Sunday, April 28, 2019

Words to a child: One nation under the gun

            In Colorado the other day, it was time for many parents to have the talk.

            The talk about a dangerous world. The talk about safety at school.

            Many parents had time and motivation to do this because a woman with a gun made threats that shut down schools from Colorado Springs to Denver to Fort Collins.

            We're all busy, distracted, headed in every direction. In Colorado, nothing stops everything but blizzards and the Broncos.

            Add this: a Florida woman flying into Denver with apparent intent to kill.

            Sol Pace, 18, was said to be "infatuated with Columbine" and emotionally fragile. The horrors of that 1999 tragedy were about to be relived on its 20th anniversary. When she deplaned, she got herself a weapon at a gun shop not far from the school. Alarms sounded up and down the Front Range.

            Half a million students were told to stay home. Thousands who didn't have to stay home did so anyway. Education essentially stopped, all because of a gun that she ultimately turned on herself.

            As a search ensued, media outlets cued up advice on what to tell children about situations like this, with mass shootings increasingly commonplace. I don't have children at home, but if I did, here's what I'd say.

            My child: The first thing to understand is that the world isn't as dangerous as the news implies. The same for school. It is still the safest place to be outside of home with me. It has always been so.

            What's true, sadly, is that your world is not nearly as safe as it could be.

            Your world, your community, your nation, is less safe because politicians have put the interests of commerce ahead of keeping people safe.

            The commerce of gun sales. The songs of cash registers, of bar codes chirping.

            In Colorado, schools closed because a teenager not old enough to buy a gun in her home state of Florida (recently having barred gun sales to people under 21) did so only moments after arriving at Denver's airport.

            Federal officials said it was a legal purchase. Gun safety groups said no -- that the law prevents someone who can't buy a gun in her home state to buy it in another.

            A gun shop owner said it would be a bad idea to prevent fly-in transactions like this. It would crimp the "tourist industry."

            If that's the case, why did the traveler even have to go to a gun shop? Why not guns in vending machines at the airport? Why not guns for sale mid-air along with mini booze bottles? Would that serve the tourist economy?

            Any legislation that would slightly alter the equation in favor of gun safety is assailed as the end of the world by gun lobbyists and hobbyists.

            To them all guns are created equal – no distinction between the one that could kill one and the one that will kill scores.

            They say it's about fundamental freedoms. Listen closer and know that it's all about convenience, and of course profit.

            These are not good times for the gun lobby, with more and more Americans outraged over the dangers they face in deference to sanctified appliances of death.

            But the gun industry knows that its greatest ally is fear, so it hardly blinks in the wake of another mass murder with its products, while those who could do something about it choose to litter the battlefield with leaflets of "thoughts and prayers."

            Once, again, child, the world isn't as dangerous as the news will tell you. What's dangerous is priorities dictated solely by commerce – whether it be about the global climate crisis you are inheriting, about the basic human needs of your neighbors, or about your safety.

            Don't concede to these powers. Join other people, like the students of Parkland, Fla., in fighting back.

            An unsafe world? It's your world, and you can make it safer.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Curling into his Fox News cocoon

           Was it Moe? Or Larry or Curly?

            I had to roll the tape in my head to determine which Stooge our president portrayed as he climbed his figurative hook and ladder to advise Paris on how to save Notre Dame Cathedral from destruction.

            That he offered himself at all brought to mind a scene from the 1963 comedy classic, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," where the Three Stooges face a fiery calamity with blank stares.

            Cathedral aflame? Trump took time out of his governing day to advise the French to use "flying water tankers."

            Bad idea, said those who knew what they were talking about. A big water drop would cause the church's walls to collapse and also ruin anything still reclaimable.

            Such is the privilege of the know-it-all in-chief. Rest assured, Trump's water-dump strategy was portrayed as a stroke of genius that day on Fox News.

            The rest of the world cringes when he tweets, but he thrives on a kindred audience of people with opinions, backed up by nothing. Skillfully, he channels every grunt and gripe of the arm-chair set. As does Fox News.

            After the release of Robert Mueller's findings, I saw a man-on-the-street interview in which one individual, clearly versed by all things Fox, called the investigation "a joke." Sadly, the interviewer didn't ask, "Could you tell me why?"

            Even if the probe hasn't (yet) produced an indictment of this president, it resulted in 34 others, with several convictions: a scandal of Himalayan proportions.

            As Washington Post media critic Paul Farhi pointed out, the Mueller report "largely validated news reports that Trump disparaged." Translation: That "fake news" was mostly on the nose.

            As Mitt Romney is our witness – "sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of the dishonesty and misdirection" -- the fakery is all on the other foot, whether it came from the slippery tongue of Sarah Sanders or just about anyone else who ever presented Trump's case to the people – Fox News especially.

            There was Sanders – the day after the Mueller report blistered her for lying about the pretext for firing James Comey – getting an aloe sponge bath from Sean Hannity. Yes, Sarah. Take your time to explain away nearly two years of steady and dedicated prevarication.

            It would be an interesting exercise for Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Co. to ponder what the Fox News spiel would be if even one page of Mueller's 400-plus pages, even one of the 10 instances of possible obstruction identified by Mueller, applied to malfeasance alleged against Barack Obama.

            Don't forget the crimes attested to by Trump's fixer, Michael Cohen: insurance fraud, bank fraud and tax fraud among them. What if Hillary Clinton's former attorney had alleged the same?

            Don't ask "Fox and Friends." Here, however, is what Ryan Goodman, who teaches law at New York University, told NPR about what Mueller found:

            "Any American but for the president would be indicted for these actions."

            "A big joke," says Mr. Fox News Viewer. Hmm. That's interesting. So, it was a big joke that, as Mueller writes, "without a doubt" Russia engaged in a massive attack on our elections system to ensure Trump's election, far exceeding hacked emails and Wikileaks (which at various points Trump said he loved; now he knows nothing about it – no-thing).

            That attack included attempts to compromise state elections systems. That attack included attempts to broker an end to sanctions on Russia from Team Trump before Trump actually gained office.

            What do you say, Mr. Fox News Viewer? It's all a joke?

            Sadly, the only joke is the man who remains our president until we can remove him.

            So, back on that imaginary red fire truck, siren wailing, which of the Stooges is he? Of course he's the one in the bangs, the one barking the orders.

            He's the one holding the high-pressure nozzle, with Curly (Sean Hannity) and Larry (Tucker Carlson) holding the hose.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, April 14, 2019

'Stick it to them’ policies that have stuck

            You didn't expect a pre-test, but: Which presidential candidate coined the term "rigged economy"?

            (A) Bernie Sanders; (B) Elizabeth Warren; (C) Jill Stein; (D) Donald Trump.

            Answer: D.

            OK, actual parentage may be in dispute. Patrick Henry might have uttered the phrase first. However, Trump – yes, him – is the one who plied it into a presidency.

            Trump convinced a lot of working-class voters that the system was rigged against them and that (D) was the answer.

            Were it not so tragic, it would be comedic.

            This man has done everything in his power to keep America's wealthiest and whitest in the percentile of their births, indeed to make them wealthier (can't make them whiter -- though their hero has shown how to be orange-er).

            What about those tax cuts that were supposed to benefit everyman? The IRS reports that the average refund is just about the same as last year's. Should this surprise anyone?

            Asked about the general health of the economy, Warren Buffett points out that we are at the tail end of a growth period that started in 2009, and that many of the voters Trump courted in 2016 with his "rigged economy" spiel have benefited hardly at all throughout.

            "I would prefer that the majority of the tax cuts go overwhelmingly to the people who are watching while the rest of the country prospers," Buffett told CNN.

            The big winners, he said, were the super-wealthy, mega-corporations and their shareholders.

            Any boost from those tax cuts is starting to wane -- the sugar high having left the economy drowsy.

            The cost of this indulgence? It is much more than the $2.3 trillion that Trump's own Treasury acknowledges over a decade. Project it across decades as the country pays down its debt, with interest.

            The four-month federal deficit -- $310 billion – is 77 percent higher than a year ago. And for what?

            Nothing Trump seeks to do benefits those ripped off by the "rigged economy."

            He seeks to abolish the Affordable Care Act without any alternative in mind. He seeks to eviscerate budgets in education and housing.

            As a candidate he said he'd never cut Medicaid and Medicare. And you believed him?

            Over the next 10 years, his 2020 budget would spend $1.5 billion less on Medicaid, $25 billion less on Social Security and $845 billion less on Medicare.

            Every one of these dollars is meant for people who can't survive on the sugar-high economy – the people who don't count in the Trump political equation.

            By now anyone who has paid any attention should understand that Trump is not interested in serving the people in general. He is interested only in serving his base.

            He's not going to do a thing to help uninsured Americans. He's not going to do a thing about the massive debts faced by college graduates and those to come.

            Indeed, if you don't support him politically, he's going seek out ways to stick it to you.

            Consider his brazenly childish threat to transport migrants to so-called sanctuary cities.

            Consider his threat to cut off wildfire relief to California as flames leaped. Consider his unconscionable vendetta aimed at the leadership of storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

            Trump has cast his lot with voters who are fine with division and divisiveness.

            Convincingly or not, George W. Bush sought to project himself as a "uniter not a divider." No such pretense from Donald Trump. He is comfortable with an "up yours" presidency. So are his defenders.

            By the way, talking about the winners and losers under the man's stick-it-to-them policies – among the winners of his driving up the national debt are mega-investors, including the Chinese, who purchase the bonds by which our government continues to operate. They'll get back their investment compounded by the interest you are paying. Sweet.

            Longtime newspaper editor John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Please, Dems: Focus on matters that matter

            Behold the one-way window over there. An unseen audience is on the other side.

            Donald Trump preens before it, seeing only his likeness.

            He doesn't realize that on the other side beyond his gaze, viewing him and his party with disgust and alarm, are millions of young voters and independents.

            The one-way window is Youtube, or Reddit, shared video and posts on Facebook and Twitter.

            Young voters don't see everything that affects their lives, but through shared posts they have a front-row seat to the utterly ridiculous.

            They see Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee on the Senate floor saying that to remedy the world's ills, people just need to have babies.

            They see our president enunciate a link between windmills and cancer.

            Anything goes -- any lie will sell -- at a sub-coherent MAGA rally fueled by fear, myth and racial enmity. But those aren't the voters Republicans need in 2020.

            For one, young voters and independents are watching to see if this president has anything to offer – anything at all – for them.

            Tax cuts? Ah, the crumbs emanating from a windfall for stockholders and the hyper-wealthy: Even if benefits did trickle downward, they cost trillions of dollars in new and scary debt that young people will have to pay off.

            One strains to think of anything else Trump has done that deals with the most pressing problems faced by average Americans, particularly younger ones.

            This presents a staggering opportunity for Democrats -- to talk about what they can do. Here are the issues they should be addressing while Trump tilts at turbines.

            College debt -- Make babies, Sen. Lee? Do you realize the financial realities faced by so many? College debt -- $1.5 trillion, exceeding the nation's credit card debt – has tied the pill as America's predominant form of birth control. Or at least the two are working in tandem.

            Sure, most young Americans desire parenthood, but who can afford it with the crushing weight of college loans following them to bed each night?

            Democrats must address this matter hard and heavy. College debt is a far greater crisis than anything Trump can conjure.

            Affordable housing – Along with college debt, this problem sees a vast swath of young Americans trapped by circumstances.

            Ask a 20-something about the prospect of house ownership. He will say he imagines the colonization of Mars before he can afford a home. An affordable apartment is just as fanciful for most.

            Don't look now, but our president assigned noted brain surgeon Ben Carson to lobotomize HUD and bleed federal housing assistance. After all, we need that money for a big, beautiful wall.

            Fortunately, at least some Democrats are talking this up. They need to make it a centerpiece of their agenda. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has called for $450 billion to be invested over 10 years to create and preserve affordable housing, including 3 million new apartments.

            So, we can afford to build whole cities overseas – military bases – yet we can't afford to help address the nation's critical housing needs? Of course we can.

            Health care costs – One area in which the ACA has proved insufficient is in lowering health-care costs. Hence, a troubling report finds that Americans borrowed $88 billion to pay for health care last year.

            Republicans have shown no interest in truly addressing costs, whether for prescription drugs, hospitalization or premiums. Trump's self-proclaimed bold brew about curbing drug costs is really weak tea.

            One of the first things Democrats did after taking over the House was fire off letters to major drug companies in an inquiry over the rapid rise of drug costs.

            For the time being, until the nation can find better alternatives, the best way to curb drug costs is to ensure the viability and survivability of the ACA.

            Democrats are the nation's hope that matters that matter, like these, will not be swept aside by Trump and the party of sub-coherence.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: