Monday, September 21, 2020

A date to denote pandemic denial

            America is good at commemorating things.

            Not Red Square-good, but we hold our own.

            In my house, as a virus raged beyond our walls, we've batted about a date to remember, to designate, to have ceremonies and plaques and markers and names on walls, and all that.

            It's the date when a president deceived so many into thinking a killer virus was not that deadly.

            The only problem: We can't settle on an anniversary.

            Should we commemorate Jan. 28, 2020, when National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien told Donald Trump that the new coronavirus was the "biggest threat to his presidency"?

           (By July, O'Brien was among the 4.5 million Americans who had the virus at the time.)

            What about Feb. 7, 2020, when Trump told Bob Woodward that the virus was far deadlier than the flu?

            (For the benefit of the public, Trump said it was on a par with the flu, "totally under control," and would be down to zero cases by the end of the month.)

            How about March 19, 2020, when Trump told Woodward he consciously played down the seriousness of the virus and acknowledged "it's not just old people" who were in danger?

            (A few days later he told "Fox and Friends" that children are "virtually immune." Good to know, say parents of the 141 Americans under 21 dead from the disease. So far.)

            So, which day should we commemorate all this?

            On Sept. 11 we solemnly observe horrors that claimed the lives of more than 3,000.

            On what day should we observe all this? The day the U.S. death toll reached 200,000? Or should we reserve a date for 400,000?

            It seems we should have a day in perpetuity when we remember the demagoguery, science denial and rank deception that led to all this.

            Let me suggest March 19 -- 19 as in the forever suffix for this COVID.

            However, instead of something limiting and sterile-sounding like COVID Day, let us broaden what we should observe. Make it about the worth of science, or what happens when we ignore it.

            Nominally, let us attach to our day the social condition PODS -- Perils of Dismissing Science. PODS is a disease unto itself.

            March 19: PODS Day.

            In addition to remarking and educating on pandemics taken lightly, with 9/11-style oaths of "Never again," PODS Day each year could focus broadly on medical science, climate science and all those things that experts tend to link to reality.

            March 19, let it be. Each year.

            I remember where I was on Sept. 11, 2001. Where were you in March 2020 when Donald Trump played down the pandemic?

            "My God," said my wife. "We were in restaurants without social distancing or anything covering our faces."

            Yes we were. We were sharing indoor air streams and salad bar implements without a thought.

            Maybe we need a special day to commemorate salad bars.

            In those dangerous days of this pandemic, though he knew better, Trump was signaling that it was OK to grab those tongs. It was OK to jam into movie theaters and sporting arenas.

            ("This is deadly stuff," he confided to that audience of one. "You breathe the air, and that's how it's passed.")

            Much derision was directed at Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert when, on March 11, his positive test shut down the NBA. It now seems we should be honoring him for snapping us to attention.

            Our president was not going to do it.

            As we approach a chance to remove him and his co-conspirators from office, let us remember the words of Ann Richards:

            "We're not going to have the America we want until we elect leaders who are going to tell the truth – not most days but every day."

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

Sunday, September 13, 2020

More damning than Nixon's tapes

            Just 'cause he said it doesn't mean he said it.

            You mean saying he knowingly downplayed the dangers and dimensions of the virus?

            Yeah. Just 'cause he said what he said doesn't mean he said what he said.

            Yeah. Just ask Vice President Pence, who said Donald Trump didn't play down the virus.

            Um, Mike. That's what he told Bob Woodward: "I always wanted to play it down." Is this a language problem, Mike? Habla ingles?

            You and your supporters are shrugging off what our ears – and yours -- now tell us. Also, you appear to be affirming what most of us have assumed all along: When Trump's lips move for public consumption, he lies.

            But for some reason, to Bob Woodward in February he was candid. That is, if the voice we heard was Trump's. Surely Fox News talking heads have tossed around theories:

            "It could be Jimmy Fallon imitating him."

            "Could be Colbert or Trevor Noah. All do pretty good Trumps."

            The other defense, which is none: Trump didn't want to panic the public with accurate information.

              Such an even keel, this president. Never a hysterical word. Always keeps his cool.

            Well . . . OK. On to Defense No. 3: Trump decides the American people need to understand this pandemic thing. He channels his inner Churchill. Realizing the urgency of this matter, he summons Woodward, who's writing a book to be released in a few months. Then via those few people who read books, word of mouth will emanate. Disaster averted.

            The astuteness of this is debated by many a Republican this week, but not because Trump lied to you and me. Seventeen interviews? And tell truth? To the media?

            As Seth Meyers said, it's like Richard Nixon met Woodward in the parking garage and said, "Hello, Bob. Did you know I did Watergate?"

            Politico refers to Trump now as Shallow Throat.

            Enough Watergate comparisons.

            Watergate ended a presidency, but it didn't kill anyone, much less tens of thousands.

            Watergate didn't leave people with long-term lung damage and untold other problems.

            Watergate didn't put millions out of work.

            Watergate didn't strain health-care workers to the breaking point.

            Watergate didn't endanger essential workers each day they showed up for their minimum-wage jobs.

            Donald Trump didn't cause all this. (Neither did China.) He just lied about it.

            For public consumption, Trump compared the virus to the flu. Rush Limbaugh took the cue. Trump said it would go away with the heat. Sean Hannity took notes.

            Trump said it wasn't much of a threat to children.

            All lies and self-serving misdirection. Now we know, courtesy of Woodward's tapes, what Trump knew and when he knew it.

            Rats – another Watergate comparison.

            Mike Pence says that Trump's concern from the very start was the health and safety of the American people. If that were true, more American people would be alive today.

            But, of course, Trump's sole concern was his own survival.

            Nearly 200,000 Americans are dead. Millions are sick. Millions are jobless. And Trump's re-election is all his supporters care about as well.

            If they cared about public health and safety they would demand his resignation.

            If they listened to Woodward's tapes, they would be enraged to hear him refute everything about the virus that they were led to believe. That the virus was no worse than the flu. That masks are a joke. That it's all a Democrat hoax.

            But the Red Caps aren't mad at him. They're crowding at his feet, no masks, applauding his lies.

            By review: Just 'cause he said it doesn't mean he said it.

            Fake news.

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

 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Why would troops hate Trump?

            Back in September when a report emerged about a shakedown of Ukraine that got him impeached in December, I asked supporters of Donald Trump:

            "Did the man you helped elect sound like someone who asked the president of a foreign country to investigate the son of a political opponent?

            "Ah, hah, you nodded your head. Ever so slightly, you did."

            Now:

            Did the man you helped elect sound like someone who would have called World War I dead on France's fields "losers" and "suckers"?

            You nodded your head. Every so slightly, you did.

            Why? Because you've heard what else Trump has said. Even those (many) times when you clapped your hands over your ears so as not to hear what Trump said.

            You heard him call John McCain a "loser." You heard him say, "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."

            That's why when The Atlantic cites four sources to report Trump used "losers" to refer to other war heroes, deniability is less than plausible.

            The Atlantic also reported that when Trump ordered a military parade he said he wanted no wounded veterans in it, because "no one wants to see that."

            Trump supporters, I saw you nod. You know the horse to which you hitched your party. It's the show horse of the "Access Hollywood" tape, the finagler of "catch and kill" with the National Enquirer. That dude.

            You know exactly what you were getting. What The Atlantic reports is completely in keeping with what we already knew.

            Some have expressed buyer's remorse, including a lot of men and women in the military.

            A recent poll released by Military Times finds that only 38 percent of active-duty military have a positive view of Trump, and that Biden holds a 4 percent lead among them – a voting bloc that historically has supported Republicans, as it did in 2016.

            Who knows when things changed?

            Was it when, having been refused by Congress, Trump declared a faux emergency to build a border wall, taking $2.5 billion from the military and plunging it into that dirt?

            Was it when Trump sent 5,200 troops to the border after he and Fox News trumpeted the advance of a Central American caravan? (Oddly, the peril seemed to vanish right after the 2018 midterms.)

            Maybe it was when he decided that instead of serving their country, active-duty personnel and their hardware should serve his ego with that grand, amputee-free military parade costing $5.4 million?

            Maybe it was when Trump not only dismissed concerns about reported Russian bounties on troops but didn't bring up the matter in multiple phone calls with Vladimir Putin.

            Maybe active-duty military personnel were as offended as Mattis was when the White House used active-duty personnel to suppress peaceful protesters near a church to enable a Bible-held photo-op.

            Maybe was when, after seeing our military used against our own citizens, four-star Gen. Jim Mattis called Trump "a threat to the Constitution."

            Whatever the case, more military personnel agree now with retired Rear Admiral William McRaven, the commander of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, who said Trump has "humiliated us on the world stage."

            More agree with Colin Powell, who has called Trump a pawn of despots.

            All are solid character references from highly regarded military leaders to understand why so many enlisted people hate Donald Trump.

            Oh, we heard Sarah Sanders defend him. We heard Mike Pompeo defend him. Their words would be credible if any of Trump's enablers had any more credibility than he.

            The point is, even if Trump didn't call war dead "losers," our military has been listening to what else he's said, and it sees what he's done.

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

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Trump spread lies on my lawn

            I wanted no part of the Republican National Convention. Never did I think I'd be hosting it.

            What a lovely Wednesday evening I was having, entirely free of racist lies and smarm. Then the GOP showed up.

            I heard the rattling of equipment in my backyard, the assembling of a stage, "Trump" banners tacked to my fence.

            And then: Stage lights. Melania Trump ascending the stage. Lies and smarm.

            You say this didn't happen in my back yard?

            Oh, yes. The White House is my property. The Rose Garden is my garden.

            I did not consent to a political convention on my property. If you consented, shame on you.

            President Trump and his band broke the law with their smarmy convention. Lock them up.

            The Hatch Act prohibits about a dozen things that happened there, from the speeches exploiting my property as a backdrop, to a citizenship ceremony using immigrants as props, to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo making a political plug from Israel.

            We paid – you and me – for all those stunts.

            Government grounds and functions are not vessels for political conventions. Conventions are for pricey venues paid for with real American money from people like the DeVoses (whatever it takes to buy the Department of Education) and DeJoys (whatever it takes to own the postal service).

            It should be paid for by Big Pharma and Big Oil and as they deduce whatever it takes to buy the government.

            The New York Times story said the convention "blurred the line between campaigning and governing."

            "Blurred." That's a nice name, like "meddle." Like Russia "meddled" in our elections. Like Trump just "asked a favor" of Ukraine. La, la, la. Like picking petals in Melania's garden.

            Well, that's not her garden. It's mine. Trump's convention didn't "blur" a distinct line. It obliterated it.

            Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows essentially acknowledged violating the Hatch Act when, rather than denying what we saw with our own eyes (and on our property), he said, "Nobody outside the Beltway really cares."

            What he said is what Trump has embodied from Day 1. The law does not apply to him.

            We used to know the White House as the People's House, where Abe Lincoln would throw open the doors for plain folks. They owned the place after all: the People's House.

            Now, instead of the People's House, the White House has become the Imperial Palace.

            This is a Great Leader named Kim, a great son named Kim, his sister Kim, the other son named Kim. Oh, and their sister Tiffany.

            The Hatch Act doesn't matter to the Great Leader and his followers. The Emoluments Clause doesn't matter to them.

            Extorting foreign nations to gain re-election doesn't matter. Criminal acts by his associates don't matter. Neither do criminal probes into Trump businesses.

            Thursday night I thought I was done with the RNC.

            Then I heard the familiar racket on my front lawn, the assembling of lights and stage and draping of Trump posters.

            Then the poster boy ascended the stage before a bleached crowd which, jammed together on my lawn, exhaled germs and rattled jewelry to his every utterance.

            For 70 minutes Trump prattled. Fact-checkers calculated 20-plus lies.

            When it was over, my grass trampled, all I could do was spray my front yard with Lysol.

            Voters must do more than that in November.

            We must have someone in the White House who honors it as a loaner. We do not want squatters who assume it to be theirs.

            What Trump did in his convention was illegal -- to use my property in this way, to use the functions of my government this way. His followers do not care.

            All that matters to them is that He is in power. All that matters is the Great Leader Him.

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

Sunday, August 23, 2020

'Hello, America': Team Trump checks in remotely

            Welcome back to the Republican National Convention. To review, we had hoped, via a teeming arena in Florida, to infect as many as possible with our special brand of recklessness, but Gov. DeSantis beat us to that.

            So we've taken notes from the Democrats and will do it remotely.

            In a few moments we will hear our great president -- live -- a few feet from his secure bunker. But first: the remote roll call:

            "Hello, America. This is Steve Bannon, talking to you from the courthouse jail in New York's Southern District. Here along with others yearning to breathe free, I'm sharing Donald Trump's message of white grievance and selling autographed border wall time-share panels.

            "As Deep State prisoners, we pledge allegiance to QAnon above all. As for America, who better to ravage it all than the agent of chaos I had wrapped around my pudgy little finger in 2016: Donald Trump?"

            "Hello, America. Paul Manafort here, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, reporting to you from home detention. I was in Loretto Correctional Institute when released due to the coronavirus. It's a good thing I'm not an essential worker.

            "You know, prison is no fun, but as I await my pardon for crimes against my country, I keep up on the news.

            "Just because a bipartisan Senate committee judged me to be a 'grave counterintelligence threat' in dealing with Russians doesn't mean I was a threat to anyone, certainly not Russians. They were very kind to me and my boss, and their kindness was reciprocated.

            "Speaking of reciprocation: Donald, if you're listening . . ."

            "Hello, America. Michael Flynn here. You may remember me from the 2016 RNC Convention leading the 'Lock Her Up' chant. Good times.

            "The Deep State convicted me of lying to the FBI and buttering Russians' bread relative to sanctions even before my man Donald took office. Is that so wrong? I was only colluding with them, canoodling with them -- nothing more. That's no crime. Ask Bill Barr."

            "Hello, America. You know me. I'm the Cheshire cat, wear a derby hat, a Nixon tattoo on my back. I'm Roger Stone.

            "It looked like I was going to spend a lot of time behind bars for lying to prosecutors, threatening witnesses, and that whole Wikileaks dump of stolen DNC data. Yada, yada, yada.

            "When Donald Trump said, 'Russia, if you're listening,' he knew it was unnecessary because he had me on speed-dial.

            "Now I'm a free man because I'm Trump's friend. Don't like it? Those of you who think we're crooks can kiss me right below Tricky Dick's waistband."

            "Hello, America. I'm Rick Gates. You may not remember me, but I headed up Donald Trump's inauguration and was Paul Manafort's second-in-command. I served 45 days in jail and am on three years' probation for obstructing Bob Mueller's investigation.

            "It was worth every penny. Manafort and I made big money from our Ukrainian lobbying. Throw in that Trump tax cut, and that's some quarantine stash. On behalf of business partner Paul, let me say, 'Two thumbs up, GOP.'"

             "Hello, America. This is Vladimir Putin, Russia's president for life. Four years ago we put the full weight of our 1,000-member-plus Internet Research Agency behind the Republican Party and Donald Trump, one of our best-tipping guests at the Moscow Ritz Carlton. We look forward to further 'intergovernmental' patronization. Nostrovia, Comrade Donald."

            "Hello, America. This is Cyrus Vance, district attorney for New York County. I'm looking forward to learning all about Donald Trump's activities by examining his tax . . ."

            "(Technical difficulties. Please stand by.)"

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

 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Not only is she from America, she IS America

            Mike Pence just turned a whiter shade of pale.

            The very last person with whom he wanted to share TV glare on-stage is coming his way.

            If Donald Trump can't delay the election, can Pence delay the vice presidential debates -- till Bowl Week?

            Kamala Harris vs. Mike Pence is, um, Muhammad Ali vs. Jurgen Blin (KO in 7).

            She is everything the Democratic Party aspires to be. Smart. Quick-footed. Quick-witted. Serious. Eloquent.

            More importantly, she's a reflection of a nation of possibilities. If I were the GOP's troll-in-chief or his troll-in-waiting, I'd fear her, too.

            Then again, from the sublime to the unconscionable, Harris isn't the only political star who made a splash last week.

            So did Marjorie Taylor Greene, GOP congressional nominee from the Planet QAnon.

            Greene, nominally from Georgia's 14th District, is living a reality that isn't entirely real.

            Let's just say that when she speaks, one can hear radio waves interviewing moon rocks. One can detect the songs of intergalactic static.

            She's all in on QAnon, the "deep state" conspiracy club that I could attempt to explain, but why waste good pixels? It could take pages.

            However, one could whittle much of it down to a three-syllable component: racism.

            Greene called the election of two Muslim women to Congress an "invasion of our government." She has called the leaders of Black Lives Matter "idiots" and said "the most mistreated people in American are white males."

            No wonder Donald Trump thinks she's peachy.

            What a contrast: One woman who stands for a nation that would move forward in bringing out the promise of every individual based on his or her own special attributes vs. another who doesn't buy into that "all created equal" stuff at all.

            There's been talk of Trump dropping Pence and adding a woman to his ticket. How about Georgia's queen of "Q"?

            Actually, we may be premature in so crowning her, planetary origins aside.

            On Colorado's western slope another contender for the title has arisen.

            In March, Lauren Boebert, who owns a restaurant at which wait staff wears guns on hips and invites firearms onto the premises, defeated District 3 incumbent Scott Tipton for the GOP nomination.

            Boebert has praised QAnon as a sign of a resurgence of American values. And of course Trump has praised her as the hope of his party.

            We'll see about that.

            Ironically, a whole lot of Republicans are worried about people like Boebert and Greene becoming the face of their party.

            Former Arizona senator Jeff Flake, for instance. "If the GOP wants to be a relevant political force in the future, it cannot endorse those who embrace QAnon and other conspiracy theories."

            You mean, like a president who has retweeted garbage promoting QAnon at least 185 times? 

            If you're a thinking American who worries about the ascendance of a QAnon believer to Congress, don't. It only makes her more visible and her party less viable. It's the same dynamic by which Trump is leading his party off a cliff in 2020.

            Back to Joe Biden's running mate and the claim Trump's adoring wingnuts have made about Kamala Harris not being an American. If you are thinking of Donald Trump's America, she most assuredly is not.

            However, if you are thinking of a country where a little girl born in Oakland to a mother from India and a father from Jamaica can grow up to be vice president, she is of that America. If you are thinking of a country where a little boy born in Hawaii to a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas can grow up to become president, she is of that America.

            Biden and Harris are that America.

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

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Popping wheelies in a pandemic

          This week, Sturgis, S.D., is the best place in America to be a germ.

            Its population of 6,943, has grown by 250,000 or so for the Sturgis 2020 motorcycle rally. Even if we don't count microbes, it's by far the nation's biggest gathering since the pandemic began.

            Elbow to elbow, few masks, no fear, tons of exhaust.

            Pandemic, shmandemic. They dined together, drank together, partied together. They did what any virus would endorse.

            I'm not calling bikers unclean. I'm sure there was a lot of hand-washing, maybe even Purelle between shots of Cutty Sark.

            I'm not saying the assembly is passing around one wineskin, or that Bandidos and Cossacks have shown up and coughed on each other in lieu of gunfire.

            The rally itinerary is respectable and clean.

            That's not the point.

            The point: In a pandemic where roughly a third of those infected show no symptoms, a gathering like this is petri-dish ridiculous.

            What were the people of Sturgis thinking? Actually, most were and are in accord with others' sense of alarm. It's just that city leaders weren't.

            A survey found 60 percent of residents wanted the rally postponed because of the virus. However, business interests won the argument on city council.

            Public health lost to the buck that could be made. That includes your health and mine, or what's a pandemic for?

            The United States is doing worse at dealing with this scourge than any developed country, despite whatever charts Donald Trump might have in his lap.

            The tragic thing: Unlike him, most of us are taking the pandemic seriously. We are making the requisite sacrifices and precautions.

            But even as we do, as the meme says, when a certain segment behaves like there's no problem, "It's like having a peeing section in a swimming pool."

            Survey after survey finds most Americans share the concerns of the townspeople in Sturgis. To them, public health should be preeminent over juicing the economy. They realize this is a moment in time. Now is the time to defeat this virus. Only by doing so will the economy do what it can.

            Instead, people will die so others can take the fast lane to satisfaction.

            Our need for speed makes it impossible to rein in the virus. Florida. Texas. Georgia. Arizona. The leaders in each thought that they could live apart from this worldwide crisis and behave differently from New York and its silly lockdowns. No they couldn't. 

            Now a school year arrives. Ever hoping to goose the economy, Trump threatens school districts that won't stomp on the accelerator.

            It didn't take but one day for some school districts that opened in-person to send students home. That's going to be the story of 2020, guaranteed.

            The best way to get grade-schoolers back to the loving embrace of their teachers is to curb the disease stalking them.

            To that end -- toward fighting the disease with facial coverings, social distancing, testing and contact tracing – our president behaves like a 2-year-old in a "You can't make me" crouch on the floor.

            At first I typed "kindergartner" to describe him. But the nation's kindergartners will be much more responsible than Trump whenever they convene in-person. They'll do their best, and the teachers will do theirs.

            But it's absolutely impossible to keep these children from exchanging hugs, wiping noses on arms, and generally sharing microbes.

            Anyone who's had a kindergartner knows that the red track beneath the nose is the central trademark of the in-school experience.

            In this case, however, the problem is not one that'll be mitigated with boxes of tissue.

            After Sturgis returns to population 6,943, we shudder to consider how many will fall ill while, like a giant sneeze, motorized microbes are expelled out on our highways and byways, and toward membranes near you.

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