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.