Sunday, March 31, 2019

GOP’s morning-after headache is a doozy

            That was fun, wasn't it?

            Since November, Republican leaders had nothing to celebrate. Nada.

            Last week, though, they tied one on after the 300-plus pages of the Mueller report were summed up on a Snapple cap.

            "Par-tay," rejoiced the party of officially sanctioned corruption. Mitch McConnell broke out the peach schnapps, Lindsey Graham the Southern Comfort.

            Then came the next morning.

            Dawn's blinding light saw these headlines on the same home page of Politico:

            "GOP shaken by Trump's health care plans."

            "Republicans want Trump to back off economy-wrecking tariffs."

            "DeVos defends Special Olympics cut amid outcry."

            Oh, and this:

            "Mueller grand jury 'continuing robustly,'" prosecutor says."

            Where to start? Let's start where the Democrats are picking up -- the central issue by which they routed the GOP in the midterms: health care.

            By siding with a suit out of Texas, the Trump administration seeks to end the Affordable Care Act in its entirety – its coverage of millions, its requirements about pre-existing conditions, its protection of coverage for young adults under their parents' plans. And get this: It would do this without any alternative to the ACA in mind.

            This is not a fight Republicans want right now. McConnell has signaled as much.

            In the morning after, if the Democrats wanted to get back to matters that have benefited them politically, Trump had just done their bidding.

            That same morning, reports showed the economy slowing down – a GDP growth rate of 2.2 percent in the last quarter as compared to a projected 2.6 percent.

            There's no question that, along with the lapsing sugar high of the GOP tax cuts, a key factor is Trump's trade war. His tariffs have barely benefited anyone on these shores, while driving up the cost of U.S. goods.

            Who's benefiting? Consider the report from Bloomberg about how a Chinese supplier of paper utensils found a way to get around tariffs it faced in supplying to U.S. restaurants:

            It opened a $4 million factory in Mexico.

            As the story pointed out: "Mexico has seen big gains in shipments to the U.S. in categories where competing Chinese goods were hit with tariffs."

            Nice job, Mr. President. In Spanish, that's, "Buen trabajo."

            We thought the whole idea was to boost the American economy. Oh, well.

            Well, let's shift our gaze to other Trump bungles. How about the horror show of bad publicity about zeroing out the Special Olympics?

            It was never going to happen. The funding is supported on both sides of the aisle in Congress. If someone with a brain the size of a walnut was looking at political realities as plain as the button nose on Betsy DeVos's face, that person would never suggest it.

            An actual walnut would have better instincts.

            Yep. Well, Secretary of Education DeVos, Trump and his party took a pounding for the idea for a whole brutal news cycle until Trump scrubbed the idea.

            Meanwhile, while Trump stomps and stumps about his supposed vindication regarding the Mueller report, the investigation of His Lowness continues.

            The grand jury in question involves matters Mueller handed off to federal prosecutors. We can't know those things they are, but they are not gone.

            Meanwhile, we know that state regulators are investigating whether the Trump Group committed insurance fraud and bank fraud. We also know about a probe into corruption regarding donations that footed the most expensive inauguration in history.

            We know that Trump is implicated in a crime for which his former attorney is going to prison in the hush-money arrangement for a porn star.

            This brings up another story from Politico headlined, "Donald Trump's talent for turning wins into losses," about the man's pathological hubris and tendency to overreach.

            It all adds up to a continuing, chronically debilitating headache for the Republican Party, and until 2020, for the nation.

            Back in the '80s, Ronald Reagan sailed the waves of public opinion with the shining slogan, "Morning in America." For the Trump era, it's "Migraine in America."

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, March 25, 2019

One whose docket ID is 'Individual 1' shouldn't be celebrating

            Donald Trump picks up the pepperoni phone. He orders the usual: "Double meat. Double cheese. No collusion."

            No collusion? Whatever the truth might be, this man is the very last source to which to turn.

            In sweet, deceitful spin, that single word – "collusion" -- which doesn't even fit into criminal statutes -- somehow has become the Fox News/Lindsey Graham/Rudy Giuliani standard for sparing the Greatest Con Man from reckoning by Congress.

            Not so fast.

            That Mueller issued no further indictments was grounds for reverie at Mar-a-Lago. Yet no one knows better than the Trump clan that a starburst of legal dread fills the Washington sky over their heads.

            I'm no criminal investigator, not like, say, the folks at the Southern U.S. District of New York, but I know sulfur when I smell it.

            No indictments? Oh, yes -- several. Read 'em all.

Indictment 1 – Russia attacked our elections system, and our president didn't care.

            The first intelligence briefing Trump received as Republican nominee contained intelligence assertions that Russia had done this, yet he went right out and made a "400-pound" joke about the very matter the Mueller report will affirm.

            Not only did Trump make sport of the matter, but he proceeded to prostrate himself before America's attacker, Vlad Putin. Defend that, Sen. Graham.

Indictment 2 – Trump has shown "willful ignorance" of intelligence.

            This is about more than Russia. This is about the whole of U.S. intelligence, and that "willful" quote, though anonymous, comes from one among of several senior intelligence experts who have briefed Trump about matters ranging from North Korea to ISIS.

            As one told Time magazine when several briefers were interviewed, actual intelligence isn't what Trump wants to hear. What he wants to hear is what he wants to hear. Defend that, Fox News.

Indictment 3 – Trump has lied to us more times that one can count about Russia.

            If his interactions were superficial and incidental, if his interests in a Trump Tower Moscow were fleeting, he could have said that. They weren't. They were deep, passionate and went back decades.

            Yet he lied with the rapidity of a jackhammer about this stuff, even going all-caps in July of 2016 with, "I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"

            Ah, but: Trump was pursuing a Moscow tower well into that summer as he sought to become our president. That business dalliance would have continued had Trump not won the GOP nomination.

            The New York Times calculates that Trump and his campaign had more than 100 contacts with Russians. That's a whole lot of "no contact."

            The most grievous instance we know of involved Michael Flynn's intimation to Russia's ambassador, even before Flynn was employed by us as Trump's national security adviser, that sanctions would be lifted from Russia under a Trump presidency. That conversation – a civilian doing foreign policy – is a violation of the Logan Act. We are to believe that Trump knew nothing about this.

Indictments 4 through 28 – What Michael Cohen said.

            The moment Trump's former fixer testified before Congress, this whole scandal (an ongoing scandal which William Barr's CliffsNotes cheat sheet does not put it to bed) became something quite apart from "Waiting on Mueller."

            Since then, Congress has subpoenaed 81 people, and well it should have.

            Those who know criminal law say that Cohen asserted 14 crimes by his boss, from insurance fraud, to tax fraud, to bank fraud, to whatever fraud ultimately will define this man.

            If true, many people in criminal justice have observed, the Trump Organization has been knee-deep in RICO territory. That stands for "Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Corporations" and covers a gamut of crimes that one person directs another to do, or assists another in doing.

            Cohen is set to go to prison for a crime he committed as a subordinate to you-know-who, and he has testified to more.

            No one identified as "Individual 1" should be doing an end-zone dance just because one investigation finds "no collusion."

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, March 18, 2019

The pay-offs almost no one talks about

           Unsurprisingly, the chatter is dense and immense about how barely ordinary children of celebrity parents managed to get into prestige universities with winks, nods and wads of green.

            These are terrible injustices considering who didn't get admitted.

            But let's not belabor how Jared Kushner got into Harvard or how Donald Trump Jr. became Wharton-worthy. (Hint: not the SAT.)

            When the subject is bribery and back-scratching, far more serious matters linger beyond the bounds of public indignation.

            This is what happens when significant numbers of Americans cast their lots with a corrupt regime that not only sees bribery as how business is done but government as well.

            Upon Paul Manafort's sentencing, Republican Sen. John Kennedy referred to the twice-convicted former Trump campaign manager as a "grifter" and "sleazoid."

            Powerful denunciation, except that the Louisiana senator did not take the next logical step and assess compatriot Donald Trump for the company he keeps and the tactics he's employed all his life.

            Tucker Carlson uses his feathery Fox News perch to call Michael Avenatti a "creepy porn lawyer" for representing a porn star. What type of creep does it take to bed a porn star while his wife is still on the mend from childbirth, then bribe said star into silence? Carlson has no term for that.

            Piles of green. That's just the way things work in Trump World. These are ways that are in complete alignment, sadly, with today's Republicans' idea of how Washington works.

            Cash (or credit) should always prevail.

            Democrats in Congress have advanced an ambitious anti-corruption agenda. You'd think this is what most Americans want.

            House Dems made this their first legislative act: House Resolution 1.

            HR 1 would lift the curtain that has hidden the sources of dark money. No, it wouldn't end super PACs. It would just let us know whose lucre is behind them.

            It would hold presidents to the same conflicts-of-interest laws that pertain to Congress.

            It would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their tax returns.

            It would put further limits on lobbyists and forbid members of Congress from serving on corporate boards.

            Naturally, this was "dead on arrival" in Mitch McConnell's Senate. McConnell apparently is most offended by the parts of the bill that would increase voter turnout, such as making Election Day a national holiday. He calls such matters a "power grab" by the Democrats.

            So, the Republican idea of a power grab: enabling more voters to have a say in their government.

            Otherwise, the Republican Party is wholly dedicated to protecting the power of special interests to buy their way into the halls of power. It is completely unmoved by any suggestion to further open those hallways to the people themselves.

            The coal industry bought its way into government by way of $11 million in campaign donations, mostly to Republicans.

            A tacit result of this pay-off to Team Trump is that one of the top lobbyists for coal, Bill Wehrum, was appointed chief regulator of greenhouse gases in the Environmental Protection Agency.

            This is a big step down, salary-wise, for one whose lobbying firm ran on $8.5 million from the coal industry. Who wants to be a bureaucrat? He does, if it means he can reward his masters by neutering whatever it is that previous administrators have done to keep the clamps on polluters.

            Yes, I know we all care about TV celebrities who use deceitful methods to get their kids where they wanted to be.

            But if you want to talk about how money corrupts in a world governed by Republican principles of legal bribery, acknowledge that we have fixated on pollywogs in a tank of alligators.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Dark day for the church of my childhood

            Jerry Seinfeld's great line is that sports fans' allegiance is not to athletes but to laundry. One's passion hinges on who wears what uniform.

            Sadly, so too it is with religion. Too often it's only marginally about what a savior might do and almost entirely about what vestments congregants salute.

            Yes: colors and fabric. If that's a generalization, let me ask: How much of your religion is dedicated to haberdashery as opposed to promoting a loving race of inhabitants?

            Pardon my disgust. Over the last few weeks I've see the denomination under which I was raised torn asunder by a debate that should not be one.

            Yes, though now zealously unaffiliated, when it comes to the affiliation of people who call themselves Methodist, I have skin in the game.

            I was baptized a Methodist. In high school I swept the floors and washed the toilets of the modest church my father helped build, the same church whose hymns my mother accompanied at the organ for more than 30 years.

            I no longer ascribe to the colors of organized religion, but I look fondly upon that congregation in which my family was so involved. No one modeled intolerance or the pursuit of mammon as driving virtues. No one appeared to embrace lying political demagogues as the truth and the way.

            Religion as practiced in the church of my childhood was about helping others and making the church worthy of one's tithe.

            No more for those who would call the shots for Methodists.

            With a callous up-or-down vote, the hierarchy of the United Methodist denomination have made unworthy the colors my family called its own.

            This sad fact follows the vote by delegates of the United Methodist international conference to maintain bans on same-sex weddings and the ordination of gay clergy.

            The vote was reasonably close – 449-374 – for a churchwide policy that is far from reasonable.


            Consider that Rev. Karen Oliveto, bishop of the Mountain Sky District, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Montana, is openly lesbian. Bishop Oliveto's bond with her wife Robin, one that is backed by the Constitution, is rejected officially by her faith.

            Nothing Jesus Christ ever did could be construed as embracing separatism like this.

            Now Methodist congregations across the country are having to decide if loving principles are more important than affiliation with such a policy. A split is widely forecast.

            Here's hoping that many congregations will opt for a definition of love that defies earthly bounds and will embrace a love that has none. That means leaving the United Methodist Church.

            Conflicts like this are not limited to Methodists. Presbyterians have split over the same issue, with the Presbyterian Church in America refusing to recognize same-sex marriages or ordination of LBGTQ individuals, while the Presbyterian Church (USA) allows both.

            In recent years many Baptist congregations have fled the Southern Baptist Convention to protest doctrinaire policies that forbid female pastors and that reject the congregational independence that historically has characterized Baptists.

            I salute churches that decide that colors and vestments are not what their faith is about and that love and understanding are.

            Yes, this is what the debate about same-sex relationships is about: love. It seems that Jesus had something to say about how that matter takes precedence over all.

            And if love is what defines the church, that means it's not up to those who, through the cloth they wear, deign to define it.

            Matters like this are good reasons why so many young people reject the church, why so many congregations are graying and decaying.

            I look forward to news that the congregation of my childhood has announced it is going to embrace love in its own way, and leave behind arbitrary limits on it.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, March 4, 2019

What percent of Cohen's testimony don't you believe?

            "Well, I don't believe him."

            "Well, what part don't you believe?"

            What we hear from Trump lock-steppers about Michael Cohen reminds me of what the same people said when Michael Moore came out with his explosive "Fahrenheit 9/11" about the lie-filled build-up to invading Iraq.

            The film has inaccuracies, they said. Disregard it.

            What I said: If even 10 percent of it is true, what a jaw-dropping scandal.

            Which part of Michael Cohen's testimony don't you believe?

            The part about the check to the porn star, which Donald Trump said he didn't pay but which has his signature on it?

            The part about the wildly inflated, then deflated, then inflated property valuations used for purposes of insurance fraud, tax fraud and bank fraud? The figures are right there for one to observe.

            The part about hiding from Congress the extent of Trump's dealings in Moscow while he ran for president?

            "I have no deals in Moscow because I've stayed away," said the least trustworthy president in American history.

            I lost count, but David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who has tried to keep up on all the suspect things Trump did in business, says he counted 14 federal crimes among all the things Trump's former fixer asserted.

            That doesn't include, presumably, threats to any number of people and institutions, including threats to the colleges that have records about what a horrible student this president was.

            What percent of these allegations do you not believe? If you heard Cohen and you say "zero percent," you need an audiologist visit.

            Republicans in Congress are playing deaf. They want to hear Deep State conspiracies and schemes by Democrats. Well, Michael Cohen is no Democrat. Robert Mueller is no Democrat. Rod Rosenstein. Andrew McCabe. Not one of them a Democrat.

            Let's flip the scenario. If even one of these 14 offenses – choose any you like -- were alleged of President Obama and was reported by his former lawyer, what would the Trump lock-steppers be saying and doing?

            Obama, by the way, was president eight years without anyone in his inner circle indicted, convicted or having fled the premises with the law on his or her tail.

            You don't have to believe everything Michael Cohen said to know that in 2016 we elected a racist, a con man, a cheat and a liar.

            He should be impeached. Proceedings should begin as soon as possible. Congress doesn't even need Mueller's report.

            Impeachment is an inquiry, a trial. Congress knows enough already to begin that. The fact that the Senate likely would block Trump's removal by impeachment should he be convicted by the House is of no matter. We should know the truth about the man to whom we gave the keys to this country – our country.

            Cohen's testimony has given this matter the distinct feel of Watergate. He is the John Dean (Nixon White House counsel) of this scandal, and we are about to hear from many more players, including Trump family attorney Allen Weisselberg. We also should hear from Trump's adult children and conspirator-in-law Jared Kushner.

            We should hear from Felix Sater, Trump's point man in pursuing the Trump Tower Moscow deal. We should hear from anyone who knew anything about the Trump Tower meeting in which Don Jr., Kushner and others met with a Russian contingent.

            You say you don't believe any of it. Deep State stuff. Witch hunt.

            The thing is, it shouldn't matter what you or anyone thinks. This is damning information. Is it true? The truth is all that should matter. That's what impeachment is about.

            Say what you will about Michael Cohen. He knows more about Individual 1 than just about anyone.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: