Monday, July 31, 2017

Now playing in Washington: ‘The Unconscionables’

           Where does one begin?

Maybe with a sneeringly political speech – that part of it which was remotely coherent -- to captive Boy Scouts.

(Donald Trump gauged crowd size as a personal tribute. No, Sir. Big numbers can be anticipated at a national jamboree.)

Maybe with a cross-eyed game of darts in the Senate hoping something – anything -- would stick that would give Mitch McConnell, Trump, and Mr. Wallpaper, Mike Pence, a "win" on health care.

(Satirist Andy Borowitz pictured Ted Cruz, in tears, pledging, "The dream of keeping poor people from seeing a doctor must never die.")

Maybe with a tweet banning able-bodied, patriotic, dedicated, transgendered volunteers from our military.

(Trump: ". . .after consultation with my generals." Pentagon: sound of crickets.)

Maybe an admonition to a captive audience of police to "rough up" suspects.

(Trump got applause from some cops in attendance. Then police organizations called the suggestion absurd. In no way will they do their business the Trump way.)

At any other time, any of these would have been the most unconscionable, most venal thing someone had done in years in Washington.

(Sure, it was only a week – Hell Week for The Donald, capped by what some commentators dubbed "Failure Friday.")

But, no, it wasn't the most unconscionable thing. Indeed, you most likely have not heard yet.

The most indefensible action of the week comes with two tea party bills to cripple the Congressional Budget Office by eliminating the CBO's Budget Analysis Division.

Hmmm. What might have motivated this? Might it have been the truth-telling by CBO analysts about how many people would lose health coverage under Republican maneuvers intended to do just that?

Yes, that is what motivates the matter: facts. Or at least educated projections that might give some policymakers pause.

Republicans have assailed the CBO for not saying what they want it to hear. They say, for instance, that CBO projections about coverage under the Affordable Care Act were overly rosy, and projections about the Republican plans would be overly glum.

This is fascinating. What did congressional Republicans want but to "get gummint out of health care" and thereby yank peoples' health coverage? Right, Ted? Right, Mitch?

Even if the result of the "mean, mean, mean" House bill (thanks for the kind depiction, President Trump) were, say, 18 million fewer with health care instead of the CBO's 24 million, so what?

So you'd have a disaster in terms of human needs being abandoned.

The effort to drop the CBO off a pier in concrete ankle weights is just the latest effort to "neutralize the messenger" to justify insanity and institutionalize ignorance.

It's happening with the gag imposed on scientists who tell us what the evidence says about climate change.

The same is happening with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Some conservatives (including Trump) want to defund it because it doesn't deliver to them what "Fox and Friends" might in NPR's "Morning Edition."

And, of course, the same is happening with the news media -- you know, the "enemy."

The fact is that the Washington media have done an astounding job of bringing to the public astounding evidence of goings-on involving Team Collusion and the Russians.

Death by a thousand leaks? The way Trump has besmirched his office, undermined the institutions and treated the people under his watch, the precipitation has just begun.

Yes, blame the media. Blame the messengers. Blame them for what you can see with your own eyes.

In broad terms, not at all limited to the Bamboozler in Chief, we are witnessing the most incompetent, vicious – and -- this is important -- ineffective brand of governing ever foisted upon this nation.

At the soonest opportunity, America must pull the plug on "The Unconscionables."

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Choosing 'Trumpism' over, um, governing?

Newt Gingrich told a gathering the other day that state and local leaders should embrace "Trumpism."

Not surprisingly, he did not define his terms. Racism? Sexism. Infantilism?

Whatever. The former House speaker, whose greatest gift to democracy – correction, to Democrats – was to shut down government in 1996, observes the wreckage Trump wreaks in Washington and sees a movement to emulate locally.

Gingrich, touting his new pamphlet, er, book, "Understanding Trump," calls our president "the most effective conservative – functionally – in our lifetime."

Most effective, perhaps, with his thumbs.

We've come to appreciate his skill at driving his Twitter-mobile and motoring through cable options with his remote. It's how he keeps his finger on the nation's pulse.

TV is how he found his new communications director, Wall Street hedge-funder Anthony Scaramucci. Trump lusted for his charms after many appearances on "Fox & Friends." TV is what Trump tweeted he WASN'T watching the day after he got back from Europe to find Don Jr. ensnared in the Russian Collusion-lollapallooza.

Whatever you call Trumpism, don't call it governing.

Governing, at least in our system, involves more than one person who is all thumbs.

Of all the disgraceful things Trump has done -- and he is to national embarrassment what Barry Bonds was to tape-measure blasts -- the most disgraceful so far came after another failed Senate "repeal, replace" vote:

"We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it . . .  We'll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us."

Yeah, the old Gingrich strategy: Just let it all go to hell. We don't care.

As Steve Pearlstein writes in The Washington Post, the Trumpcare debacle reflects the fact that Republicans are good at talking (tweeting?), but they "simply aren't ready to govern."

Here's the thing, though. Some Senate Republicans want to do something else. (Though expect Ted Cruz to hold his breath until he turns indigo.)

Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have discussed committee hearings to address key deficiencies impeding the Affordable Care Act.

One proposal: a reinsurance program to help insurers with a high percentage of higher-cost members. Another is funding of cost-sharing subsidies crucial to keeping insurers in the state exchanges.

McCaskill champions a plan to let people in rural regions that have lost insurers under ACA to buy policies in the District of Columbia, where lawmakers can get theirs.

Some Democrats have offered the concession of the repeal of some ACA taxes.

Let's say the Republicans work with Democrats to help stabilize the ACA (a very remote chance considering it would have to pass the House) and keep it working for the millions who rely on it today. Would Trump veto it?

If he abides by Gingrich's definition of Trumpism, yes, he would.

He would let millions of Americans go without health care, because what he wants is what he wants, and what they want is not that.

The problem is that Trump doesn't know what he wants except for chaos. This is the message he conveys to lawmakers.

            He held a beer-and-boast photo-op with House Republicans after their passage of a repeal-and-replace measure. Later he told Senate Republicans that bill was "mean, mean, mean."

Since then, the Congressional Budget office has certified that the bill touted by Senate Republicans was every bit as mean. And Trump is angry that it didn't pass?

What does the man want? By review, he's said he'd never cut Medicaid or Medicare. He said "everyone will be covered" and at much less cost under his plan. He said single-payer Australia has a better health system than we do.

This is Trumpism. No wonder Newt needs a book to explain it.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, July 16, 2017

'The Gang That Couldn't Lie Straight'

"The prosecution calls Rhona Graff."

Rhona -- that's the name. If Robert Mueller knows what he's doing, Rhona will play the role of Rosemary – Rosemary Woods -- in the 2017 remake of that immense thing that toppled a president in 1974, in what HBO's John Oliver has dubbed "Stupid Watergate."

Woods was the White House secretary asked to explain the gap in tapes revealing Richard Nixon's role in activities that led to his departure.

Graff is Donald Trump's long-time secretary. We know about her now because of emails that once again affirm that this administration and this president are to deceit what Edison was to lighting.

Russian collusion? White House chief of staff, Reince Preibus, called it a "nothing burger." From what we now know, if one is to insist on burger terms, former prosecutor and ex-Mueller aide Samuel Buell calls it "more like a Whopper." Stephen Colbert calls it an "all-you-can-prosecute buffet."

We now know about the meeting Donald Trump Jr. arranged with Russians who said they had information courtesy of their government that would hurt Hillary Clinton.

The email from Russia-connected publicist Rob Goldstone setting up the meeting said, "I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra-sensitive so wanted to send to you first."

Trump Jr. said the meeting produced nothing. Regardless, four days after the meeting, his father told a campaign crowd that he'd have a "major speech" that would reveal "all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons."

The amazing thing about Team Trump throughout this scandal is how difficult the lies have been to maintain.

In the Bush-Cheney White House, the institutional discipline to stay consistent with the falsehoods that sold the invasion of Iraq was a thing of beauty.

This White House? In its attempt to deceive, it is a cat burglar in mud-caked galoshes.

Trump fires James Comey. Rationale trotted out: Comey's handling of Hillary and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's urging. Nothing to do with Russia there. Then Trump tells Lester Holt it was his idea all along -- and indeed it was because of the Russia investigation.

Thanks, Mr. President, for telling us what we knew all along.

The other day Trump tweeted that he and Vlad Putin have agreed to an "impenetrable cyber security unit" to combat hacking – a concession from Putin akin to the family dog's agreeing to be agreeable to squirrels.

Oh, wait. Two days later, Trump tweets that this can't happen and won't. Thanks for telling us, Mr. President, what we knew all along.

Trump Jr. first said that the meeting in Trump Tower was about Russian adoptions. Sure it was. That's why campaign manager Paul Manafort was on hand along with bro-in-law-assigned-to-restructure-the-world, Jared Kushner.

Now from the emails, we find plain affirmation of something of which every Republican official, and every Fox News talking head, has said no evidence exists: collusion.

Thanks, Donald Jr., for telling us what we knew all along.

The problem is that now the focus is on a 30-something trust-fund baby who's in way over his head, his collar too tight, his hair over-lubricated. Just as the focus a few weeks ago was on Mike Flynn, then on Manafort, then on Jeff Sessions, before Kushner. (Unfair. Jared is soooo busy restructuring the world.)

What a joke. It is utterly absurd from all that we know now not to focus on one slimily compromise politician: Donald Trump.

True to form, he'll probably do something shortly to affirm the collusion that's so self-evident. For now we'll ask a variant of the No. 1 question during Watergate:

"What did Rhona know, and when did she know it?"

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, July 9, 2017

For Trump administration, law of 'The Jungle'

"There was no place in it where a man counted against a dollar. And worse than there being no decency, there was not even honesty."

So wrote Upton Sinclair about the meat-processing industry in his 1906 masterpiece "The Jungle."

The result of Sinclair's undercover work in Chicago plants, the novel sparked changes in the way America processed its food. It would take a while before the nation also addressed the way plants like those depicted ground their employees into sausage.

"The Jungle" is a searing examination of industry's throw-away approach to the working poor, immigrants in particular.

It is also a look at the art of the swindle, the big-fish chain of exploitation in which desperate people are consumed like plankton in a whale's belly.

Half a century removed from slavery, Sinclair observed a new breed of slave – except that "the hounds that hunt him are disease and accident, and the villain who murders him is merely the prevailing rate of wages."

Were Donald Trump a reading man, it would be fascinating to know which figure in "The Jungle" he'd pull for – Jurgis Rudkos, the dirt-poor Lithuanian laboring his life away, or filthy rich "old man Anderson," the packing plant CEO, watching the family fortune compound thanks to  the suffering of so many.

Judging by policies now promoted by the Trump administration, this is no mystery at all.

Team Trump is determined to see that any number of health and safety provisions with lives in the balance are "counted against a dollar."

Consider that the administration has postponed regulations ordered by the Obama administration to limit worker exposure to beryllium, used in making a host of things, like electronics. It is toxic when crushed into powder.

Meanwhile, Trump killed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, an Obama initiative to enforce federal wage and safety rules in federal contracts.

"The Jungle" caused gasps nationwide about unsafe food preparation. Well, don't look now, America, but your president has said that today's food safety laws are "overkill."

Despite procedures light years removed from the sensory offenses in "The Jungle," people still die from shoddy food preparation. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 48 million Americans – or one of six – are sickened by food-borne diseases each year, with 3,000 a year dying each year – a 9/11-dimensions toll not to be met with a shrug.

I'm not afraid to eat what I purchase at the store or in restaurants. That is because of heightened, not lessened, diligence by those doing the preparing and producing.

Nonetheless in 2011 an outbreak of listeria emanating from Colorado cantaloupes killed 33 people.

In other words, sometimes it's a cop-out to leave it at, "Buyer beware."

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has set its sights on drug safety. Egads.

The administration has signaled its intent to facilitate a new drug's approval without the long-standing "efficacy standard" – meaning the FDA's certifying that the blasted thing works.

This change is driven by industry concerns that drug approval takes too long. "Go ahead and let people try unproven remedies," goes the medicine-show appeal.

The FDA has done a much better job of expediting new drugs, reports the New York Times. Still, we have situations like arthritis drug Vioxx, withdrawn from the market because it increased risks of heart attacks and strokes.

Sure, our drugs, our food, our worker conditions and their wages are better than anything Upton Sinclair could have imagined.

Are we now seeking to roll back public protections because they are unnecessary, or because "old man Anderson" is now in charge, monitoring the bottom line for himself, his kin, his friends?

Like the moneyed swindlers of Sinclair's horror story, we cannot trust the man in charge.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, July 3, 2017

Mr. Fraud is on the trail of -- voter fraud?

Donald Trump and his apologists have put the "con" in "conservative."

Conservatism? He doesn't stand for anything in particular. What he stands for is the con.

What Senate leaders have hilariously named the Better Care Reconciliation Act is just another con -- just another luxury vessel Trump wants to christen as his own.

"Better Care" – that's some moniker for yanking health coverage from 22 million Americans. Trump couldn't care less about this, though he said his health care plan would "cover everyone" and he praised Australia's single-payer system as being "better than ours."

The extent to which Trump is a fraud, a phony, an ideological jackal, was on display recently in a New York Times editorial that counted down all the falsehoods – one lie a day for his first 40 days, 74 lies for the 113 days thereafter.

There have been the petty ruses, like the phony covers of Time at his golf properties featuring his smirking countenance.

Then there are the major lies, like pulling out of the Paris agreement because "China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants." No, Sir. The treaty doesn't allow or disallow coal plants. But the last thing you're interested in is sharing truth with that freeze-dried political base you hold dear: people with their credulousness reduced to powder.

Trump did a rooster strut over the fact that evil CNN had parted ways with three journalists over an online story about the relationship between Trump officials and a Russian investment firm. CNN officials didn't say the story was false, just that the reporters had violated policy by not sufficiently vetting claims.

More fake news, right?

Well, actually, Mr. President, this is how purveyors of truth act. People who work for news media — real, not fake -- get fired for getting sloppy. Will you be parting with any member of your Lie Brigade on similar terms? How about firing your son-in-law for signing security clearance forms saying he'd had no contact with foreign governments?

Unlike legitimate news organizations, Team Trump never retracts.

Back to that long list of lies that will be the most lasting legacy of this president: Trump asks Americans to return to Lie No. 1, or thereabouts, about those 5 million or so illegal votes he says were cast – each, of course, for Hillary Clinton.

Trump's "Commission on Voter Integrity" wants the nation's voter information, all of it – or at least all that's public record, to keep alive the narrative that the nation is awash in voter fraud.

("Integrity" -- we demand it from voters. But for the Orange Spectacle and congressional leaders, integrity is like anthrax on a snack cracker.)

 "Rampant voter fraud" is a spiel that Republican state officials have sought to prosecute for years, finding almost nothing to back it up.

The fact is, like everything Trump does, this is just a con. It's not about "ballot integrity" but instead about pretenses about making it harder to vote, something that has become a never-ending Republican quest.

The underlying objective of Trump's commission, says University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas, is to repeal the National Voter Registration Act -- the "motor voter law."

Trump wants to show Americans that easier ballot access, like mail-in voting and same-day registration, somehow taint the system. He will not succeed in demonstrating that. Of course, as always, truth is not his objective. His objective is to continue the con, whatever it might be at the moment.

Never mind the costs of this pointless "ballot security" exercise. Never mind the issues raised by the states' refusing to participate.

Just wondering: When will Trump form a commission to investigate why photos showed so few people in his inaugural crowd?

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: