Monday, November 28, 2016

America is not an Orange Julius; is it?

It turns out our ambitions were quite similar, Donald Trump's and mine.

We were both interested in acquiring a franchise – a business opportunity.

I always had an affection for Orange Julius and its one-trick-pony stands at malls. I told my betrothed that when we had the scratch, the itch I'd pursue was an OJ franchise. We could have one stand and live out our days drinking in the proceeds. All it would take is some up-front money and some oranges.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the up-front, not the kind Mr. Dreamcicle Hair does. So I sat back. Meanwhile, Trump set out to buy The Franchise.

Trump's first comments as president-elect sound exactly like this. The government-by-the-people thing is just, in Molly Ivins' words, another bidness opportunity.

He will not shed his role as business mogul while he runs the people's business. He says he will meet with business partners in the Oval Office.

He told the New York Times, "The president can't have a conflict of interest" regarding business ties carried on while in office.

"In theory," he told the Times, "I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly."

Just like an Orange Julius stand.

          Voters can be excused for being confused by what Trump just said. After all, he and all those suckled on the Fox News loop foghorned righteous umbrage about potential conflicts attached to the Clinton Foundation.

          As Trump supporters crowed till hoarse, ethical issues flare when one with government ties wrangles monetary deals. In the Clinton Foundation's case, it was charitable favors to combat environmental devastation, starvation and oppression.

However, making a buck for Trump Inc.? That's just bidness.

          "Get over it," say Trump supporters. "You lost. Let him get on with running the country."

          But, you see, our government isn't something bartered, like one would acquire a casino or golf resort.

          Our government is ours, not Donald Trump's. So let the testing of his theories begin.

          Last week Elizabeth Warren penned a letter with Congressman Elijah Cummings seeking a General Accountability Office investigation into "conflicts of interest related to business holdings of Mr. Trump and his family," as well as a probe whether the president-elect's communications with foreign leaders violated security protocols by failing to use secured lines.

          I hear Trump supporters saying. "Sour grapes, losers."

          Actually, "loser" is not Warren's title. It's U.S. senator. The role of Congress, as with the courts, is to serve as a check on the executive branch. And so she's doing the job she was elected to perform.

          At this point, someone else needs to be reminded of his or her job. That would be anyone who claims the title of citizen.

          Some Americans have the impression that Election Day is the end-all of politics, or of policy discussions. The victorious. The vanquished. Let's get on with the bloodletting.

          That attitude not only is incorrect but wrong, so wrong as to spit on the document Americans say they revere.

The Constitution isn't a framework for one person to have his way with us. It is for us to require that person to comport himself in our best interests.

The only business Trump should do in the Oval Office is our business. We should demand it from day one. We should expect a free press to report on every conflict, and for commentators to explain the ramifications.

We should expect Congress to probe every conflict.

We should expect the courts to stand up to the man who would be king.

Oh, and we should expect of ourselves that we be well-informed, discerning, attentive. Unless we do, we have lost the franchise.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

OK, the second-worst dish known to man

It's time to tone down the hateful rhetoric, we're told. This being Thanksgiving and all, I hear you. So I come with concessionary tidings.

I'm going to stun many and concede that sweet potatoes aren't the worst-tasting food on our planet.

This will come as a surprise, yes, to readers who, if they've been with me for a decade or three, have received a seasonal message each year about sweet potatoes that all should hear:

You can't eat them. I tried that once. Once.

What my tongue told me, oh, back when I was 8, was all the proof needed. Any impression to the contrary is certifiably false.

I've endeavored to inform as many people as possible of this over the years, though some will always be deluded into serving and consuming heaping helpings of steaming orangeness in the Thanksgiving feast.

My brave and dogged crusade has not been without slings and arrows, and death threats.

OK, not exactly death threats. However, I've encountered deadly attempts to get me to eat sweet potatoes in falsified forms. Take the "pumpkin pie" I once found in my mail box at the office.

        Never a chance I'd fall for that.

And there was the letter from the president of the national sweet potato growers' association. He intimated a lawsuit under Texas' food disparagement ("veggie libel") law. I said I'd take the stand any day, any venue, as truth is my defense.

I stand by my critique of the horrid tuber, but now must admit that the claim that sweet potatoes are the worst food in the world could have been better researched.

This is because my researcher son found something worse.

It's called hakarl -- described as a national dish of Iceland, and, wow:

As puts it, hakarl affirms for all time that "one man's trash is another's treasure."

Hakarl is a meal at the end of a long and smelly line. It starts with the harvesting of shark meat, which is then buried for the purpose of fermentation, also known as decomposition.

After it's been in the ground for weeks, long enough to acquire "a smell of rotten cheese mixed with ammonia," the shark flesh is hung for weeks to cure in a moss-covered shed.

My son just acquired a microbiology degree. In the process, he took some fermentation classes focused on making beer. In one of these classes, the professor introduced the class to the fruit of fermentation that is hakarl.

Few of the students actually tasted it. The smell drove most from the room.

This, my son said, should cause us all to think of bad food in a new light.

I've been told by many that sweet potatoes are delicious and nutritious. So is peat moss, says any moose.

The evidence of sweet potatoes' scant edibility is the waves and waves of marshmallows committed for the cause.

A local restaurant shamefully serves "sweet potato s'mores" – with drizzled chocolate and molten marshmallows. Oh, waiter: Smelling salts, please.

Did I say somewhere back there that it was time something about toning down the rhetoric? Ah, yes. So I shall. In deference to Iceland's vice, I take back my assertion that sweet potatoes are the worst food on the planet.

I pronounce them world runner-up.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, November 21, 2016

Treating white males with kindness, respect and inclusion

I consider myself progressive, compassionate, open-minded. Heaven knows I'm tolerant.

Yet in recent days I have realized that routinely I am engaging in profiling.

I see a figure up ahead of me on the sidewalk or in the store: I start making judgments. My mind takes giant leaps that cause teeth and hands to clench and pheromones to fly. 

This is something for which many of us have admonished others, like the president-elect. But here I'm admitting the same -- generalizing about others because of race and sex.

Confession time? Here goes: Since the election, other white males scare the hell out of me.

White males are the demographic most responsible for electing a man whose belligerent tendencies would put White House security on high alert, were he to show up there unannounced.

I realize my sudden disposition about white males is wholly irrational.

        Consider the first Thanksgiving. If the Native Americans profiled people like I have since the election, the feast in question might have been white meat, but not the fowl variety.

Instead, the first illegal aliens were greeted with kindness.

Once again, it's stupid to generalize – particularly about white males. After all, if we fled to Canada like my wife has suggested we do, I'd encounter a whole bunch of them. And most of them would die before voting for someone like Donald Trump. So, too, in Sweden, and France and, for goodness sakes, Scotland, where Trump couldn't be elected greens keeper.

So, once again, this attitude -- this stereotyping -- defies reason. And anyway, you can run, but you can't hide from white males. They appear to be everywhere. 

I've decided to start doing what great ethicists and spiritualists say: not be judgmental.

I'm going to take these matters one white male at a time. After all, the man at the hardware store who helped me find the drill bit I couldn't find was white, and, quite possibly a Trump supporter. He was accommodating, and he knew drill bits. That's one.

The optician who examined my eyes and told me my optic nerves were working efficiently was a white male. I found him competent and courteous. That's another.

The man in the checkout line in front of me was white. He seemed non-threatening, and we appreciate the same brand of toilet paper.

This is going to be difficult, but I can do it, one white male at a time.

I have several white males in my family. I am committed to maintaining correspondence. This is called courage.

What I'm saying is that the tendency to generalize is a mindless reflex. Regardless of the situation, I'll not make it a practice. I will not comport myself like Donald Trump has regarding Mexicans and Muslims.

Should more white males seek to come to our country, I will not resist it. Immigrants historically have been good for us. They bring enthusiasm, skills and new recipes.

Sure, white males have been involved in horrendous things – mass murders, kidnappings, sexual assault, insane wars. However, I am not for closing the borders to keep them out.

Oh, and this applies to heterosexuals as well. I realize that at least some heterosexual males cannot be trusted to keep their hands to themselves, that they tend to treat females as prey. But let's not judge them all for that.

Therefore I say to you, America: We must learn to accept white males. They are among us for better or worse, and they aren't going away, especially if Canada gets particular.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, November 14, 2016

Conceding one day only to morning-after despair

        One day. One 24-hour period. One sunrise, one sunset. 

I felt as bad as one could feel without needing hospitalization. My head hurt. I was in a fog of exhaustion. I hadn't eaten well. All day I emoted clenched anger in a thousand sighs. My shoulders hurt from a thousand shrugs.

Then, that night, after a blessedly good meal, I said to myself: That's it. One day. That's all that these events, the new national reality enunciated on Nov. 8, will take from me.

I'll surrender no more days to the shock and injustice of losing the presidency to a loser. As a citizen, I will commit the days henceforth to righting things, principally our democracy.

I've lost two other days this way. The first was in 2001 after the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to the candidate who had gotten fewer votes. The other was after U.S. rolled tanks into Iraq on criminally bogus pretenses. (And they say Hillary Clinton should go to jail for emails.)

No more. No more days given away. Now, I'm pumped. My heart is engaged like before a majestic and taxing hike. One foot forward, then another, moving toward the desired destination.

Concussion. Concession. Confusion. Cognition. Recognition. Inspiration. Vision. Mission.

Mission: to right a democracy that has been wronged – again.

President Trump is temporary. Democracy is not unless, as Jefferson said, we concede it away. (Jefferson penned things that earned permanence. Trump? He tweets.)

And, so, here are things we must do to right a democracy twice harmed in recent years by the election of people whom the majority of us did not choose.

Make the Electoral College obsolete. It already is, of course. It was made obsolete with the first telegraph, and the first computer (also known as quill and scroll.)

No, we cannot abolish the Electoral College. The stringent requirements for amending the Constitution would prohibit it, and sparsely populated (almost entirely red) states would not allow it. That would mean surrendering power to popular will.

What can we do? So much, but here's one:

Make voting easier – Every state should have mail-in ballots like Colorado, Oregon and Washington do. Voting by mail is secure, convenient, and efficient in tabulating. In Colorado, almost a third of all registered voters had voted by mail a week before the election. That meant short lines, little waiting, more democracy.

Add to this the need for online and same-day registration and voting. It's ridiculous, verging on oppression, to have arbitrary requirements and deadlines for in-person registration when computerized systems can handle the matter with ease.

Neutralize the Electoral College -- Abolishing it by amendment is politically impossible. However, 11 states, totaling 165 electoral votes, have passed laws to join the National Popular Vote Compact by which they lawfully would award their electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes nationally. We need states totaling 270 votes to do this. An online petition urges it:

As for that popular vote Clinton won and Trump lost: Functionally, that fact is irrelevant, just as Al Gore's claim to history was left among all the hanging Florida chads. What is relevant for me is the pumping of the blood, a reason to get working again.

Progressives reclined on their easy chairs over the last eight years, kvetching over ideo-semantics, while the right boiled and toiled to reclaim the White House.

To those celebrating victory: Feel good. Enjoy the long winter's nap that comes with gorging. Seep well and long. See you in the morning.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A night of protest and rust

Oxidation happens when elements cause metals to corrode. The color of oxidation is red.

Tuesday night was a red night, but not the Election-Night red of previous presidential races. It was the orange-ish red of a loud outsider who has a mandate today that nobody knows, most particularly the Electoral College victor.

It was an evening of protest and rust – the protest against what has been, the rust of a frustrated heartland.

The hue that won Tuesday night was that of hands rubbed raw from waiting for something to happen in Washington.

Something has happened, the result of which nobody knows, most particularly the president-elect.

Here's what we know: Stagnation is not good politics. The Democrats didn't offer the solution to stagnation that a plurality of Americans wanted to hear.

Hillary Clinton has served her country well, and with extreme dignity. But she carried a brand that lost its appeal on the consignment rack.

The Republican Party? It lost this election just as surely as the Democrats did. In the ideological vacuum now ensuing, it has its own branding problem.

Donald Trump is soon to become the first third-party president, a protest-vote president. Believe it. But believe this, too: His ascendance is as much a repudiation of the red team as the blue team.

Speaking of third parties: I'm wondering if any progressive voter who lodged a "protest" third-party vote in Wisconsin or Michigan wants a mulligan today.

If those progressives believed that it's OK to "blow it all up," they might find a foxhole for what is about to happen regarding health care, social justice, climate activism and more.

To millennials who found other things to do on Election Day: It's going to be a few days and nights before you have a chance to matter again.

Votes matter. Elections are won at the margins. Every one of them, even landslides. Turnout matters -- every time.

What was that about rust? Yes, there's a lot of it in an economy mostly focused on bigness. The blue-collar vote did not go to the blues, and let's face it, too few things have happened over the last 20 years to motivate blue-collar voters to hold to any major party's script.

One thing that should have been construed as benefiting those working sorts is the Affordable Care Act -- millions gaining health insurance that an economy focused on bigness would never permit.

        Now we see if Trump is going to tell those recently insured Americans to, um, take a flying leap.

Yes, red was the color of the night, because, at the margins, the man in the red ball cap played the anger card better than his opponent played the unity card.

Once again, however, the Republicans are not coming out of this as true victors.

The innards of the GOP are still squeezed by the religious right and corporations. GOP leaders are no more interested in making this a more just and unified nation than before. They are interested in keeping the very divisions by which power can be maintained. It's a proven model. Look at the unrepresentative creation we call the U.S. House of Representatives.

Divisions: They couldn't be more acute, and we just elected the very opposite of a unifier. 

Speaking of chemical reactions: Those entrusted with responsible leadership would be wise to note that oxidation's ultimate manifestation is flame.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: