Sunday, September 15, 2019

Stop the kidney punches, Democrats

            The Democratic presidential debates have been as welcome as a toothache.

            Bash, trash, clash, finger-point, knee-cap. Rinse and repeat.

            I'm not watching.

            Those appearing on-stage are all outstanding, thoughtful, bright individuals with the best interests of the country at heart.

            Any would be better in the office than the impacted molar of a man elevated by a minority of voters to the highest office in 2016.

            I know what Julian Castro was doing when he jumped on Joe Biden at the last debate to assert he'd had another brain burp and had contradicted himself on his health care plan. (An analysis by Politifact acquits Biden of any such offense, by the way.) Castro was posturing in a furious bid to gain traction with voters.

            I know what Cory Booker was doing when he told reporters after the most recent debate that he is concerned Biden might "fumble" down the stretch – the same thing.

            Booker and Castro, two fine men, know as well as you and I that if Biden gets the nomination they will go to sleep every night beseeching the gods to deliver him triumphantly to the Capitol steps for a soothing, eloquent and uplifting inaugural address. And they will be confident that Biden can deliver; and they will say so.

            So stop it.

            It's already tiring that what we know will happen in forums like this is considered significant: that Biden will have some trivial slip of the tongue.

            So, what? We aren't electing contestants to "Jeopardy."

            Biden calls himself a "gaffe machine." The proclivity is as much him as Donald Trump's fake tan is him.

            Poll after poll shows that by a large majority, voters would prefer a gaffe machine over a semiautomatic fabulist like the con man in the White House.

            People ask me whom I support among the Democrats. I say, "Them."

            I'll vote in my state's primary for one of the survivors of the process. Then after the convention I'll petition the gods to have many more concerned Americans turn out than in 2016, resulting in a Democrat beaming on those Capitol steps in January 2021 while the fake tan man glowers.

            Melania can wear her "I really don't care. Do you?" poncho.

            I read something useful recently from blogger-author Tej Steiner urging the Democratic candidates to collaborate in their effort to oust the Trumps.

            Steiner urges that the candidates "start to function as a united team while simultaneously continuing to compete individually for the nomination."

            If the Democratic contenders are the fine people I know them to be, they will do what Steiner suggests -- agree "that they are a team unified in the understanding that removing Donald Trump from power is more important" than any other ambition.

            In that spirit, I say this to those who might be inclined to do what Castro and Booker did in fits of debate-night passion:

            What this nation needs is a kinder, broader, more diverse, more just leadership coalition than that which governs us today. As with other countries governed by coalitions, Democrats should think in terms of what that can mean.

            Today's Republican Party is no more representative of this land than the cast of "Survivor" (with quite a few GOP players in Congress having excused themselves from the island).

            Democrats: Do not engage in cannibalism. Wherever your passion might lie, having one of your kind as president will further empower those of varied progressive passions – be it the Obama brand, the Ocasio-Cortez brand, and all in between.

            Once again, I'm not watching the Dem debates anymore. I am, however, voting in the primary – and beseeching the gods.

            To help that along, I'm also begging Democratic survivors to cease the caged death match.

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

Monday, September 9, 2019

For political pettiness, Trump is a force of nature

            "The thing I like about Trump is that he's not a politician."

            For dripping ripeness, that ranks with:

            "I like Trump because he'll finance his own campaign."

            (Sure, with millions from the National Rifle Association, and Sheldon Adelson, and the Mercers, and the Kochs, and the DeVos family, and . . .)

            As advertised, Trump is beholden to no one -- except to every moneyed interest cultivating the soupy swamp he said he would drain.

            As to that "not a politician" thing:

            As president, Donald Trump has shown his utmost interest always (1) to ingratiate himself; (2) to reward supporters or (3) to smite his partisan enemies and anyone in his own party who isn't all in on him as the "chosen one."

            If Trump is a statesman, Barney Fife was a philosopher king.

            Consider his visit to a weeping El Paso, where at the hospital he was so focused on all the suffering that he just had to employ an aside comparing the size of his crowds to Beto O'Rourke's.

            And now we have Hurricane Dorian.

            Much has been said, and rightfully, of the completely irresponsible Sharpie art that Trump employed to tell the people of Alabama that – tie that milk cow to the porch – Dorian was coming their way.

            (Even the projections Mr. Fake News used to deliver this terrifying information only pointed to winds around 40 mph. We have those every spring in the Colorado foothills.)

            Sure, that was bad. "One for the history books" bad. But what the Washington Post's Aaron Blake points out is even worse – that Trump played partisan politics with Dorian, and has made a habit of doing so with hurricanes.

            In advance of Dorian, Trump tweeted that at the request of Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, he had signed an emergency disaster declaration for North Carolina.

            Is that so wrong? Well: As Blake points out, requesting such designations is not what senators do. That's something governors do. It just so happens that North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat.

            Tillis, meanwhile, is considered vulnerable as he faces a re-election fight that could see the Senate go blue.

            Blake says this fits with a pattern. Even when hurricanes cause untold suffering, Trump just can't be a statesman. He has to be a partisan animal. And he never misses a round of golf amid all the suffering.

            Recall Trump's horrific efforts to dismiss the scope of devastation in Puerto Rico and to throw blame around. He said Democrats – what? – were overstating the death toll there. Did that even matter?

            The grim truth could not have been overstated. Maria claimed over 3,000 lives. How petty could this man be?

            Here's how petty:

            As Blake reports, when Hurricane Harvey was delivering a hammer blow to Houston, Trump was contemplating, of all things, when best to announce that he was pardoning disgraced Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. So that's when he did it.

            As Trump said, the "ratings would be far higher" for the announcement with so many watching TV.

            Ah, but Trump is no politician. Only politicians seize on horrific events to benefit themselves and their party.

            We shouldn't have to advise our leaders to do one simple thing in the midst of a natural disaster.

            Shut up and do what you can to help.

            Of course, with Trump's level of dexterity in doing what he can to help – tossing out paper towels in Puerto Rico, for instance – maybe the golf course is where he can best be of service.

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

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Hostages of lobbyists and hobbyists

           The moment cops took down the Odessa gunman, the clock started ticking toward the next mass shooting.

            It will happen. Count on it. Just as you can count on Republicans in Washington and in red statehouses, like the red-granite one in Texas, to do nothing about it.

            Cowardly, they will say things like, "We need to do more about mental health," then do nothing.

            Cowardly, they will point to video games, knowing that no influence can tie a dangerous mind in knots in 2019 like the nightly news.

            They will not acknowledge that far from a mental health issue, this is a syndrome of heavily armed copy cats and trend-surfers. Change the trend -- make it more difficult for them to kill en masse -- and we'll have less surfing, and less suffering.

            Don't believe this? Read Louis Klarevas' "Rampage Nation." The book makes a convincing case that strategic measures aimed at mass-killing tools indeed save lives. They did in this country with the assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004 -- at the behest of Republicans, naturally.

            Over its 10-year life span, the law reduced mass killings. Indeed, the first four years saw zero mass shootings. The 10-year duration of the ban saw 12.

            The next 10 years? Try 34, with 302 dead. Oh, well. As the gun lobby likes to say, "That's the price of freedom."

            Freedom for what? Is a high-capacity military-style weapon something civilians need in any way? You joke.

            This side of the military and law enforcement, these weapons are the province of (1) hobbyists, and (2) people who are dangers to society.

            In Erik Larson's book "Lethal Passage," about the commerce and easy flow of mass-murdering machines, Larson asked around for any plausible need one might have for a 100-round magazine. The answer: So as not to have to reload on the firing range.

            When Colorado banned magazines larger than 15 rounds following the horrific Aurora theater shootings, the gun lobby made the matter into an Italian opera. Imagine if your home is besieged by 50 intruders at once, sang the gun hobbyists. What will you do?

            We must leave it up to them to imagine. However, we know what one intruder did. When Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and started killing toddlers, he had to pause to insert a new magazine into his AR-15. Several children scrambled to safety. They are alive only because of the size of his magazine.

            In Aurora, by contrast, gunman James Holmes came with a 100-round magazine. His AR-15 sprayed 65 rounds in mere seconds.

            Klarevas directs much of his attention to the AR-15, the weapon of choice for so many mass killers.

            A hunter's friend? Be serious. Defender of the homestead? Shotguns have done that for centuries. Klarevas defers to one gun enthusiast to explain the AR-15's function in civilian hands: To serve at the benefit of posers, as explained this way by an unnamed third party:

            "Much of what's 'fun' about shooting an assault weapon is that it feels masculine; it's an implicit expression of male sexuality."

             The same applies, one might assert, to the male-dominated "open carry" phenomenon. It's not about freedom or self-protection. It's about posing – and hormones.

            Back to shotguns, the traditional hunter-home invasion standby: Klarevas himself survived a gun rampage, and he is certain he survived because the man who tried to kill him and others had a shotgun and not a high-capacity assault weapon.

            "Guns don't kill people"? Those who trot out that sad line know it's a lie when applied to a whole family of guns designed to kill people in bunches.

            As Klarevas writes, "My personal experience illustrates the difference that the weapon makes."

            So does the American experience. As the clock ticks toward the next rampage killing, only hobbyists and gun industry lobbyists, and policy-makers hypnotized by them, will defend the status quo.

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

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The embarrassment-a-thon continues

            It's a stunning number.

            A new Associated Press-NORC poll finds that 62 percent of Americans disapprove of what Donald Trump is doing, while 36 percent approve.

            Thank of that.

            An imponderable number – a little more than 100 million Americans, one in three of us – thinks this man is not a global embarrassment.

            Assess your surroundings right now. Count to three. Determine what person might be the one-of-three this survey identifies. Then slowly back away.

            Such people are free to believe what they want, but -- my goodness:

            Could they possibly be OK with denying children soap at the border, while entertaining the purchase of Greenland?

            Could they possibly see logic in cancelling a presidential trip to Denmark because its prime minister reacted the way any other head of state would to such ridiculousness?

            Rest assured, the world as a whole does not see Donald Trump as "favorably" as Americans do. He is the most reviled American leader in history. No contest. Check any poll you want.

            Consider his statement that Jews who vote Democratic are showing "great disloyalty," the next day refusing to walk back the intellectual insult he had hocked up.

            Had such words come from any other U.S. public figure this side of Reps. Steve King and Louie Gohmert, they would be the most politically damning and damaging that person ever uttered.

            The utterance came after Trump goaded Israel into putting two U.S. congresswomen on a string regarding an official visit. This from a nation that receives untold aid from our taxpayers.

            Disgraceful.

            And of course, there's Trump's "chosen one" statement about himself. He may be joking, but religious right mullahs like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham – not to mention David Duke of the Klan – are serious about it.

            Now the Chosen One says he orders American businesses not to do business with China. We can assume Ivanka will not get the memo.

            Away from the tweeting and the flapping of lips that are sorely in need of a restraint device, Trump consistently shows that he doesn't know what he says about matters that matter, like guns:

            He has crossed the gun-sanity Rubicon over and over since the horrors of El Paso and Dayton, intimating he supports heightened background checks and then backing off after one ringy-dingy from the National Rifle Association.

            With the economy looking as green around the gills as his own presidency, he doesn't want to show he knows it. He said he wasn't considering an election-year payroll tax cut before saying he was in fact considering pushing for it.

            Let's hope it doesn't happen. Trump has always shot his wad in the tax-cut arena. The result is an increasingly stagnant economy and projections of a deficit that next year will exceed $1 trillion.

            Yes, $1 trillion of a deficit that was actually declining in President Obama's second term, with a ravaged economy on the mend.

            Do you imagine that frantically anti-debt tea party fundamentalists remain tightly packed in that one-third of Americans who remain in lust with Trump?

            You can bet your yellow beehive "Don't Tread on Me" bumper sticker they are.

            Now let us consider the plight of the Republicans, who polls show are still enamored with this man who has put a clown's nose on our nation's image.

            The president blithely has predicted a "Jexodus" -- Jews fleeing the Democratic Party. That's more pink elephant fodder from him, particularly after the damage from his "disloyal" comments.

            Indeed, the latter language harks, for many of the Jewish faith, to the rhetoric that led to pogroms, concentration camps and, in the age of Trump, lit tiki torches.

            The actual, certifiable exodus is from Republican moderates in Congress and Trump voters in the swing states that made him king -- or at least so he thought.

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

 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Whom do you trust? My goodness, not him

            So, are you good with Roundup now?

            The Environmental Protection Agency, made golden in the image of Donald Trump, just pronounced the weed-killer not a human-killer.

            The wind gust you just heard? That was a sigh of relief from Roundup's maker, Monsanto. Or maybe there was no suspense at all.

            The EPA announced that it won't approve cancer warnings on products with glyphosate, Roundup's active ingredient.

            This despite the International Agency for Research's asserting a cancer link is probable.

            This despite a string of victories for plaintiffs claiming the chemical caused their cancer, with 13,000 suits pending.

            So, go ahead and use Roundup with the confidence inspired by he who recently said he's a world-class environmentalist, that as president he is "working so hard" on clean water and air.

            This despite – well -- everything he has done.

            Indeed, those who care might read Politico's fact-check on "Trump's environmental rhetoric vs. record."

            The crux is that Trump has virtually no claim to any environmental gains. To the contrary: He has undermined many key initiatives made under President Obama toward cleaner air and water.

            Of course, we all knew that. It is high comedy that Trump would spin any other pretense.

            Look at the cast of profiteers and pillagers he has appointed to oversee our environment and its public lands.

            His EPA director, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal-industry lobbyist. That's some qualification.

            His Interior secretary, David Bernhardt, is a former lobbyist for big agriculture and oil and gas.

            Obviously, the key qualification for stewardship of the environment in this administration is to have carried water for its despoilers.

            If that sounds like hyperbole, consider that Bernhardt recently appointed William Perry Pendley to be acting head of the Bureau of Land Management.

            What is Pendley's qualification? Um, look at what he wrote for the National Review in 2016: that the founding fathers "intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold."

            In other words, he had Trump at, "Hello."

            Last week the administration set forth to hamper the Endangered Species Act, although in comical Trump-speak, Bernhardt said the action really was about making it work better:

            "The best way to the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal – recovery of our rarest species."

            So, do you think the Trump administration is interested in doing this very thing? Clearly it is not, as attested to by a provision that would put cost considerations ahead of species preservation.

            Whom do you trust? Not them.

            Back to Roundup. I'm not in a position to state that it causes cancer or not. Just know that Monsanto has pumped millions of dollars into the policy-making process in terms of lobbying and campaign donations. It was one of the big contributors to the Trump inauguration.

            Pursuant to the job specifications for working on his team, last year Trump nominated a former Monsanto executive, Aurelia Skipwith, to head up the Fish and Wildlife Service.

            This came after the same agency decided in Monsanto's favor when it rescinded an Obama administration ban on the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides in farming operations in national wildlife refuges.

            I don't know neonicotinoids from adenoids, but I know whom I trust when it comes to protecting the environment and public lands. It's not the con man with the itchy Twitter fingers. It's not people compromised by their involvement in industries that they would govern.

            So, go ahead. Stick with Roundup. I'll pass.

            Come to think of it, there could have been no suspense at all about the glyphosate decision. Monsanto knew whom it could trust. What about you?

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

Saturday, August 10, 2019

‘All lives matter’? You don’t mean it

           Congressman Kevin McCarthy spun the wheel of empty rationalizations. It came up: "video games."

            It could have landed on "gay marriage," or "changing gender roles," or "God removed from schools." To him, no doubt, "video games" sounded fresh.

            Whether he realized it or not, in his empty rationalization, McCarthy, R-Trumpland, used one word that could not be more pertinent: "dehumanizing."

            In the wake of so much death in El Paso and Dayton, the House minority leader cited video games for "dehumanizing individuals."

            It's true; death treated as sport offends the senses. However, if you're troubled by dehumanization, look no further than what our president says.

            "Invasion," "animals," "rapists and murderers," "rat-infested," "shit-hole countries."

            The better to dehumanize people and places.

            Look at the sub-human treatment authorized by this administration and endorsed by supporters: children in cages, families ripped to pieces, refugees treated like drug-runners.

            What's happened at the border -- and we're not talking here about 22 people shot dead for the color of their skin -- offers a fulsome means of calling out those whose smug rejoinder to the Black Lives Matter movement is, "All lives matter."

            All lives? You don't mean it.

            You couldn't care less, for instance, about the tearful children in Mississippi who became instant orphans in the massive ICE raids that took away their parents by the hundreds on the same day our president visited Dayton and El Paso.

            By the way, the undocumented, brown-skinned people are invaders, but those who profit from their labor are just good businessmen.

            Corporations are people, say conservatives and their judicial heroes, but the same classification – human -- can't be afforded "them" by those with a broad-based animus:

            Dehumanized: 22 shot dead in El Paso because of the color of their skin.

            Dehumanized: 11 shot dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

            Dehumanized: Nine African-Americans shot dead in a Charleston, S.C., church.

            Trump called for a "total and complete" shutdown of Muslims entering the country. When the matter went to court, he walked back those comments a baby step. But others didn't equivocate. His horrific theme begat a wave of arson and vandalism at mosques across our country.

            "All lives matter." It sounds good coming from white-flight communities and out in the hinterland where a world of difference is another planet entirely.

            It is telling that the highest level of concern about immigration is out in those places where diversity is an abstraction.

            In the meantime, places where such diversity is a reality have little appetite for Trump or his brand of racism, much less the kind of racism that would drive a gunman hundreds of miles to kill.

            Is Trump to blame for that man's actions? The point is immaterial. Trump didn't order anyone to kill. However, he helped the killer's thought process by dehumanizing whole swaths of people.

            At this point, few could argue that, as Joe Biden said after the killings in El Paso and Ohio, "We have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and without unapologetically embraced the political strategy of hate, racism and division."

            Unless one demonstrates it otherwise, "all lives matter" is an empty claim.

            What matters? Tax cuts that help those who don't need any. Policies sculpted by the religious right. Dictums that eviscerate environmental laws and leave public lands at risk.

            Oh, and don't forget that most precious of all considerations, that firearm. Know for sure that the NRA is not letting Trump forget it right now.

            In the words of a T-shirt seen the other day:

            "All guns matter."

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

 

Monday, August 5, 2019

GOP, religious right wedded in moral rot

            How far we've come. 

            From FDR's fireside chats to grade-school tweets that light tiki torches. 

            From JFK's selflessness to every man for himself. 

            From Barack Obama's "Amazing Grace" to . . . the man who in 2016 took the down escalator into our nation's life. 

            He hardened America's racial divides. He demeaned women. He has shown his chief devotion to be the spouting of lies. 

            History will record all of this. Whether impeached or not, Donald Trump and his amen chorus won't escape the judgment that matters most. 

            His chief enablers: Republicans in Congress who swallowed the olive when the House made a simple statement that racism is what racism does. 

            Add the poohbahs of right-wing mega-religiosity.

            The charlatan-in-chief has played them like a pipe organ. Talk about a boys choir. 

            Franklin Graham, you deserve never to question anyone's integrity, anyone's consistency, anyone's fealty to Christian values.

            Jerry Falwell Jr., we condemn you forever to explain why it is that when you preach about godly behavior, some can just play through (golf parlance there).

            Robert Jeffress has a big congregation, preaching virtue at First Baptist Dallas. And he has emerged as a big hypocrite as Fox News' go-to man to rationalize all things Trump. A new Texas Monthly profile of Jeffress shows him to be the definition of glib equivocation.

            Given the opportunity to acknowledge Trump to be the racist most Americans know him to be, Jeffress shows he also knows it to be true, in so many words. How do we know? Because he does the playground thing Trump has mastered. He deflects.

            "Racism comes in all shapes, all sizes, and, yes, colors," Jeffress says.

            Yes, but what about Trump's colors?

            What about Trump's obliteration of most of the Ten Commandments? Consider the one – I think it's No. 7 -- about not bedding porn stars and playmates (while married), then paying off said porn stars and playmates (with campaign funds) so voters won't know about it.

            Jeffress sniffs that he and fellow evangelicals knew "they weren't voting for an altar boy" in promoting their boy.

            That just about gives us all a pass, Pastor. If not, why not?

            Texas Monthly's Michael J. Mooney describes these actions as an otherwise righteous man's "Faustian bargain" -- a deal with the devil, for those not into opera.

            Sorry, but this gives them too much credit. 

            The Apostle Matthew was thinking of you, Robert Jeffress, when paraphrasing this from your maker: "It is useless for you to worship me when you teach rules made up by humans." 

            It's all politics, you see. Do you see? 

            It's telling that Jeffress and others of his ilk have spoken out against the so-called Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt churches from being partisan vessels. 

            Shortly after taking office, Trump ordered the Treasury Department not to enforce that law. 

            If Graham, Falwell and Jeffress truly were men of God, they would denounce Trump's pandering and say that politics is not their gig. 

            Unfortunately, they saddled this horse, and this is how they ride. 

            So, too, with the Republican Party. 

            Now Trump is pulling off the two-for-one task of sapping both the GOP and the Graham-Jeffress crowd of vital support. 

            Sure, Trump can fill an arena, and Franklin Graham can fill the Superdome. Outside those walls, though, people are fleeing. 

            Young Americans especially are disgusted by Trump. Check any poll you desire.

            Jennifer Rubin -- herself a conservative -- writes in the Washington Post that the GOP is digging a hole for itself: "The moral cowardice" of Republicans in Washington, she warns, "is matched by the low opinion of their own voters." 

            The same cowardice, one can clearly infer, is displayed by religious leaders who have hitched themselves to a role model from hell. 

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