Monday, January 28, 2019

These are men of conviction(s)

            Roger Stone's lineage that is like the circulatory system of political corruption in America. Like a Mafia family tree.

            The man with a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back was one of the baby Dirty Tricksters behind the varied activities that got Nixon booted from the White House.

            He was close with Roy Cohn, Joseph McCarthy's side man in the Red Scare war on free thought.

            Stone takes credit for being the first to promote the idea of a President Donald Trump, and then made Trump his protégé.

            That makes sense. Back during the Army-McCarthy hearings, Army counselor Joseph Welch famously asked of the senator-inquisitor, "Have you no sense of decency?"

            In Donald Trump, Roger Stone found someone without any. Sense. Decency.

            "He'll say and do anything," Stone of our president to Politico's Michael Kruse. Stone really knows this guy.

            "Anything" would include shutting down the government over money to obtain a sliver of a wall only a minority of Americans wants and which he said Mexico would finance.

            "Anything" would include saying for all to hear, "Russia, if you're listening . . ." in urging on the quest of friendly hackers to assist his campaign.

            "Anything" would be the host of lies and ruses surrounding his campaign's involvement with Russian emissaries in 2016 and before, most serious being Michael Flynn's illegal diplomacy -- on behalf of the president-to-be -- offering Russia the lifting of sanctions without having any authority to do so.

            Now we have the arrest of Stone, an alleged go-between for the Trump campaign and Wikileaks on that matter of Russian-stolen emails.

            Stone says, "I will not testify against the president." If the president has done nothing illegal, why not share freely?

            Ah, the Watergate connection. Stone was one of the original "Plumbers" who did what they could to sabotage Richard Nixon's political opponents.

            What got Nixon removed from office was the aborted theft – by a team of Cuban emigres -- of materials from the Democrat National Committee.

            Damn. Foiled by the night watchman.

            Did young Roger Stone back then say, "The Plumbers will rise again"?

            Then, in 2016, did Stone say, "Mission accomplished," when high-tech Russians (not low-rent Cubans this time) broke into the electronic innards of the very same political organization and stole what they could?

            As this investigation proceeds, along with the indictments and convictions, people are assuming their positions in eerie parallelism.

            Paul Manafort (convicted), former Trump campaign manager, is John Mitchell (convicted), chairman of the Nixon campaign. Former national security advisor Flynn (convicted) is John Ehrlichman (convicted), Nixon's domestic policy advisor.

            Lesser players like deputy Trump campaign director Rick Gates (convicted), foreign adviser George Papadopoulos (convicted) are Nixon Plumbers Donald Segretti (convicted), Charles Colson (convicted).

            Ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen (convicted), is Nixon White House counsel John Dean (convicted). History will show both as taking star turns before congressional probes.

            So, who will Roger Stone play? Well, of course, G. Gordon Liddy (convicted), the guileful offensive coordinator of the Dirty Tricks campaign.

            Yes, back when Stone was a little Liddy, you know he dreamt about growing up to be a big Liddy. And in America, dreams do come true for one who will "say and do anything."

            We all know, of course, where this places Donald Trump in the 21st century remake of "All the President's Men."

            It may not have the same concluding scene. That's because of players in the Senate with the medical condition known as spinal mush. They are going to look everywhere but where the truth resides.

            None will step up to play the role of Howard Baker, ranking Republican on the Select Watergate Committee. Baker simply wanted the truth.

            So it will be up to the voters to do what Congress should, which is to remove a president so similar to all his sleazy pals.

            Hmmm, a great movie title: "All the President's Sleazy Pals."

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, January 21, 2019

Capricious, reckless and illegal

            It took till almost after lunchtime, Day 1 of this reign, for fact-checkers to start losing track of the torrent of lies flowing from President Donald Trump's lips.

            Similarly, one loses track of the progression of his policies that judges have declared half-cocked, presumptive and unconstitutional.

            The latest? A federal judge has ruled against the administration's plans to inquire about citizenship on the census.

            Disregard the fact that such a question is certain to drive down response rates and unnecessarily give the census an inaccurate picture of who lives here.

            What U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman found was that in springing this on the nation, the Trump Commerce Department violated the Administrative Procedure Act enacted in 1946, which requires agencies to be deliberative and thorough rather than "pretextual," legal-speak for concocting a false reason for a planned action.

            Think of a black bear that stumbles into a camp cooler you unknowingly put in his path. The bear takes a paw the size of your head and has its way with the bacon, eggs and yogurt. No matter that the bear would've gone hunting for the cooler wherever you put it, because he relies on brute force to get what he wants. The cooler in his lumbering path was a pretext to break in.

            Judges repeatedly tell the Trump administration it can't have its way with whatever it can get its paws on.

            It happened in November when a federal judge blocked construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline because the administration had not done an updated environmental analysis.

            Now we are at a point where Trump talks about stringing together whatever means he can to create a physical barrier at the Mexico border. On the pretext of preventing terrorism, and the pretext that Democrats want open borders. Two more lies.

            Memo to the president: The government doesn't own much of the land in question. It's owned by countless land owners. You know: private property.

            Aside from that question is the host of environmental considerations working against a break-neck quest to build a wall on biologically sensitive and often inaccessible areas.

            One key environmental issue is the matter of drainage and flooding. Nogales, Ariz., and the twin border city from which it is has been walled off, knows all about it.

            On multiple occasions the barrier there has contributed to massive flooding and millions of dollars in damage.

            That's just one of countless environmental issues posed by something that would require intense and prolonged study and mitigation. Trump may not think so, but the courts will.

            One border issue is the fact that you just can't build a wall along certain stretches of the Rio Grande. The solution apparently has been to move the wall yards or miles from the river itself and, in effect, to cede the property to Mexico.

            Explain that to the American owner whose property suddenly becomes part of Mexico, with no access for the property owner. Better yet, explain that to a judge.

            Then there's the issue of disrupting habitat crucial to survival or any number of migratory species along the border – like the musk turtle and the Santa Catalina Island fox. Ah, they're just animals. Who cares? Well, something called the Endangered Species Act – otherwise known as a law – exists to protect them.

            It doesn't matter if Donald Trump doesn't care. What matters is that he has to follow the law.

            Away from strange and forbidding lands he can't comprehend, what other law is Trump trampling? How about there in Manhattan, where a parade of foreign dignitaries have been pumping cash into Trump International Hotel in violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause?

            Two federal judges have allowed suits to proceed against Trump over this matter.

            You'd think that someone in Team Trump would wonder about the legality of this.

            However, according to a new watchdog report, lawyers for the General Services Administration, clearly groomed to do Trump's bidding, downplayed or ignored the host of conflicts posed by the president running a hotel patronized by foreign players.

            Thanks goodness for a branch of government that can tell Donald Trump that he can't ransack things just because he runs one branch of it. Now that the opposition party has real power in the legislative branch, many more hard lessons loom ahead.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:



Monday, January 14, 2019

Miles and miles of big, beautiful lies

             No one has the Trump administration figured out like satirist Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker. Here's the headline to his post last week:

            "Sarah Huckabee Sanders offers to lie for free during shutdown."

            It's a tough job, carrying bucket after bucket of bilge for your boss, but someone has to do it. (Presumably Sanders gets paid through the Trump "crisis." She'll not miss out on any of her $179,000 a year, with a $10,000 raise scheduled.)

            As New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman puts it, the nation's only crisis is having a president "no one believes."

            You bet it's a crisis. Bulletin: Even Fox News is calling this administration out on its hysterical stream of right-wing confections.

            That's where Sanders floated the line that "nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at the southern border."

            Fox News' Chris Wallace was on it. He pointed out that just about all of the people she cited, those listed on a federal list of suspected terrorists, were stopped at airports.

            How many of those suspects were apprehended at the border? Six.

            Six? Four thousand? That's only 3,994 people away from the truth. Meanwhile, the government shutdown affects 800,000 federal workers.

            The biggest lie is that the people the wall would stop are physical threats to you and me. It's such a spurious and racist claim that any reasonable person should denounce the Grand Weasel.

            What other lies has Trump told about this outrageous vanity quest? First, of course, was that Mexico would pay for it. Over and over he said it. Now he's saying, with Republican hand-servants echoing his claim, that revenue from better trade deals with Mexico will result in the $5.7 billion he says he needs.

            The thing is, if he were to get every penny it won't even scratch the surface of the costly white elephant along the border.

            A Cato Institute analysis finds that completing a border fence along the entire 2,000 miles of Mexican border would cost an astronomical $59.8 billion – and this factors in roughly 700 miles of barrier built since 2006.

            In other words, Trump could have his $5.7 billion and would have barely made a dent in stopping the flow of desperate people trying to make it to this country.

            And for this he's shut down the government.

            By the way, what is Trump's proud-to-shut-it-down gambit itself costing? According to S&P Global Ratings, in a matter of days the cost would exceed the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded. As of Jan. 11, it had cost U.S. economy $3.6 billion.

            Trump made a clumsy act it was for Trump to trot out his empty claims of a national emergency before a national audience. It's one thing to tweet falsehoods to those who will digest them. It's another to interrupt America's evening for said purpose.

            Not only do a majority of Americans oppose the shutdown and Trump's expressed purpose for it, three-quarters of those polled by NPR say it is "embarrassing for the country," including a majority of Republicans.

            The gall merchant in the Oval Office had the temerity to say that large numbers of federal employees support what he's doing. Sure they do, as they try to figure out how to pay next month's rent and go to food banks to feed their families.

            This is a losing game for Trump and for America.  His precious $5.7 billion is not worth what he has created. But the "border crisis" serves to distract from his other big problems.

            Fortunately, one person it is not distracting is Robert Mueller.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Inside the new Department of the Inferior

            Renaming federal departments is nothing new.
            The Defense Department was the War Department. The State Department was Foreign Affairs.
            And in 2016 the nation's steward of public lands became the Department of the Inferior. And with it the Environmental Pillaging Agency.
            Take bad science, add ethically malformed leaders, and draw up policy sculpted by industrial marauders. That's our approach to public lands and natural resources under Donald Trump.
            Or in the words of Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize winner for the Los Angeles Times and covers our Inferior Department: What was founded to be "a steward of America's natural patrimony" has been transformed "into an agent of plunder."
            This is not what Ryan Zinke said he was going to create when chosen by Trump to head the department. In confirmation hearings, Zinke mouthed words that sounded like an environmentalist.
            Zinke said he wanted to follow in Theodore Roosevelt's tradition in protecting and bolstering the nation's public lands. This caused an environmental eminence like National Wildlife Federation CEO Collin O'Mara to support him.
            However, upon Zinke's recent resignation, O'Mara wrote, "Zinke's dogged pursuit of unfettered fossil-fuel extraction makes James Watt's disastrous tenure look timid."
            It was a testimonial to the Trump-Zinke approach to public lands that three-fourths of the members of the National Parks Board resigned in protest of Inferior policies that were fashioned almost entirely to the whims of industry.
            Consider a proposal by Inferior to limit Freedom of Information Act requests by average citizens. Rest assured, no such request by industry will be shuffled to the bottom of the stack.
            How to explain this? Easy. Under Trump, the Department of the Inferior is no longer a public entity but a private one, for-profit, proprietary. "Government run like a business."
            One thing that industry has demonstrated is its commitment to never let science in the public interest get in the way of private interests.
            In Trump's Department of the Inferior, the best scientific minds have been chased away or shuffled into positions where they can't be seen or heard.
            Under Zinke, a page on Inferior's website which once served as a go-to location for facts about climate change was remove.
            Meanwhile, all science grants of more than $50,000 given by the department have been vetted by a high school football teammate of Zinke who has no science background.
            The Union of Concerned Scientists, in a report on the "monumental disaster" facing scientific pursuits in the department, tells of upper-level ideologues "freezing out advice from science committees; restricting DOI scientists from communicating about their work; removing, reassigning, or intimidating scientists; and creating a climate of fear and intimidation."
            Lest anyone think things might change without Zinke, who bailed just ahead of a Congress inclined to probe a raft of ethics charges against him, backward "progress" likely will continue.
            His successor, David Bernhardt, is a former lobbyist for mining and energy interests. Whereas Zinke tried to lip-sync Teddy Roosevelt in his confirmation, Bernhardt no doubt will be mouthing the lines of oil cutthroat Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood."
            The Washington Post depicts Bernhardt as the strategy guy behind much of what's happened in the Inferior Department – the opening of 17 million acres of federal lands for oil leases (some as cheaply as $1.50 an acre), and efforts to tunnel under the Endangered Species Act, per industry demands.
            "We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received," Teddy Roosevelt said of our natural areas. "Each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune."
            If we are to read the intentions of Trump, that "good fortune" was really meant for an elite club of investors.
            By the way, that quote is up on the National Parks System web site. Watch for it to be purged by sundown.
          Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: