (short-sighted) economics. Look at the economy.

No question, the economy looks good -- an upswing that was in gear before Trump took office. It's no surprise, though, that big tax cuts would help. The question is, "At what cost?"

Similar tax cuts preceded the Great Depression. So did tariffs. One could Google "Smoot-Hawley" to learn about this, but don't try schooling Donald Trump on history.

Now let's talk about the long-term economics of saving energy. Scott Pruitt doesn't get it.

Pruitt wants to roll back fuel standards that the Obama administration negotiated with automakers.

Not only did that agreement look to conserve finite petroleum sources, but fuel economy saves Americans money.

The concessions in those standards are slated to reduce fleet efficiency by a stunning 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Imagine the oil saved by that. Now imagine the savings for Americans. The Union of Concerned Scientists finds that the average household could miss out on nearly $28,000 in fuel savings by 2030 should Pruitt get his way.

The same analysis found that the standards have already saved $58 billion in fuel costs since 2012.

We won't mention the greenhouse emissions averted by Obama's wise policy, something to which, again, automakers agreed in exchange for the federal bail-out during the Great Recession.

We won't mention that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere just reached their highest point in 800,000 years.

Let's not mention that the greenhouse effect is fact, not theory.

Let's observe instead that saving finite energy sources means we have more of them in the future (you know, like seed corn), that regardless of the CO2 issue, using less fossil fuel means less pollution in general – ozone, hydrocarbons, soot, mercury.

The fact is, everything about reducing fuel consumption is good -- unless one doesn't care at all about the environment, or the future.

By the way, the last time CO2 levels were this high was the mid-Pliocene era. At that time, global temperatures soared, the ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica melted, and ocean levels were 10 to 20 meters higher than today.

Don't worry about that future, say today's political leaders. We have an election coming up. Excessive heat? With melted butter, that's how seed corn becomes delicious popcorn.

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

 


Monday, May 14, 2018

The art of being transparently corrupt

I overheard the voter stand by her man, Donald Trump, the day after the "Access Hollywood" tapes showed him in vibrantly misogynistic Technicolor.

"I'd rather have someone coarse than someone corrupt," she sniffed -- the latter reference being to Hillary Clinton.

What does that Trump voter smell now? Roses, no doubt.

This, though we're learning that several major corporations, including one with pronounced Russian connections, paid Trump attorney Michael Cohen millions to -- what?

To gain insight into Trump's thoughts? That's pretty pricey, when Twitter is free.

To influence policy to their benefit? I think that's called "pay to play," something of which Trump accused Clinton in raising funds for the Clinton Foundation.

To provide a slush/hush fund for all those "Stormy" matters in a man's life?

It spells corruption, smells corruption. Trump isn't even trying to hide it. Drain the swamp, eh?

What a ridiculous discussion it is to focus on the role of Michael Cohen. Was he selling influence? Give me a break. The dollars he received were meant to benefit one man only.

Trump supporters, so focused about probity in the presidency -- at least before Trump -- know what that money is for. They couldn't care less.

Over at the White House, what a charade it is for the media to focus on the veracity of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "Has she lost the room" at press conferences?

The poor lady is chasing moonbeams around a Maypole. She wouldn't know truth if it arrived in a Candygram.

Of Trump, Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein has said, "We've never seen a president who lies so routinely." And Bernstein has covered a few liars.

I think back to that Trump voter who was so concerned about corruption.

Does she think that when a contingent of Russians showed up in Trump Tower to talk to Trump's son and several key aides, the president-elect didn't know it?

Does she think that when Mike Flynn spoke to the Russians about holding off on sanctions once this administration took office, he then said nothing of it to the president who would make that determination?

Some voters may not realize that it's a crime for a civilian to negotiate with a foreign government, much less a hostile one. If Flynn did that on behalf of the president-elect, would it bother the Trump voter in the slightest?

It apparently wouldn't bother House Republicans. They shut down their investigation of the Russian matter just in time for the world to hear about more suspicious activities in the form of Cohen "client" Columbus Nova, a firm with ties to Kremlin power player and oligarch Victor Vekselberg.

Trump said before the election that he could "stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue" and shoot someone, and his supporters would blink only at the gunshot. So far, he's proving himself right.

So clearly is he lying that (1) either he is wholly inept at lying or (2) he knows lying doesn't matter one whit regarding the allegiance of his never-wavering 40 percent base.

By the way, folks: He'll need quite a bit more than that to retain the presidency.

Should he finish this term and run in 2020, it will be fascinating to see what Trump supporters pull out of their hats to tar Trump's opponent as ethically challenged, as so many did about Clinton to justify their 2016 vote. Maybe the Republicans will find a misstatement or two from that Democrat to build into a nationwide smear campaign.

And Trump will run on the guarantee that, hey, if he's corrupt, at least he's above-board about it. Cue the cheers.           

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


Monday, May 7, 2018

Crossing the bridge to gun sanity in spite of the troll below

The vespidae were aloft over Boulder last week.

Vespidae – the family of hornets.

The Boulder City Council stirred up a hornets nest. It voted to abolish the sale and possession, unless registered, of what the city defines as assault weapons, as well as bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

The action is yet to be finalized, but the unanimous preliminary vote seems to assure approval – as well as a full-court press by the hornet lobby.

Hear the gun industry and fanciers say there's no such thing as an assault weapon. Hear them say, for instance, that the "AR" in AR-15 is misrepresented as standing for "assault rifle" when in fact the "A" stands for "Armalite," after the arms maker.

That's a fact. And it's beside the fact.

An assault rifle is what we decide it is. We: the community. We: the nation. We: Americans in concert. We: also known as representative democracy.

The gun lobby and its supporters assert that the AR-15 the AK-47 and other kin of military lineage are just rifles – "sporting rifles." A most curious claim. However, it is the "we" above who will and can decide if they belong in civilian hands.

This was done by Congress in 1994 with the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Protection Act, aka the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. It lasted 10 years until the Bush administration and a Republican Congress let it expire.

Seven states, including New York and California, have assault weapon bans, as do the cities of Denver and Vail.

Opponents said such things do nothing to save lives. Not true, said University of Massachusetts professor Louis Klarevas. The author of "Rampage Nation," Klarevas writes that while the law was in place, the number of mass murders (six or more dead) dropped a "staggering" 37 percent.

A violation of the Second Amendment? Not so, say the courts. Limiting what "sporting weapons" civilians be sold or imported doesn't mean Americans can't bear arms. Not at all.

The mere fact that not just anyone can have a grenade launcher or machine gun affirms that a law targeting particular arms is fully constitutional.

The NRA opposes gun control? Why did it not allow guns into the auditorium in Dallas the other day when Donald Trump pandered to the (defenseless) crowd?

You may say the whole concept of "assault weapons" is vague. Agreed. Then again, communities and states only have a vague idea of what speed limit would best save lives, and they make decisions as to what those are.

You may say people are certain to violate this law (buying their weapons outside Boulder), and that will apply to bad guys.

Yes, and the same could apply to speed limits, laws against rape, bribery and anything else. So let's not have any laws?

The gun lobby is like a troll under the bridge posing a riddle before it allows passage. The vast majority of Americans want stronger gun laws. We should cross that bridge without asking permission.

For the National Rifle Association to dictate our gun laws is like the Alliance of Maserati Owners setting our speed limits. It's like Big Energy writing our environmental laws. (Oh, wait; that's what's happening now under Scott Pruitt and Team Trump.)

The gun lobby shouldn't write out gun laws. We should.

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


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Your swamp water is served

Did I hear Donald Trump say that someone in Washington should resign because of an unsubstantiated claim?

Yes I did. He tweeted that Montana Sen. John Tester, a Democrat, should resign over claims that may or may not hold water regarding the bizarro comportment of Trump's choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, the dearly departed Ronny Jackson.

Mr. President, if one were required to turn in his Capitol badge over an unsubstantiated claim, you wouldn't have served past "biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan" and "illegal voters brought in on buses" in New Hampshire.

If either of those charges didn't stick, you would have had to resign each day thereafter, and today, and no doubt tomorrow when next your tweeting finger itches.

There are two classes of pathological liars – 1. all of them before and since Donald J. Trump, and 2. Donald J. Trump. When it comes to lying, he is in a class by himself.

There's something else in which the Trump Administration is achieving a singular distinction: garden-variety corruption.

In one of those moments when someone in the Trump Administration committed the firing offense of truth, director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney told a group of bankers that when he served in Congress he had a rule for any meeting with a lobbyist. It was contingent on a payment to his re-election campaign. Without payment, no meeting.

This is how Donald Trump has "drained the swamp."

Yes, he talked and talked about changing the way things were done in Washington, about how he wouldn't be swayed by big-money interests, how he would turn away the entreaties of Wall Street, unlike, say, Hillary Clinton.

Well, look at what's happened. One of his first acts of business was to lie down for Wall Street and dynamite the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, appointing none other than the sainted Mulvaney to do it.

An enemy of big lenders? Trump is Wall Street's dream come true.

No, what we are seeing is the most corrupt administration since . . . maybe since the coining of American currency.

A lot of attention has been directed at the excesses of Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, with his $40,000 sound-proof room, his $3 million in security costs, his comfy-cozy apartment provided at $50 a night by a lobbyist.

This is just about a man wasting tax dollars for his own comfort and aggrandizement. Far worse is his devoted servitude to oil and gas interests, another word for polluters.

Consider the issue of methane pollution and the Obama administration's requirement that oil and gas producers capture escaping greenhouse gas rather than venting or "flaring" it.

Pruitt has acted to set aside that requirement at the bidding of industry, particularly petroleum giant Devon Energy from Pruitt's home state of Oklahoma, and anything done by Koch Industries.

Emails released under court order show that Pruitt's relationship with the oil industry is basically that he does what it says.

As Politico reports, Devon Energy "authored a letter on methane emissions that Pruitt largely copied and sent to the EPA."

Methane, by the way, is swamp gas.

So, what exactly did Trump mean when he said, "Drain the swamp"? He certainly didn't mean removing the influence of lobbyists and all the usual corrupters of government.

Apparently he meant purging Washington of people who actually had an eye out for the public welfare in lieu of bringing in moneyed interests, like Trump himself, to control the government.

Those who thought Trump would actually be an agent against corruption bought a mossy, smelly basin of green slime. Drink up, folks.

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


Monday, April 23, 2018

Where does Trump find these people?

Who in Hades is Roger Stone?

Many were asking this when they read that Donald Trump's one-time key adviser called newly deceased and widely venerated Barbara Bush a "mean-spirited, vindictive drunk." Said Stone, "She is descending into hell right now."

What a sweetheart of a guy. And what timing.

His comments caused a group of Florida Republicans to disinvite him as featured speaker at a Lincoln-Reagan Day event. The real question: Why would anyone listen to Roger Stone?

He's just one more in a gallery of ghouls who glommed on to Donald Trump and helped him gain his current stature. Stone is certainly up to the job, Slate magazine calls him "Washington's sleaziest political operator."

Stone, like Trump, is a former protégé of Joe McCarthy's right-hand hatchet man, Roy Cohn, a former associate of political attack dog Lee Atwater and of the newly indicted Paul Manafort.

Stone, a former dirty trickster under Richard Nixon – he wears a Nixon tattoo – is the kind of gentleman the New York Times editorial board had in mind in saying this president "has spent his whole career in the company of grifters, cons and crooks."

This is borne out by a tally of indictments of Trump associates that one day looks to resemble the tote board for Jerry Lewis's Labor Day Telethon.

This is not just about the wholly corrupt. It's also about the wholly inept.

Trump attorney Michael Cohen is so over his head he will suffer the bends should he ever return to the water's surface.

Attorney Michael Avenatti, who has Cohen (and Trump?) by the shorts over the Stormy Daniels matter, says, Trump "has surrounded himself in his adult life with those who are incompetent, and the chickens are coming home to roost."

The most alarming thing is that Trump not only has hired incompetents to be his fixers and to guard his secrets, he's also appointed them to serve in some of the most important roles in government.

Who in Hades is Jim Bridenstine?

The 42-year-old Oklahoma congressman has no science experience. Yet he is Trump's choice to run NASA.

His only real qualification, based on the Trump Scale of Bona Fides, is that is he is a proud climate-change denier.

Before shrugging these matters away and voting to confirm Bridenstine, Sen. Marco Rubio said a NASA administrator ought to know something about, oh, NASA or something.

Oh, well. La-dee-da. Trump demeaned the office of surgeon general when he nominated White House physician Jerome Adams. Trump chose the fulsomely corrupt and environmentally adverse Scott Pruitt to wreck the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump has looked the other way as Pruitt, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have formed what The Atlantic calls "a Cabinet of conspicuous corruption."

Pruitt has spent more than $200,000 on first-class tickets and military flights -- many for specious purposes like heading back to home-sweet Oklahoma -- more than $3 million on a 20-person round-the-clock security detail, and more than $43,000 on a sound-proof phone booth in his office.

And Trump has the gall to propose that we cut back on food stamps.

Back to Roger Stone: He was the youngest individual to testify before the Watergate grand jury regarding his role in dirty tricks under Watergate felons Charles Colson and G. Gordon Liddy.

Now Stone is considered a possible conduit for the stolen emails that are the subject of the lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee against Russia and the Trump campaign. Yes, a similar suit was filed after Watergate.

Regardless of his role in this matter, corruption is in the man's blood.

As my mother used to say, Mr. President, "You are the company you keep."

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


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.