Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Colin Kaepernick vs. the great orange volcano

It was the year of the "angry fire god."

In the '90s comedy "Joe Versus the Volcano," that was the islanders' name for the great Volcano Woo -- a role that our president sought to reprise in 2017.

From on high, Donald Trump flung smoke and rocks and steam. He slurred his words as his lava sloshed. His orange crown glowed.

Throughout, our president was Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and flame. Point of lineage: Vulcan inherited his status as the son of Zeus.

Vulcan was the god of forging things through flame. Donald Trump? He promised to bring back coal – then set out to incinerate everything Barack Obama ever did.

Not that he accomplished it. In fact, most of his contributions were smoke and fumes. As 2017 elapsed, polls showed that fewer and fewer Americans beheld him with the awe a fire god demands.

I thought of the diminished stature of the great furnace master (despite Mike Pence's feverish pumping of the bellows) while reading a fascinating profile about someone Trump attempted to sear with inflammatory tweets: NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The occasion was Sports Illustrated's having awarded Kaepernick the 2017 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for courage in pressing for social justice.

Bravo, SI.

Trump probably became the Republican front-runner the moment he assailed "political correctness." That's supposedly the curse of a touchy-feely, too-sensitive society.

I must say, if anyone has ever been victimized by a too-sensitive society, it is Kaepernick.

He took a silent, solemn knee to protest racial inequality. When his actions were assailed and misrepresented as "disrespecting the troops," he didn't assail back.

Trump blasted him, then bragged that his tweets kept Kaepernick off NFL rosters. Maybe that was true. That's what happens in a hypersensitive society that can't stand dissent. Colin Kaepernick: victim of PC.

As Kareem Abdul Jabbar writes in the same issue about the incrimination faced by Kaepernick, "It's easier to blame the messenger and ignore the message." Blaming the messenger – news organizations or anyone who disagrees with him – has been Trump's chief preoccupation throughout his first year in office.


Reading about Kaepernick, one comes up with a mighty study in contrast between the man who took a knee and the president who sought to make him a pariah.

Those who blast Kaepernick would be interested to know that he has contributed $1 million to organizations that not only advance his concerns about social inequality but are doing something about it.

For one, he contributed $25,000 to Milwaukee-based I Will Not Die Young, which works to prevent youth violence, in part by staging mock funerals in schools to drive home its message.

That is just a parcel of the $209,000 he's donated to youth initiatives.

Kaepernick's charitable work "is fundamentally different from the typical celebrity philanthropy," reports SI, citing his "view of donations as investments, not just charity," and the target of his giving: grassroots organizations seeking to make a difference in young people's lives.

That's quite a contrast to Trump's own foundation, which abused its charitable status in purchasing items such as a portrait of Trump and autographed football helmets, and which made political contributions, violating federal elections law.

The greatest contrast is in Kaepernick's stoicism in the face of a torrent of insults and the clear blackballing in the NFL. Meanwhile, our president is proving the most thin-skinned and petulant chief executive this nation has ever known.

Oh, by the way, if one assumes that nothing has come of what Abdul Jabbar calls Kaepernick's "one-knee revolution," the NFL owners just donated $90 million to activism endeavors focused on African-American communities.

All of which began with a silent, dignified gesture by one whom many would feed to the volcano.

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

#Metoo to Donald Trump: #Youtoo

"Good one," said the creepy little man on Sarah Huckabee Sanders' shoulder: "Litigated."

The White House spokeswoman had just said questions pertaining to the sexual assaults (alleged), or sexual harassment (alleged), or aggressive perversity (certifiable) by Donald Trump had been "litigated and certainly answered" in the 2016 election.

This would make it the only case of alleged sexual assault ever adjudicated by the Electoral College.

Yes, Sarah, it's similar to how the Electoral College gave the Trump campaign a license for quid pro quo deals with Russia months before he moved the family furniture into the Oval Office.

Trump is not above the law, and Robert Mueller is not the only one pressing the matter.

Summer Zervos, a contestant on "The Apprentice," has sued Trump in a New York state court for defamation regarding claims that she lied when alleging that he sexually assaulted her in 2007.

Trump's attorneys say that as president he can't be sued. Sorry, guys. With Paula Jones vs. Bill Clinton as precedent, Trump indeed can be sued for what he did before he was president.

Allan Lichtmann, author of "The Case for Impeachment," thinks Russian collusion and obstruction of justice will bring him down. However, he tells Vice News that the Zervos suit may set Trump up for a perjury rap, the "Clinton trap."

This would be just desserts. So many high-profile individuals have faced career-ending recriminations for sexual harassment. Yet the highest-profile offender of them all faces none.

Sure, Mr. President. You knew none of the 19 – count 'em, 19 – women accusing you of sexual misconduct. Except that you were photographed with several of them, and you hired others.

Check that. Now Trump acknowledges he knew them, just not that way, understand? So typical of the lying-est man to ever inhabit his post.

In "litigating" his comments about grabbing women's genitalia in the "Access Hollywood" tape, Trump said that was just "locker room talk."

That is, except the other day when he said the tapes might have been doctored. Billy Bush, the only one who paid for the incident with his job, says seven other people on the scene heard Trump say what we heard with our own ears on tape.

And while we are contemplating these lies and absurdities, let's ponder for a moment what Trump tweeted about New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of those saying Trump should answer for sexual misconduct, just as she said fellow Democrats Al Franken and John Conyers should.

When Trump tweeted that Gillibrand asked him for campaign dough and "would do anything" for it, did it evoke imaginings of what he meant by "anything"? Nah, not anything at all.

When asked about that, Sanders said people should get their minds out of the gutter. Too late, obviously, to advise her boss of this.

The #metoo movement has taken flight in ways hardly imagined when Harvey Weinstein went from movie mogul to national pariah.

The thing is, this wave has just begun. Trump had better buckle up, because it's going to be like surfing the back of a stegosaurus.

His defending Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate race in the face of clear and convincing creepiness and probable criminality was more than an embarrassment. It was a reminder that, to Trump, all a powerful man need do is say, "I deny it," and "it" will go away.

Almost a year ago the Women's March on Washington announced to the nation that "it" won't go away. Whether or not he gets rung up by Mueller, angry and energized women are going to serve as Trump's chief prosecutors as long as he claims squatter's rights to the White House.

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


Monday, December 11, 2017

Designer deficits for Christmas

The man didn't look like he was from Mar-a-Lago – very gaunt, sort of green, parts of him having fallen off.

But, of course, Marley the accountant had returned from the grave.

"How did you get in here?" asked Donald Trump.

"How did you become president?" asked Marley. "Some things have no earthly explanation."

"Ah, but you're wrong. I can explain it. I staged a historic landslide."

"And I'm Twiggy," said Marley.

"I'm calling security," said Trump. "Ivanka!"

"Don't bother," said Marley. "This is between you and me."

"State your business," said the president, quivering in pink satin.

"I'm here to show you the error of your ways," said Marley.

"No collusion."

"And I'm Audrey Hepburn. But Russia is not why I've come. I'm here to tell you the stupidity of cutting taxes on people like yourself and on multinational corporations, and boosting the deficit by more than a trillion dollars."

"Believe me, it's not going to benefit me at all."

"Yes, and I'm Tippi Hedren."

"And besides that, tremendous economic growth will pay for it. Believe me."

"I believe you. And I'm Rosemary Clooney."

Marley extended a pale, elongated finger at something over the president's shoulder. Trump turned, and suddenly he and Marley were in a misty graveyard.

A grotesque corpse was doing the zombie crawl in their direction.

"I'm the ghost of tax cuts past in Kansas," said the specter. "Gov. Brownback signed me with great fanfare in 2012. It was a disaster. The touted economic boost didn't happen. Neither did the jobs. And lost revenue crippled state services. Lawmakers rolled me back this year."

"Unfair comparison," said Trump dismissively, shivering in pink.

"That's right," said Marley. "Unfair. The tax cuts you propose at the federal level are considerably more draconian than what Kansas did."

With an icy cold "whoosh," Kansas was supplanted by another moldy specter.

"I'm the ghost of tax cuts past in North Carolina," it said.

"North Carolina. Crooked Hillary said she'd win North Carolina."


Trump was silent.

"North Carolina faces a $1.2 billion budget shortfall in 2019, with schools on the chopping block."

"Happened here in Texas, too," said another mildewed corpse. "Schools especially suffered when the national economy went in the crapper -- and that was after the Bush tax cuts in Washington. Yes, we shared W. and his tax policies with everyone. Apologies."

Suddenly, Trump flinched to see a ghost that towered over the others.

"I am the ghost of Reaganomics," it said. "I am the architect of the deficits that have haunted this nation for decades. We knew the math didn't make sense. 'Voodoo' it was. It was as much about asphyxiating the federal government as about making things add up. It was our mission, our strategy. It was cynical. It verged on criminal. It was deficits by design.

"Like you, I convinced enough people that all this black magic would pay for itself. I trotted out 'rosy scenarios' and sprinkled my budget with 'magic asterisks' that left this nation in red ink up to our elbows."

"This is what I wanted you to see," said Marley the accountant. "You said you'd never cut Medicare or Social Security. But just last week Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio said new tax policies will necessitate exactly that."

"Enough," said Trump. "Take me home. I've got work to do – tee time with Tiger.

"You are wrong about my tax policies. They're going to be tremendous, so tremendous. They're going to benefit everyone -- everyone except me. They're going to create jobs -- so, so many jobs. And they're going to pay for themselves. No added debt. Believe me. I hate debt."

"And I'm Gina Lollobrigida."

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


Monday, December 4, 2017

Deposing the Lyin' King

"President Donald Trump's rally in Missouri was a set-piece of distortion about taxes and the economy" that "compounded his growing legacy of false tales on Twitter . . ."

Those weren't the opening lines from some loser liberal commentator. They were from the Associated Press.

The editors at AP at some point realized that their job wasn't just to report what newsmakers say but also whether what they say is false.

In the speech in question, AP reported, Trump said a whole bunch of things that weren't true: like the fact that he wouldn't benefit from the moist and scaly tax monster slithering through Congress.

"This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me," he told the crowd.

Oh, yeah. In fact, Trump could benefit by more than $1 billion, according to an NBC News analysis.

The alternative minimum tax, abolished in this bill, is the only reason Trump paid anything at all in the only year we know anything about if or what he paid in taxes. Then there's the break he and his heirs would get from an end to the estate tax.

Yes, the Republican tax plan borrows a trillion against America's future to give billionaires and multinational corporations big tax breaks. At the same time, one-third of Americans would see no benefit whatsoever or even pay more. What a deal.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, "Jubilant Trump voters celebrated the prospect of a gigantic tax cut that will benefit everyone but them."

Yes, with the tax bill, the Lyin' King finally has a triumph to announce from Pride Rock. Hear him roar.

Unfortunately for him, some lies are catching up with His Majesty.

Consider one trivial falsehood told by Mike Flynn to the FBI, one which neatly dovetails with lies Trump repeatedly has told Americans about canoodling with Russians.

Team Trump is doing its best to diminish the fact that the man Trump hired to be his go-to man on national security is a felon.

We will hear now that the Logan Act, which prohibits civilians (then-citizens Trump, Flynn, Kushner, Sessions) from conducting foreign policy, is no biggie. Never been prosecuted. Mountain out of molehill.

That may be true, but that's not the real crime being investigated here, aside from the crime of obstructing the investigation into the real crime.

The real crime is Russia's providing assistance to the Trump campaign through in-kind services, like stealing information from the opposing party and sharing it with the Trump campaign, seeding social media with fake news and ads, and attempting to cripple or otherwise compromise state elections operations.

When Richard Nixon was impeached, lies were the reason – the cover-up. But the crime was far more than one iddy, biddy burglary.

The Nixon campaign had sponsored a massive program of dirty tricks aimed at undermining his political opponents.

What Robert Mueller is investigating is whether Team Trump contracted out – yes, outsourced – the dirty tricks business to foreign friends.

We found out years after his departure that Nixon had violated the Logan Act by seeking, before he became president, to slow down peace negotiations in Vietnam so he could take credit for any breakthrough.

Richard Nixon said, "I am not a crook." Donald Trump said, "Russia is a ruse."

He may yet enjoy his tax cut, but the lies are catching up to the king of falsehoods.

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