Monday, March 28, 2016

A beautiful day in Mr. Cruz's (gated) Neighborhood

       The other day a bearded man planted himself in a treetop along a busy Seattle street, forcing police to shut down traffic for hours in both directions, afraid of what he'd do.

I scanned the headlines later to see what Sen. Ted Cruz recommended we do to protect us from bearded men in the future. Nothing.

Don't disappoint, Senator. If we don't keep watch on bearded men, one of them might hurt us one day.

Beard or no, let's just say that if anything happens through Election Day that involves a Muslim militant, Cruz and his rival for the angry white vote, Donald Trump, will not disappoint in insulting human intelligence.

Their "can you top this" contest will continue: a trail of rhetorical horrors.

This time it was Cruz saying that we should patrol predominantly Muslim neighborhoods.

President Obama responded correctly. The ethnic profiling implied by Cruz's urgings is exactly the kind of repression Cruz's father fled in Cuba.

Logic never has been Cruz's strong suit. That particularly applies now that he and Trump battle for the votes of an increasingly narrow demographic.

          How narrow? Well, let's say this:

          When the tea party became its life force, the Republican Party ceased being a national party. It became a lot less.

Purity demands that any "big tent" the GOP once might have trumpeted is too roomy. With Trump and Cruz as the chief hangers-on in this sweaty reality show, the party's demographic has shrunk even further.

          A regional party? With either of these men as its standard-bearer, the GOP has ceased being even that. It is now a zip-code party, a borough party, a backyard party, a garden party.

          Don't call it a neighborhood party. That word connotes neighborliness. If it's a neighborhood, it's gated. And what better metaphor for the GOP in the 21st Century?

          The GOP is the George Zimmerman Party: alarmed and armed.

I recently overheard two men discuss the fact that some minority youths had started hanging out at a local mall. To this, one quipped, "Time to wall off the mall."

          Republican front-runners, you have left your mark.

          How many times have we heard the tea party phrase, "Take back our country?" The question, of course, is, "From whom?"

          In Georgia and North Carolina the other day, Republican lawmakers voted in their separate ways to take the country back from the forces that would extend human rights to human beings who happen to be homosexual or transgendered. 

          We are happy to report a massive backlash against this. The NBA is reconsidering hosting its all-star game in Charlotte next year. Meanwhile, facing the threat of losing the Super Bowl in the Georgia Dome, Gov. Nathan Deal took a big gulp and vetoed a "religious liberty" bill that would have allowed businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

          Understand, the NFL and NBA have larger constituencies than today's Republican Party. They serve a nation of diversity.

          We read regularly about how the Republican leadership is horrified by the prospect of a Trump candidacy. We read about how establishment Republicans have had to swallow hard to endorse Cruz, commonly referred to as the most hated man in the U.S. Senate. (Cruz, by the way, would say, "And proudly so.")

          The GOP chieftains know the problem. They know that Trump and Cruz appeal to a segment of our population too narrow to make either of them president.

          What they don't know, apparently, is how they have allowed this to happen. It dates back to Nixon's Southern Strategy and has carried through to abominations like Arizona's attempts at race profiling and the ongoing fight against gay rights.

Republicans are getting what they deserve: their diminution to a garden party. It's a beautiful day in the gated neighborhood -- unless you're trying to elect a president.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, March 21, 2016

GOP's garden of fraudulent pretenses

We're told that women's health is the concern motivating increasingly restrictive laws bearing on abortion providers.

No, it's not.

We're told that voter fraud is the concern behind increasingly restrictive voter I.D. laws.

No, it's not.

We're told that more efficient and cost-effective government motivates privatization.

Again, no.

These lies have been sculpted into truths in the Orwellian nomenclature of modern-day Republicanism. In these cases and more, the objective of the policy is clear, while the stated rationale is a joke.

Take Texas' requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they practice and that clinics be upgraded to hospital-standard ambulatory surgical centers. Lawmakers said this is about protecting women.

One heard the "clang" of this claim in arguments before the Supreme Court, with three female justices hearing a major abortion case for the first time, and all homing in on the fraudulent justification for the Texas law. "Women's health"? Oh, yeah.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was particularly aggressive in pointing out that early abortion is "one of the lowest-risk medical procedures," and asking how that pretense could be used to place untenable burdens on millions of women seeking a constitutionally protected procedure.

The Texas law is what it is: a TRAP (targeted restriction on abortion providers) meant to shut them down. Call it what it is, GOP.

The same rhetorical fraudulence is used to justify voter I.D. laws. Considering how many have sprung from the fertile loam of GOP-controlled statehouses, you'd think we had a voter fraud crisis. The long wait for any such evidence of this means the rationale is as phony as the kiss of a Botox junkie.

With as little voter fraud as has been detected in (name your red state), HBO's John Oliver calls draconian ballot security laws "the biggest overreaction to a manageable problem since Sleeping Beauty's father ordered all the spinning wheels in the land to be burned."

We know exactly why the GOP had made these laws its mission: because they reduce turnout by poor people and people of color, and those people tend to vote Democratic. Of this there is no question. So why lie?

This brings us to the fraud called privatization – supposedly a better way to do what government does. Again, we await evidence of this. Still waiting.

After Hurricane Katrina it was convenient to blame government for the response that left so many hanging. However, as Naomi Klein writes in "The Shock Doctrine," the ineptitude more properly was the result of free enterprise – contractors hired by the Bush administration whose heads weren't in the game.

Klein identifies a new vulture-like creature she calls the Disaster Capitalism Complex, which is there to serve . . . well, itself, mostly.

Save tax dollars? Watch Robert Greenwald's scalding documentary, "Iraq for Sale," which in part is about the ungodly cost overruns by contractors during our military occupation of Iraq. We'll never know how much of the national debt so decried by the tea party was rung up by no-bid insiders like Halliburton and KBR Inc.

It reminds me of an exasperated regional director for the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation who explained that, when the state set out to privatize its services, it made no requirement that the bidders do the services at a lower cost. They just needed to step forward to offer their services.

In other words, this wasn't about doing something government couldn't do at a cost savings. It was about scratching the itch of anti-government ideologues who simply didn't believe in government -- oh, and about awarding friends and donors with lucrative contracts.

You see, Mr. Ideologue, we know what you want in each case, even when lies are spun to convince us your motives are Snow White-pure.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ronnie, Nancy and that gay conversion

        As corrections go, this was Page 1 material, at least for the circulation that Hillary Clinton targets.

Magnanimous at a tender time, she had offered praise Nancy Reagan did not earn – of having been a prominent voice in the effort against AIDS.

No, no, a thousand times no. If Ron and Nancy Reagan took the lead against AIDS, I just heard Ted Cruz call Barack Obama our greatest president.

The truth: Many, many died because, rather than leading in the face of a health crisis, the Reagans held back among the tut-tut-tutting of the Judgment Chorus. Toward a federal response, for five years they were as interested in promoting myth as medicine.

The Reagan presidency and the AIDS crisis tracked each other. The first diagnoses on these shores of what was called "gay cancer" occurred in the first year of his presidency.

It took years for sanity, and science, to prevail.

Read Randy Shilts' "And the Band Played On." Know that if the Reagans had taken the lead early, a lot of lives would have been saved. Unfortunately, tragically, a lot of Republican leaders were content in seeing AIDS in terms framed by the religious right: that sex outside of marriage by necessity comes with a punishment phase.

Ah, but people were dying from AIDS who didn't fit that out-of-touch, condemnatory, furthest-thing-from-Christianity template.

It took far too long to protect the nation's blood supply. Read all about how many contracted the disease that way: some 12,000. If the Gipper had expressed more urgency, we would have acted more urgently. But this was a "gay disease." So . . .

I said earlier that it took five years for things to change for the Reagans. On Oct. 2, 1985: Rock Hudson, a family friend, died of the disease. It changed everything for Ronnie and Nancy. Suddenly empathy kicked into gear – empathy about AIDS, empathy about being gay.

Can one change one's sexual orientation under someone else's admonition or a regimen of prayer and push-ups? One cannot. The only legitimate form of what we can safely call conversion regarding "gayness" is what the Reagans experienced when they realized that a really good person about whom they cared was gay and didn't deserve any of the bad things many would wish on him.

We saw the same happen when Dick Cheney changed his tone on gay rights when daughter Mary announced she was a lesbian. Suddenly Mr. Hardliner sounded, um, malleable.

He has come out in favor of same-sex marriage, something Mary has since consummated. Being reasonable and compassionate about human rights for humans who happen to be homosexual is something Cheney can do, now that the religious right vote is not central to his holding barely checked power over you and me.

         The legalization of same-sex marriage in this nation is another example of gay conversion: the good kind, the doable kind. The more that gay, lesbian and transgendered people come out of the shadows, the more we as a society understand the essential goodness in each.

          The shame some would attach to homosexuality played a major role in AIDS' spread. Prevented from entering into and proclaiming monogamous same-sex relationships, too many young gay men in the early '80s found companionship in reckless ways.

          Monogamy in the age of AIDS being a public health necessity, why was it that it took the U.S. Supreme Court and the Fourteenth Amendment to make same-sex marriage the law of the land? We know exactly why, and we should be ashamed.

           Hillary Clinton issued an apology and a clarification after her comments about Nancy Reagan. It's tragic that the history of this nation's response to AIDS should ever need explaining.

          Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, March 7, 2016

Trump: party of one

At the onset of this soapbox derby, one outcome seemed scariest of all for the GOP: that Donald would go third-party.

Well, brethren, that outcome has come. Don't let the ballot confuse you.

How else to explain the following headline on

"Inside Republicans' failed attempts at blocking Trump's rise."

Republicans blocking Trump? He's a Republican, for gosh sakes. Isn't he?

Apparently not. All the political news of the days after Super Tuesday appeared to be about what the Republican Party was doing to make sure that Trump did not represent it in November.

Trump said in the first debate that he wouldn't foreclose a third-party run. Sure enough, that's exactly what he's doing – on the Republican ballot.

Here we are in March, and we have three parties: the Republicans, the Democrats, the Autocrat. The latter: a party of one.

Just imagine nominee Trump up on the stage in Cleveland at this year's GOP Convention, glowering and sneering at all the titular Republicans who dared not to vote Autocratic.

He's campaigned on one plank, one alone: "Reject the whole bunch of them. Run with me."

That one plank won't be enough in the fall. Nominee Trump would be one of the easiest possible marks for a party – Democrats – that, despite its own frailties, has a preponderance of the affection of Hispanics, African-Americans and the young.

Let's talk about campaign finance for a minute.

Trump says he can finance his own campaign. Per usual, he is full of himself.

He's been able to finance regional efforts and bundle a whole bunch of media hype to his benefit. However, he is going to be hurting when he realizes that a national race is contingent on donors, and lots of them. He is one Republican candidate, for instance, who won't get a sniff of Koch money.

For the Democrats, a Trump nomination would mean the lowest-cost campaign ever run. Pay for high-price commercials? Forget it. All the Democrats have to do is run in one long loop the comments of – Republicans.

Let 'em roll: Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, George Will and Charles Krauthammer . . .

Oh, and David Duke.

Oh, and Trump himself. Choose your debate. Choose your embarrassing, sophomoric exchange.

Trump will go down in defeat, a historical asterisk with immense hair, but those sophomoric debate exchanges will endure, video for the ages. They'll be remarked upon for generations.

Combined, the Republicans have talked themselves out of any chance of occupying the White House.

By the way, the claim being trotted around that Trump enjoys surprising support by Hispanics – in Michelle Bachmann's words, higher "than any Republican has ever been" -- is pure alligators-in-the-sewers stuff.

In September, fact-checking Politifact said Trump sits "at the bottom of favorability polls among Hispanics compared to other GOP candidates."

Has anything changed to improve his standing with Latinos? Nope. A poll of Hispanic voters regarding a matchup with Hillary Clinton shows a nearly 50-point advantage to her: 73 percent to 16 percent.

But put Trump vs. Latino Nation aside. Trump vs. the Republicans is what this primary contest has become. commentator David Wasserman writes that the GOP "has been hijacked by a populist pirate."

Populist? Wasserman gives Trump way too much credit. Trump doesn't even know what a populist is. He'd probably belittle a populist if he encountered one on the escalator.

So, if he's no populist, what is Trump? In addition to being the leader – OK, the sole member -- of the Autocrat Party, he a post-partisan.

That's a word strikingly similar to "postpartum," denoting the depression that afflicts new mothers. The Republican Party, fighting and losing its bid to prevent a Trump candidacy, is in the throes of a post-partisan depression.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: