Sunday, June 13, 2021

Biden is the face of better times

          Observing our president in Europe, I could only think: Things are getting better.

           I saw him talk of conciliation and cooperation. I saw him exhibit world leadership, not egotistical showmanship. I saw him smile sunbeams of reassurance to allies. I saw that his wife's hand did not elude his grasp.

          In so many ways, things are getting better. Whatever might trouble us, like a Supreme Court sculpted by Mitch McConnell and the filibuster's intractability, many signs point to a brighter day.

          -- To stop the practice of sheltering profits overseas, President Biden and fellow G7 leaders last week endorsed a 15 percent minimum corporate tax which – surprise – was endorsed a few days later by Amazon, Facebook and more.

          -- A push by rebel stockholders has forced ExxonMobil to adopt a new green business model that shifts away from a cyclops-like focus on fossil fuels. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls the events "one of the most consequential weeks in the history of the oil and gas industry and shareholder capitalism."

          -- A worker shortage giving new leverage to workers, employers are being forced to raise once-exploitive pay scales. The New York Times reports that the "reservation wage," economists' term for the pay minimum workers require, has risen 19 percent since 2019, an increase of $10,000 a year. Hence, a novel way to raise pay short of raising the minimum wage: supply and demand, and a pandemic.

          -- Though they disagree on how much, Biden has signaled to Democratic leaders he is still intent on some degree of student debt forgiveness. For many young Americans, student debt is the biggest reason why they would delay or not even consider big steps like buying a home and starting a family.

          -- For millions who have started that family, the expansion of the Child Tax Credit built into the stimulus plan means a hand up out of poverty. Starting next month and through December it means monthly payments of up to $300 per month for each qualifying child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each qualifying child age 6 to 17 based on income.

          -- Meanwhile, for those living on the streets, the stimulus plan signed in March included $50 billion to provide essential housing and assistance to the homeless. Nothing is more crucial to ending this cycle than the simple option of four walls, a bed and a door that locks. Efforts under President Obama to end homelessness among veterans show that this problem need not be intractable.

          -- On top of a massive vaccination effort, Biden has ordered the sharing of vaccines to third-world countries that acknowledges not only our humanitarian obligations but the public-health imperative of confronting the pandemic wherever it rages.

          -- While Republicans play to the bigotry of those who criticize what they can't understand, this president told a joint session of Congress that he would fight for people marginalized because of their sexual orientation. "To all the transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people who are so brave, I want you to know that your president has your back."

          That sounds so good: A decent man vowing to represent all Americans and to defy gestures and policies that would marginalize any.

          Speaking of such things, a Gallup poll shows that an all-time high of 70 percent of Americans, including 55 percent of Republicans, support same-sex marriage. In keeping therewith, Saturday Vice President Harris and her husband marched in the Capital Pride Walk in Washington D.C. She wore a pink blazer and a "Love is love" T-shirt.

          Rest assured, these sentiments are not reflected in anything the Republican Party does or says.

          That's called being on the wrong side of history.

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

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Jim Crow rides again, just in a better car

           The Klan marched on the front page of my Denver Post this morning. By the thousands. A river of white.

            Not to worry, exactly. It was 1926, not 2021, the black-and-white photo illustrating the story of a new initiative to lift the hood off the Klan's immense influence once upon a time.

            Our state is getting a fresh look at the terrorist group and its power thanks to the organization History Colorado.

            Among other artifacts, History Colorado is sharing the ledgers of the state Klan from the 1920s -- 30,000 proud signatures of membership, including Gov. Clarence Morley and sainted Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton.

            How big was the Klan in our fair state? So big, according to the Post, that it accounted for nearly a third of the white, U.S.-born men in the city when that photo was taken.

            This is not history to be downplayed. This is history, period.

            Ah, but see what's happening in a host of Republican-controlled states that seek to play down the role of racism, race-based violence and general oppression.

            Texas' Republican-controlled Legislature just sent to the governor a measure under which, one presumes, a book featuring the Klan on the march would have the caption: "Patriotic Christians exhibit spring fashions."

             A raft of legislation in red states has seized on Donald Trump's urgings to prohibit what he calls "racial propaganda," ie. actually pointing out the sins of racist predecessors which led to the racist systems of today, as well as a racist president.

            The New York Times attributes to Texas "some of the most aggressive efforts to control the teaching of American history."

            A measure sent to the governor would limit teacher-led discussions of current events, prohibit course credit for "political activism or lobbying" – that's citizenship, children – and ban the teaching of the 1619 Project, which shines a necessary light on America's racist past.

            In other words, Republicans who have swarmed to embrace Trump's Big Lie want their American history to be a big lie as well.

            Sadly, Jim Crow hardly is history in red-state America. Republican vote-suppression measures are aimed squarely at marginalized individuals and the poor -- a clear effort to restore the good old days of white supremacy.

            In Texas, a Democratic walk-out has stopped, until Gov. Greg Abbott convenes a special session, a Republican vote-suppression measure that had Crow all over it. Ol' Jim's just in different clothes and driving a shiny SUV.

            Particularly telling is the language that would prohibit voting during morning hours on the last Sunday pre-election, when black churches traditionally hold "souls to the polls" activities.

            So, too, with bans on the drive-through voting and 24-hour voting used by racially diverse Harris County. Could the GOP be more obvious?

            (Republican leaders would like for voters not to notice how obvious, however, and are backtracking just a bit on some of the worst things about their election "reform" bill -- like calling the new Sunday voting time a "typo" that presumably will not be in a newly drafted proposal.)

            This comes on the heels of voter identification requirements that a federal judge deemed clearly intended to curb minority turnout.

            All this without any evidence of the widespread fraud on which the Republicans' scheming is predicated.

            Little wonder why, using the Big Lie as pretext, Republicans are in panic mode to alter voting laws to help them hold onto power.

            Gallup reports that the GOP is losing people, with 49 percent of Americans identifying as Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents, and 40 percent as Republican (25 percent) or Republican-leaning independents.

            Could this be because the GOP has so firmly identified itself as the White Person's Party?

            But the GOP's self-limiting condition is not confined to race. For one, its measures to target LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgendered individuals, are turning off young Americans.

            Lest it not be told elsewhere, say in Texas schools: Among the Ku Klux Klan's objects of terror were homosexuals. Before police atrocities triggered the Stonewall riot in New York City, something just as horrible happened when Klan members stormed and wrecked the La Loma night spot in Miami, a pronouncement of what "Christian" meant to these "patriots."

            This is the story of America. Tell it. In the telling, acknowledge that we have yet to make real the founders' statement, all of us being "created equal."

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

 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Trust research or, um, Tucker Carlson?

            Syndicated cartoonist Jeff Stahler nailed it:

            "If Fox News was around in the '50s, we'd still be fighting polio."

            As sure as Sean Hannity is smarmy, we'd be into our fourth generation of children in leg braces.

            Experts still would be trying to convince certain segments of society that Jonas Salk is not a stalking horse for the Red Chinese.

            To be certain, broad swaths of society would be fully protected as they are today, fully vaccinated and living in an age where medical advancements are venerated.

            Then there would be people who trust Tucker Carlson over those who know what they're talking about.

            For them, it's 1954 all over, and over.

            That's when children like me started lining up to receive the life-saving, non-politicized serum that spared arms, legs and lungs from catastrophe.

            If Fox News were around then, we'd have seen Carlson, Hannity and company throw shade on it, causing too many to roll the dice with children's welfare.

            Sure, lots of factors are at play, but Fox News is a key player in how respective rates of vaccination appear to match up with the partisan divide and electoral results of the 2020 election.

            We can't even blame Donald Trump, who recommends getting the shot. Too bad it's not with the gusto that he brought for hydroxychloroquine.

            Carlson has led the innuendo brigade in the pandemic, whether the issue be masking or state restrictions or vaccination.

            Like Trump himself, Carlson is the classic know-it-all who knows squat but keeps squawking.

            His shtick is to raise questions that sound like assertions – the "what if . . . ?; the "what about . . . ?" Carlson rarely has anything substantive around which to build an argument.

            Like so many physicians, CNN's Sanjay Gupta is a hero of the pandemic. He does an amazing dual service of informing the public about public health needs and calmly conveying urgency.

            Generally he remains dispassionate when passions fly. Hard to do so on this subject.

            Of loud voices like Carlson's, he said, "Instead of continuing to build a knowledge tree (about COVID-19), we've had to continuously fact-check and correct misinformation.

            Dating back to the origins of the pandemic, lives have been lost because politicians encouraged by talking heads took the virus so much more lightly than reality demanded.

            So, yes, the level of seriousness related to this public health crisis looks a national portrait in red and blue, at the moment reflected in high levels of vaccine hesitancy in dependably red states.

            One cannot discount the role of a predictably propagandistic political arm in the events it "reports."

            One commentator observed, and I must agree, that if Fox News were around during Watergate, Richard Nixon would have served out his second term.

            If Donald Trump could get away with inciting a bloody riot at the Capitol building and broadcasting his love to poor, misunderstood terrorists, Nixon could have gotten away with a lot more than he did.

            Back to science: What crucial developments could Fox News' talking heads have undermined in bygone days were they around to mock, minimize and influence viewers? The development of penicillin? The incandescent light bulb? The moon shot?

            Yes they could, and yes they would, as Fox News and its right-wing cousins, NewsMax and One America News Network, are fashioned today not to seek truth and probe evidence but to please an audience that's not interested in truth or evidence.

            It's very fortunate that back in the '50s we venerated scientists – you know, smart people who study evidence -- far more than charlatans with a lot of hair.

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