Monday, October 29, 2018

What's a fear-based demagogue to do?

            It was a bad day for President Fear and the folks at Fox News.

            They had planned jointly to set pheromones aflame with high-decibel sounds about a caravan of people headed to our borders from Honduras.

            Oh, my: people in brown skin coming to do terrible things -- clean toilet stalls, change hotel bed sheets, replace shingles on blistering roofs, and otherwise breathe free. The horror.

            Then what should happen but a succession of events to pre-empt all that airwave froth that Fox and the president wanted viewers to hear and fear.

            It came in the mail -- bombs sent to select critics of the president, including two former presidents.

            Trump acolytes like Fox News' Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh trotted out a "false flag" theory (1) these weren't bombs; (2) a liberal or liberals had mailed them to discredit Donald Trump and his flock.

            This theory hinged on the notion that the law enforcement agencies, from federal to local, were all in on the ruse. Now, that's one massive ruse. It takes that whole "deep state" claim from quaint and comical all the way to Rocky and Bullwinkle.

            Then came an arrest: mid-day -- a news-cycle disaster. And with it came the most searchable term imaginable: the MAGA Bomber.

            So sad. Without exacting so much as a pound of actual liberal flesh, red-capped Cesar Sayoc had blown up a whole, fertile weekday news cycle, or seven.

            Fox News, in full pout, reported these facts. It did, however, blur out the fawning portrait of Trump and the targets drawn on the images of Hillary Clinton and Michael Moore on the suspect's van.

            Then a shooter took three handguns and an assault rifle and methodically killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. He'd spewed his venom all over social media first, introducing non-extremists to Gab, which prides itself on providing a megaphone to anyone to say anything freely.

            What had fueled Robert Bowers' hatred? For one, those Trumpian warnings about refugees from Central America and Bowers' belief that a Jewish advocacy group was promoting it.

            Like our president, Bowers used the word "invaders" to describe the dark-skinned travelers.

            Who wouldn't be alarmed by the Trump-beat about that caravan? After all, our president warned that there might be "Middle-Easterners" in the bedraggled throng. Then it was violent gang members.

            Let's face it. If the package comes in certain pastels, the official policy of this administration is to send the military.

            Submerged in all this was the tragedy in Jeffersontown, Ky., in which a white gunman who couldn't get inside a predominantly black church to kill people went to a nearby grocery store and killed two black people.

            So, tell us what pastel to fear, Mr. President.

            This president is biologically adverse to anything that doesn't fit his prejudices, with a supporting throng that bolsters what he hates.

            In light of the mailing of bombs, Trump robotically called "terrorizing acts despicable." He called for civility, then, refusing to cancel an appearance on a stage provided by the enemy of the people, skipped out onto the campaign trail to return to his divisive self, his raving supporters denouncing his opponents as mobs.

            Trump knows how he won the presidency: by appealing to a constituency just narrow enough to get the electors he needed. He apparently has realized that he cannot attract a broader base, so he has sought, with every word and gesture, to harden the base he has.

            He said, "No nation can succeed that tolerates violence or the threat of violence as a method of political intimidation, coercion or control."

            Yet just days earlier he applauded Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte for "body-slamming" a reporter.

            In light of these horrifying events, being the con man he has shown himself to be, Trump's call for unity was every bit as sincere as flipping paper towels to Puerto Rico.

            The headline on Michael Tomasky's column in The Daily Beast said it all. In fact, it may be the most succinct summation of the Trump presidency:

            "A president who hates half the country doesn't get to call for unity."

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, October 21, 2018

A blue wave, then a brown wave

       Wherever the Republican Party's demographics were going before Trump, they have become, in the words of Procol Harum, a whiter shade of pale.

            Before Trump, the pallor of the Grand Old Party was one of those unspoken conditions, like Granddad's nose hairs. Now its overt whiteness and overt racism have become Granddad's stretch yellow convertible.

            Under Trump, Granddad feels free to be himself.

            As with white supremacists like Steve Bannon's and Stephen Miller's holding unprecedented sway in the executive branch.

            As with Republican Congressman Steve King's doing a sit-down for a site that speaks for Europe's neo-fascist "identitarian" movement, saying that America is committing "cultural suicide."

            As with Laura Ingraham's ranting on Fox News that immigration – legal and illegal – is turning this into "an America we don't recognize anymore."

            You don't recognize it, Laura, because all you see is your target audience, and they look just like you.

            Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp sees it, and has done something he hopes will stop a surge in anger over Trumpism from making Stacey Abrams the first African-American female governor in American history.

            Kemp, who happens to be Georgia's secretary of state, just put on hold the registrations of thousands of voters, 70 percent of them black.

            Texas' Ted Cruz is in a race no one imagined would be close, Democrat Beto O'Rourke nipping at his heels.

            Whether or not Texas' Latino voters turn out in strong numbers for O'Rourke could be decisive. Equally important, however, could be young Texans. O'Rourke has been connecting the dots at college campuses and getting big crowds

            Florida's Rick Scott, the Republican governor, sees brown, the Puerto Rican kind, in his race to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. Donald Trump's let-them-eat-paper-towels dismissiveness toward Puerto Rico could be decisively hurtful to Republican candidates there this fall.

            The gubernatorial nomination of African-American Andrew Gillum will boost black turnout in Florida, as will a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to ex-convicts.

            Trump snaked his way to an Electoral College victory by inflaming and defaming people of color and creed. But the Republican Party is coming to understand what follows the "E Pluribus" on our currency. It isn't "E Pluribus Exclusivus."

            No matter the size of the blue wave this fall, the size of the brown wave to come is more impressive, and when it comes, the Republican Party will stick out like the skinny-legged, black-socks retirees on the beach.

            Even if blacks and Latinos do not turn out proportionally compared to white voters, sheer numbers will make it impossible to ignore them.

            Though whites are still the majority, that status will end before another generation reaches governing age – 2040, says Pew.

            In states with large populations of color – Texas, that's you; Florida: you; Arizona: you -- the brown wave is coming sooner than the rest.

            Ultimately, no Republican voter-suppression designs will hold it back.

            Until then, Trevor Noah of "The Daily Show" has an idea.

            As Republican efforts have sought to reduce black turnout by any crooked means they can devise, Noah says every black American should register as a Republican, not to vote that way, but to not get purged.

            Noah says that if Republicans think blacks will vote for them, "They're going to be waving Trayvons into the voting booth like a third-base coach."

            Noah offers Kanye West as an example. In a country club-atmosphere where seemingly the only blacks wear jockey helmets and brandish hitching rings, West, as a reward for his MAGA hat, got invited into the Oval Office to yell unintelligible things while cameras flashed.

            That's called equal access in Donald Trump's America.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Hear no climate change; see no climate change; speak no climate change

           Wait, Florida Gov. Rick Scott: On whose information did you rely?

            You told Floridians to expect catastrophic storm surges from Hurricane Michael, as high as 12 feet. That proved to be correct. But where did you get that?

            Could it have been people who study weather? Or was it the Koch Brothers and the Carbon Mafia? Maybe casino king Sheldon Adelson?

            Republicans just can't stay consistent with whom it is they trust. Scientists who study weather were right about this climate event. Yet when scientists project catastrophic changes decades ahead -- rising sea levels and even more deadly storm surges because of global warming -- Republicans like Scott and our president plug their ears and hum loudly.

            Scott, now in a tight race for U.S. Senate with incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, has been offering himself to Floridians as an environmentalist. This is a little like Trump's offering himself as a unifier.

            Anyone in Florida who has paid any attention knows that Scott has been no friend of the environment.

            For one, he directed that state literature shed terms like "climate change," "global warming" and "sustainability."

            For another, he ignored voters who wanted the state to stem a catastrophic tide of blue-green and "red tide" algae in southern Florida estuaries.

            Now he is dealing with the most vicious storm to ever hit the Panhandle.

            Once again a super storm has affirmed what climate scientists say: Warmer ocean temperatures accentuate the severity of such events.

            Warmer-than-normal waters also make such storms less predictable. That means one of these days a lot of people will die when something that seems mild turns out to be monstrous.

            In fact, Michael started that way.

            So, Republicans, whom do you believe? Apparently you will accept the word of those who know what they're talking about when the storm is bearing down on you. You just don't want to believe anything about the specter haunting all living things down the road.

            A meme circulating on social media says, "Every disaster movie starts with a scientist being ignored." Yep.

            One ceases to be stunned by the opt-in ignorance of this president and his brethren in high offices across the land. But consider:

            An impact statement by Trump's own National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projected a beyond-catastrophic seven-degree increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.

            This was not done to encourage the nation to do something about the carbon-loading scientists linked to climate change. It was about how to, um, live with it.

            Yes, Mr. President, your own people agree with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- just not in the business-as-usual, sniff-and-shrug attitude you have about this very serious matter.

            Forget seven degrees, folks. The U.N. study is looking at 1.9 degrees as a threshold at which horrible things happen, particularly around our sea shores.

            Then again, horrible things will happen in the highlands and lowlands and in the in-betweens, with depleted snowpack and parched forests and fields, with monstrous wildfires, with glacier-fed rivers running dry, with just about every living thing in danger except maybe for those in limos and hallways of gold leaf.

            Sorry if this sounds hysterical, but that's what all those scientists say, and it's what we've been seeing with drought conditions, with super storms, with tidal surges beyond belief.

            Once again, Republicans: You apparently believe science when disaster is knocking at your door. Why can you not believe science when the projections are beyond next week?

            The central reason is that you have hitched your star to a set of blue-sky charlatans. And nobody wants to pay the price.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Blizzard warning for an unfit president

            In Colorado, where polls show Democrat Jared Polis leading the governor's race, Republican Walker Stapleton has all sorts of names for him: socialist, radical, dangerous. Polis's ads, by contrast, have just this for his rival: "Trump's yes man."

            That should do.

            Indeed, such word association is working across the country in state and national races. The atrociousness of the Great Orange Obfuscator is why so many Republican office-holders are feeling blue.

            A Quinnipiac Poll Sept. 10 found 55 percent of respondents do not consider Donald Trump fit to serve in his office. Let that sink in for a moment. It's not just that Trump is just not their cup of tea. It's that what's in the cup is anti-freeze.

            Trump over and over proved those respondents right. Most recently it was at a rally when he made sexual assault a comedy bit, with a crowd of assembled embarrassments chanting, "Lock her up" of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

            Performances like that are what inspire 42 percent in the same poll to say Trump is mentally unstable. Imagine that: not just unfit, but, in his own fine phrasing, "loco."

            Sure, Trump can gather a collection of soulless cut-outs to affirm his brand of debasement (see: Senate Republicans) but a large sector of this country is simply disgusted with him.

            Which brings us to the weather report.

            Hold on to your hair, Mr. President. Thanks to you, the House looks to become Democratic-controlled in the fall.

            A Democratic-controlled House means a blizzard -- of subpoenas – questions about everything you've done and everything you are.

            Should the Ds take over ( makes the odds three out of four), the House at last will begin serving the investigatory function that this House has abdicated.

            First, Trump's taxes: The New York Times has just reported how his road to riches was contingent on sham corporations and tax dodges.

            Don't say you're surprised, Trump supporter. Admit it: He's crooked, but he's your kind of crook.

            Pursuant to the report, Sen. Orrin Hatch, of all people, said Trump "may have to give up his taxes."

            Let's acknowledge: It's no more likely that congressional Republicans will follow up on that notion as Kellyanne Conway will say, "Every quiver of my boss's lips is a lie."

            A Democrat-controlled House would demand Trump's tax records. Of course, after the Times expose', they'll have to get in line behind New York tax examiners.

            A Democrat-controlled House would get serious about investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election. Presumably with the help of Trump's tax records, it might find out about the role of Russian money in keeping Trump's business empire aloft.

            The most interesting claim made in Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury" was that made by Steve Bannon:

            "This is all about money laundering," said Bannon. He said the path to getting Trump "goes right though Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. It's as plain as the hair on your face."

            Since then, Manafort has been convicted of money laundering.

            Notwithstanding what Robert Mueller alleges and what the truth may be, what's obvious is that a Republican-controlled House will ignore any and all claims.

            We haven't mentioned impeachment yet, a process that begins in the House. Only with a Democratic takeover of the Senate would impeachment have any traction.

            With Democrats having to defend the lion's share of the seats up for election this year, many in red states, the odds against their success are long.

            However, with states like Texas, Tennessee and Arizona suddenly in play, Democratic control of both chambers – and an impeachment trial -- is not out of the question at all.

            Back in Colorado, one of the bigger political stories is that Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, who has won five terms against strong challengers, is on the ropes against a relative unknown, Jason Crow.

            How is Crow doing it? By showing clips of Coffman stating that he'll "stand up to Trump," and then showing that Coffman has voted 96 percent of the time with a president seen by a solid majority of Americans as unfit for the office he holds.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: