Sunday, January 23, 2022

Leaving out Joe's No. 1 accomplishment

            It's odd. I just watched one of those dreary year-anniversary treatments of the Joe Biden presidency, and it left out his most important achievement.

            In newsroom talk, that's called "burying the lede."

            Staying in journalism mode, I'm going to pronounce it the editorial omission of the century.

            It's easy to explain, given the nature of the news beast – to treat it all like a horse race and each matter a zero-sum pronouncement.

            Not surprisingly, the rehash focused mostly on Biden's frustration -- how two conservative members of his party helped the party on the outs prevent great things.

            Even when focused on his accomplishments, which have been substantial, the spin was "what might have been."

            The amazing thing is that a quite lengthy treatment of Year 1 left out the most important "would have been" if not for Joe Biden: Donald Trump still would be president.

            You can put everything else aside – the defeat on voting rights, the frustration on climate change and extending the expanded child tax credit. You can also set aside saving the lives of millions through vaccination and dogged pandemic precautions.

            Set it all aside, because nothing – nothing at all – outweighs this:

            Donald Trump is not president.

            The person who got the most votes – 3 million more – is our president. Novel, eh?

            The person who thought he could snake his way back to office by pandering to southern bigotry and Rust Belt desperation could not.

            Now he can't deliver pardons to anyone, certainly not to "patriots" who brutalized Capitol police, who defecated in Capitol halls.

            He can't do a thing for those who otherwise broke the law in all manner of ways to do his bidding.

            Rudy Guiliani no longer is on retainer from us. Roger Stone is no longer on Line 1.

            When Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn come up with their latest scheme to end democracy, they aren't ushered into the East Entrance.

            Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Jared no longer are making a buck in the mold of the Great Grifter, not even leaving fingerprints on our furniture.

            We no longer are paying for White House lawyers whose job is to make sure we as citizens know nothing whatsoever of what this man, our foremost employee, has done or is doing with the office a minority of voters awarded him.

            We no longer are paying for photo ops that frame a thousand lies. That Bible the Great Miscreant held up after the gassing of protesters is back in its "In case of emergency: break glass" holder.

            That bunker in which he hid when the heat got intense has been fumigated and disinfected.

            The civil case the DA in Manhattan is investigating about the Trump Organization's corruption is Trump's burden to bear, not taxpayers'. So, too, with the criminal case in Georgia where he threatened election officials who balked at his demand to "find 11,780 votes."

            Because Donald Trump is no longer in office, our attorney general no longer is his caddy, his concierge. The AG is an independent law enforcement official investigating the former president's role in the Jan. 6 coup attempt.

            In the extenuated rehashing of Biden Year 1, we of course heard about our Afghanistan exit and how disastrously that shook down. We heard that 13 Americans died in the process. What we didn't hear about were any of the Americans who didn't die last year because they weren't fighting a forever war.

            Oh, and in each rehash we heard about Biden's not-so-hot poll numbers. But guess what? As I write this, his average approval rating, 42 percent, towers like a colossus next to Trump's rating -- 29 percent – as he slunk off in the most disgraceful way imaginable.

            Whatever Joe Biden does or fails to do, nothing will compare to causing that exit.

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

 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Readying airlift for reproductive rights

            What state will be next to fall under the Iron Curtain?

            We speak here not of the '50s-'60s, Commie kind. We speak but of the '22 Republican kind – the 12 GOP-controlled states prepared to ban abortion as soon as the Supreme Court gives the word.

            In a land based on "freedom" – a word on many a pickup truck – it's the most oppressive thing a state can do: order a woman, once pregnant, to gestate to term with almost no exceptions.

            Several nations do that: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines among them.

            Most developed countries, like ours once upon a time, came to reject this oppression.

            Dating back to the '60s, Romania banned abortion and contraception under a Communist government. When the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989, an estimated 170,000 deprived children were found in decrepit orphanages.

            One of the first things Romanians did when the Red thumb was lifted was legalize abortion and birth control.

            In a country like Communist Romania, women truly were captives of the state. They could not flee to Switzerland or France for these services.

            Fortunately our nation has open highways and willing organizations to help women deal with unwanted pregnancies as they see fit.

            With Gov. Gavin Newsom and key Democrats leading the way, California is making plans, if necessary, to become an abortion "sanctuary" -- to help women get the service there, including paying for air fare, lodging and medical care.

            With the Supreme Court refusing to stop Texas' abortion ban, we have already seen women traveling out of state for the procedure.

            This happened routinely before Roe vs. Wade, but of course for women who could afford a plane ticket. Too often in states that banned abortion, women without such means self-aborted or went to shady back-alley providers.

            People who support a woman's right to choose – and that's most Americans based on poll after poll -- should shake out of their stupor.

            The GOP has become a party diametrically opposed not only to abortion but holistic means of avoiding pregnancy, like birth control. This was not the case when President George H.W. Bush and many other Republicans identified family planning as a smart and sound policy.

            Republicans have continued and heightened their political vendetta against Planned Parenthood, though the preponderance of what it does helps women avoid the abortion dilemma.

            So, what can be done for women in Texas, for instance, who need this service?

            Sarah Wheat with Texas Planned Parenthood said that though prohibited from providing the service, organizations aren't prohibited from helping women get it out of state.

            To that end, "an incredible network of organizations is working together to help people who are traveling out of state."

            Such groups include the Austin-based Lilith Fund, Fund Texas Choice, the West Fund and the Texas Equal Access (TEA) Fund. From these organizations a woman might get help with gas and lodging, as well as direct contact with a health center.

            Add to this the possibility of plane fare from California should the Supreme Court do what most expect of it because of court picks whose ideologies on this matter do not match up with most of America's.

            Though what California has in mind -- as these funds to aid women -- is not the same as the Berlin airlift of 1948, which focused on food and fuel. Nonetheless it's a mission that, like efforts to fight Red oppression in a sad and scary time in another era, will end up on the right side of history.

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

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Who's afraid of the big, bad ballot drop box?

            Joe Biden needs a traveling prop. Every time he speaks, it should be at his side.

            It should be the symbol of the next election and his campaign for re-election.

            Biden's partner at each podium should be a ballot box – a mail-in ballot drop box, to be exact – a vessel of convenience for voters, a symbol of leaders who value them.

            The prop would serve two purposes – to encourage Americans to vote, and to show them that these simple receptacles aren't dangerous at all.

            This is necessary, because Republican leaders are frightened to death by them.

            In case you haven't noticed, Republican leaders want fewer people voting. If that's news to you, let's have Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky explain it.

            "They're mailing out a solicitation to vote by mail," he said in advance of the 2020 Georgia Senate run-offs – where, sure enough, high turnout yanked Senate control from his party.

            "I'm very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome."

            Paul wasn't just concerned. He was "very, very" concerned.

            What he's saying is, we can't have people at the polls who aren't "the regulars." Heaven forbid that we would open this process up to all manner of rabble . . . er, people. The invite should be reserved for Rand Paul's friends.

            Biden's speech on the year anniversary of the Jan. 6 terrorist attack hit on so many important points.

            Principally it hit on the self-evident fact that his predecessor, lacking any other title, is drum major to a big parade of lies.

            More importantly, Biden hit on the biggest issue corresponding to the Big Lie to which Republican leaders pledge allegiance – the undermining of the democratic process.

            "Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written – not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost.

            "Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more voters, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections."

            Parroting the lies of a party leader who could face criminal charges for his bid to overthrow a free and fair election, GOP leaders have taken several tacks to tamp down voter participation.

            One of the most odious has been to curb the use of ballot drop boxes, and of course voting by mail.

            I use both every election. My state of Colorado has universal mail voting along with measures like motor-voter and same-day registration.

            I didn't need a pandemic to convince me that the best way to vote would be to fill out my mail-in ballot and walk it to a conveniently located ballot drop box. No lines, no waiting, no stamp, no dependence on the postal service. If I needed any other reason, COVID-19 sealed the deal.

            The ballot drop box is the symbol of a system that values my vote.

            The thing is, it's just a box – metal, with the county's name on it and election information. It's secure. Can't get your paws in it. Can't "steal" the election. A box.

            But look at what Republicans are doing. When they can, they are limiting the availability – and the convenience – of this method.

            The Republican president of the Georgia Senate has authored a bill to prohibit ballot drop boxes. A similar bill has been introduced in Wisconsin.

            Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls them "a big problem." Um, how so? Is it that "more voters" thing that scares Sen. Paul?

            As the 2020 election approached, Texas looked to see heavy use of ballot drop boxes, permitted by the appointed Texas secretary of state. Harris County had 12 of them. Travis County had four.

            Then, before the elections, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered that no county have more than one. That's one in Loving County, population 64, and one in Harris County, population 4.7 million. The Texas Supreme Court upheld his order with three days left of early voting. And the appointed, never-confirmed secretary of state left office in May.

            All of which is why Joe Biden should campaign alongside a ballot drop box.

            It is the symbol of the threat to democracy that Biden's predecessor embodies, him and the Big Lie. It is the remedy to leaders deathly afraid rabble might show up on Election Day.

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