Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In 2012, something money couldn’t buy

        A review of 2012 found reality television continuing to consume the medium like typhoid. Or, more appropriately, like mononucleosis ravaging a freshman dorm.

        You might call it all flotsam — but I'm here to report that one reality show truly proved instructive. I speak of "The Really Biggest Loser."

        Not to be confused with the show about how obese people sweat their cares away, "The Really Biggest Loser" featured a short stack of fat cats who spent millions on an election. To their astonishment, they found that they couldn't buy America.

        Not you, Sheldon Adelson. Not you, Harold Simmons. You neither, Bob Perry. Nor you, Bill Koch, or David Koch, or Charles Koch.

        In our system, we're told that everything has a price, even the American system itself. These contestants set out to prove it.

        Each competed valiantly. They shed dollars, not by the bucket but by the tanker truck — and they lost.

        They did, however, provide America with first-rate television, or a least the part of America in all those battleground states Mitt Romney lost — billions of dollars worth of attack ads, so well-spun, so gripping, so futile.

         Karl Rove didn't spend his own money, but he has to be considered in his own category. His super PAC American Crossroads spent $300 million to buy America, and it got? Squat.

         The lineup for "The Really Biggest Loser," was set early in the game. USA Today reported last February that 25 percent of the super PAC money amassed to influence the 2012 elections came from five individuals. All were Republican.

         At the time, No. 1 was Simmons, the Dallas billionaire who had donated $12 million to Rove's group. Back in 2004 it was Simmons who spent $3 million to get the claims of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth before the public in a bid to torpedo the presidential run of John Kerry.

        Bob Perry, the Houston homebuilder and another "Swift Boat" bankroller, was listed as No. 3 of the super PAC super donors by USA Today.

        It is entirely understandable that these individuals figured they could buy America. After all, Simmons and Perry pretty much have had Texas tied in a shiny red bow for those they've supported over the last 18 years. Rick Perry owes builder Perry (no relation) a lot for last-second bundles that set him on his governor-for-life path, give or take a presidential dalliance or two.

       So, in 2012, all of these big guns had a bead on Barack Obama, and what did his campaign have?

       It had its own deep-pocket donors like labor unions and movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg. But here's the odd thing: As Time magazine reported in naming Obama its Person of the Year, the president's campaign did a stunning job of raising money in small increments. That's right — $690 million of Obama's $1 billion in donations came not in drawing rooms, ski chalets or boardrooms but online. 

        "In a campaign that super PACs were supposed to dominate, Obama's operation proved that many small efforts were more powerful than a few big ones. No one in either party thinks campaign finance will ever be the same."

        So, who is "The Really Biggest Loser"? That's actually an easy call.

        Not only did Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino owner, rank No. 1 in donating $34.2 million to Romney and supportive groups according to Politico, he gave $10 million to the PAC that bankrolled Newt Gingrich in the primaries.

         Adelson's money allowed Gingrich to float a host of attacks on Romney, including the line of questioning about the activities of Bain Capital, something that Democrats would employ.

         In roulette terms, Adelson let it ride on the wrong number, and then tried to win it all back with house money.

         Yes, Mr. Adelson, you are "The Really Biggest Loser." Winner? The American political system.

         Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:         


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

U.S.A.: No. 1 with a bullet

  Barely attentive to anything that would prevent such horrors — Newtown, Aurora, Tucson — we are entranced by the gripping accounts and vigils and memorial services afterward.

  We reflect on compelling examples of courage and calm like the teacher who herded her students into the closet and occupied them with Crayons and paper as shots rang out.

  If we wanted fewer horrors, rather than more gripping reading and broadcast material, we could find other stories worth our time.

  Like the one about whoever manufactured the bullets sprayed throughout Sandy Hook Elementary: Tell us about the process he used to construct ammunition designed to break up inside the body of a first grader.

  It's a special kind of bullet, made for killing killers, but available to those who would kill innocents. And that, apparently, is just fine by America.

  Hundreds of rounds were on and beside the body of the Newtown killer. Tell us about the means by which one would acquire that ammunition. Tell us about the multi-round magazines used in Newtown and Aurora and Tucson. Explain their sporting and self-defense purposes.

  Did you notice once again the calls not to politicize America's latest gun massacre? Let the families grieve, goes the line. Prayers are in order, not any actual discussion of public policy that might save lives.

  And when we run out of prayers and accounts of heroism and tragedy, we can get on with doing nothing.

  I'm thinking, not so this time. This time we are going to have an actual policy discussion and not be deterred by the mere thought of stirring the National Rifle Association and assorted gun cultists into action.

  A chilling irony: The day before the Newtown murders, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who had deferred on any discussion of new gun laws after the Aurora theater massacre, said that sufficient time had passed since that event to open up discussion about gun violence and what the state can do about it. This was top-of-Page 1 news in the Denver Post.

   A Republican lawmaker was aghast. "The governor (a Democrat) has built this perception as a moderate," he told the Post. "I think this changes the perception."

   So immoderate, so radical — to even speak about our gun culture and the people it kills.

   Add them up. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has. Since the Tucson shootings in January 2011, America has endured 72 mass shootings.

   Add them up. America loses 32 lives a day to gunfire. Over a year, that's 11,680, or more than three 9/11 attacks. At this very moment our government is doing something at countless points of contact to prevent another one of those.

  According to the Brady Center, America's homicide rate is 6.9 times higher than 22 other high-income, high-population countries combined.

  Try to pick apart the circumstances to demonstrate that tougher gun laws would have no bearing on Newtown's suffering. That's not the point, but that's the gun industry's ruse.

   As President Obama said in his remarks from Newtown, it is beyond the pale that the nation would accept this bloodshed and just move on with daily commerce, including the unfettered sale of military-style weapons.

   One key policy matter raised after the Tucson shootings will get new life: limits on high-capacity magazines. Thirty-round clips fed the AR-15 that killed so many at Sandy Hook Elementary.

   No civilian needs that firepower. Sadly, our discussion has been driven, or blunted, by those who amazingly say they do. It's a little bit like the debate over lifesaving stem cell research, stopped by a micro-minority of Americans.

   It's radical to talk about stricter gun laws? It's radical to look anew at military-style weapons, their ammo and their capacity? Get real, America. What's radical is to allow them to go uncontrolled. What's radical, to the point of pathology, is that until now this was a policy vacuum of which policy makers dared not speak.

   Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The amnesty mandate

    Until now, the last clear mandate coming out of a presidential election was in 1932 when voters demanded of Roosevelt: End this Depression. And make it rain while you're at it.

    Notice I said "until now," and that should raise eyebrows. In this divided, divisive political landscape, how could anyone attach a clear mandate to any national election?

    Well, we can make such a projection now. All we have to do is listen to what Republican commentators are saying about immigration.

    George Will: "Most voters already favor less punitive immigration policies."

    Charles Krauthammer: "Promise amnesty right up front. Security at the border with guaranteed legalization."

    Sean Hannity (Sean Hannity?!): "You control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here — you don't say you've got to go home."

      Welcome, guys, to a sane national immigration strategy.

      Let's understand: By and large Republicans wouldn't be saying this if the candidate of "self-deportation" had won the White House. It would be all systems go for hardliners and foreigner loathers.

      What these commentators acknowledge is that the current GOP strategy undermines efforts to gain Latino votes. It is not clear that any of them actually believes the nation should do as they suggest simply because it is right. 

       GOP strategist Mike Murphy expresses it in a Time magazine commentary: "We repel Latinos, the fastest growing voting group in the country, with our nativist opposition to immigration reform that includes offering a path to citizenship."

       Yep, says Krauthammer. Mitt Romney made a big political mistake, general election-wise, when he chose to "go to the right of Rick Perry" on immigration to win the love of right wingers,  tea partiers and primary voters.

       Yes, but what about offering amnesty to hardworking individuals and their families because it is right?

       Leave that up to Barack Obama to say it in June, when he put a hold on deportation for children of undocumented individuals of long standing.

      "It's not amnesty. It's not immunity. It's not a pathway to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," said the president. What it was under the circumstances, with Congress obstructing all else, was "the right thing to do."

     Krauthammer sneeringly called it the "perfect pander." Yeah, it's all about politics, not at all about logic, logistics, or any whiff of social justice.

     Whatever the reason for Republicans' post-Nov. 6 concessions on immigration, let's use it. Use a broad offer of amnesty as a fulcrum toward fundamentally comprehensive immigration reform, Mr. President.

     Use your 70 percent support from Hispanics Nov. 6 to push Congress to revisit the DREAM Act. Get Sen. Marco Rubio to the White House kitchen table, and with him arrange for the GOP votes it would take to make it happen.

     It's a new day on the immigration front. Consider what's happening in Colorado,  Indiana, Utah and Idaho. Each has a bipartisan coalition that has issued compact urging Congress to include a pathway to citizenship as part of the solution to a seemingly intractable political problem.

     Can't support these initiatives because they are right and proper? Well, then, do it simply on the basis that they would be good for the economy.

     A recent study rejects the assertion that immigrants take Americans' jobs and depress the economy.     

     "Immigration is not a zero-sum game when it comes to jobs, writes researcher Matthew Denhart." With these people's skills, their ambition, their buying power, "immigrants help grow the economy; they create more jobs for all of us, rather than stealing jobs that natives otherwise could fill."

     This mirrors George Will's nod to the all-American notion that immigrating — "risking uncertainty for personal and family betterment — is an entrepreneurial act."

     What bleeding-heart organization is this Denhart fellow flacking for anyway? What pie-in-the-sky, antibusiness, anti-American think tank has him on its payroll?

     That would be a recent entry into American think-tank arena: the George W. Bush Institute.

     Republicans are coming out of the woodwork to support the right thing, Mr. President. Nov. 6 was your day. Seize this one.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John  Young lives in Colorado.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Campaign contributions in a cup

  This is brilliant. And to think it came from the folks who made the mess in the first place.
  The mess is the buying of our government. I can't believe that Republicans in Texas and Florida have come up with the solution.
   That solution: urine samples.
   This may take some explaining, because what these politicians really want is for subhuman recipients of food stamps to aim at a Dixie Cup.
   The brilliance of this idea was contained in a commentary in the Austin American-Statesman from Republican Arlene Wohlgemuth, former Texas state representative, who wrote, "Requiring people who receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits to be drug-free" will guide them on the straight and narrow path.
    Good idea, said a reader of this column, who imagines that other recipients of welfare — corporate welfare — could use said guidance.
    "How about the state drug-test the officers and directors of the corporations that receive public largesse like the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Major Events Trust Fund?"
    I second the motion. Surely people like Wohlgemuth would embrace this for the same reasons why they want to flag welfare mothers' bodily fluids.
    And that — testing corporate welfare recipients — takes us to how we bring an end to the pernicious matter of corporations buying government.
    For you see, when government subsidizes big business, so do the businesses subsidize people in government. Texans for Public Justice recently found that nearly half the companies awarded $439 million in Texas economic-development funds gave almost $7 million to Gov. Rick Perry's campaign or the Republican Governors Association.
     Nice arrangement. Taxpayers pay corporations, which pay the governor to keep his job secure.
     OK, you may not see this as nice. You might see it as simple graft. You'd like to see it stopped. Here's how we do it: urine samples.
     Remember Newton's third law of political physics:
     "For every action in the political sphere, such as a campaign gift or obsequious perk, is an equal reaction, such as the kissing of a contributor's ring finger (or other extremity), followed necessarily by outright taxpayer subsidies."
     Knowing this to be a law, we can finally end the problem.
     In addition to requiring drug tests of industrial welfare queens who get something from government, we require a drug test from everyone who donates to a politician expecting something. Every time. And we require a drug test for every lawmaker who receives these gifts. Every time.
      This is going to work.
      Understand, great endeavors begin with small steps. In Florida, testing of welfare recipients detected drugs in only 2.6 percent of them. Hey, it's all dollars and humiliation well spent, say Sunshine State policy makers.
     Texas knows where they're coming from. Though it has cut back on virtually every other school endeavor, it has spent millions testing prep athletes for steroids. It has caught almost enough violators to field a six-man team.
     Texas loves tests, whether they be in a cup or in the oppressively standardized minds of Pearson Education Inc. (another big political contributor).
     Some will say that testing Pearson corporate officers for drugs is counterproductive, since they always show up for work, and you can't say the same always about recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
     All we are saying is, give drug testing a chance — to prove its worth on the political corruption front.
    A donor will think twice if when buying a politician he has to spill evidence of what was fueling his system the night before. The same for a politician who accepts his gifts. And anyway, as Wohlgemuth appeals, don't we want our elected officials and their lobbying benefactors showing up sober for work every time the gavel sounds?
     She observes that the Texas Motor Transportation Association supports drug tests for drivers.
     "If you want to get a job driving trucks in Texas, you can. But you have to pass a drug test first," she wrote.
     My thoughts exactly. That's why we must start drug-testing political donors and those who accept their gifts.
     We don't want elected officials driving our government under the influence.
      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Black Tuesday for Fox News

  By all rights it will rank as one of TV news' singular moments — along with Edward R. Murrow tongue-whipping Joe McCarthy, and with Walter Cronkite turning against the Vietnam war.

  It was the night a Fox News anchor told Karl Rove to get over himself — in so many words.

  Election Night 2012: Rove who holds perpetual squatter's rights on the Fox News set, refused to believe the network's projection that Barack Obama had won Ohio.

  For a few odd moments it appeared Rove would not allow the evening to proceed — grabbing and dangling from the hands of the clock, as it were. It was like having the Jerry Jones in the broadcast booth to overrule a ref's review because it went against America's Team.

  Cameras followed anchor Megyn Kelley into the bowels of Fox Election Central. There, a mole-eyed numbers guy timidly explained to her that Ohio was toast, GOP-wise.

  Back on the set, Rove remained in code-red denial. From Kelly came five words no Fox anchor or Republican mouth-for-hire imagined saying again about Barack Obama: "He won, Karl. He won."

   Now, the question arises: What about Christmas bonuses from Rupert Murdoch this year? We assume them to be performance-based, and Obama's re-election is the ultimate "system fail" at Fox News. Bonuses? Heck, shouldn't heads roll?

  The prime-time soap opera involving Rove and arithmetic is the capper to a four-year campaign the likes of which American television has never seen.

  Sum it up with a rhetorical question: Does the Republican Party control Fox News, or vice versa? Roughly from his first breath as president-elect in 2008, Fox News sought to make Obama a one-term president, and congressional Republicans got the memo. (Or the network got the memo from the Republican Party. Doesn't matter.)

  Many have tried to paint the tea party movement as your basic salt-of-the-earth grassroots development. That would be true, except that no grassroots effort before had a 24-hour TV spin machine selling tickets on its behalf.

   Any detached viewer who wanted to give Fox News a chance to act out its "fair and balanced" credo would have dropped any such notion to see how the network promoted the tea party rallies in 2009 — dispatching its "news" personalities across the country to pump up numbers. Said a promo for Glenn Beck's appearance in Texas: "Taking a stand at the Alamo: Citizens revolt against more taxes . . . plus Ted Nugent fires back at the government . . . Glenn is live at the Tea Party . . ."

  Blocking passage of the Affordable Care Act was an all-hands-on-deck effort at Fox News, and not just the work of the Sean Hannities and Bill O'Reillys, whom Fox apologists would have us believe are different from Fox's allegedly top-notch reporters. Whatever actual journalism Fox reporters might have done, it constantly is discredited by exquisitely foxy presentation, such as whatever information Fox deems fit to print in the crawl at the bottom of its screen and on its Web site.

  "Fox Nation victory! Congress delays health care rationing bill" announced when Obama's bill stalled for a moment. From the cheerleading tone of this "bulletin" all the way to the exclamation point, this wasn't something to which any actual journalist would admit. This was propaganda at its finest.

   In related news, nearly 1 million Americans this week have petitioned to secede from the United States following Obama's victory. Working title for new country? Fox Nation (?)

  As David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt describe in their book, The Fox Effect, Fox News was the key player behind wholly inexcusable myths being perpetrated about the health-care bill.

   The network jumped on a single, baseless tweet from Sarah Palin about "death panels" and rode what called "the lie of the year" for weeks. It didn't matter what actual experts said about the legislation, or its authors.

   Oh, and shortly thereafter, Fox employed Palin's eminent baselessness for regular stints as a "news" analyst.

   All is in keeping with the designs of former Nixon operative Roger Ailes, who founded Fox News and runs it today with the expressed intent of appealing to a certain demographic with a finely honed bias. 

   He's certainly got the ratings. The only thing not in keeping with Ailes' grand design today is the man now preparing for four more years in the White House.

   Meanwhile, Ailes paces the floor sweating arrival of that letter containing no year-end bonus but instead membership in the Jelly of the Month Club.

   Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet potato chili? Nooooooooo

  It's lonely, my friends.

  Lonely, once again, to arise in this chamber of information ad infinitum to speak the truth, about sweet potatoes. And speak I will.

    This time of year, when the topic is most current and the marshmallow cream most lavish, I send my message to the masses. It concerns this orange mass alleged to be food. We know it not to be that.

    How do I know? From research. I ate sweet potatoes once. Once.

    I have had to point out often that my message is not anti-sweet potato. I am pro-sweet potato — if  it used for something other than human consumption of the internal kind.

    Make makeup with sweet potatoes. Make ethanol. Make ink and plastic, as George Washington Carver demonstrated. Smart guy.

    A few years ago in said venue I explained how a Colorado mine had pioneered the use of starch —  potato peels — to leech cyanide out of mill tailings. What better use for sweet potato peelings? And why limit it to the peelings? 

    When last we discussed this (steaming, orange) matter, I told of how my wife and I had fed raw sweet potato to our dogs. See? They liked it. The only problem was noxious vapors that welled up inside the dogs and were released around the dining table.

   How many ways can I demonstrate my good-faith intent to work with the other side of the aisle on this? And yet, what do I get?

   — Deliveries of "pumpkin" pie to sample. Oh, yeah. We all know what evil lies.

   —  Entreaties to go to a neighborhood drive-through restaurant for its new sweet potato fries. "They're delicious," is the claim. But that is not possible. Why? Because of the "sweet potato" part of them.

    More sinister, I continue to receive pro-sweet potato newspaper clippings and recipes, sometime anonymously. If I occupied a higher rung on the national security ladder, the Secret Service would investigate these.

     Not long ago one of these threats came by email and carried a most explosive and threatening attachment: a recipe for "sweet potato chili."

     I realize the Internet has more stuff than Donald Trump has hair (another troubling orange mass) — but surely, no one would seek to contaminate the World Wide Web by combining the only perfect food, chili, with something we know not to be edible. (Again, I have confirmed this by research.)

    Chili is the food of the gods. If the Southland gave birth to the blues, chili gave birth to the spoon. If I were on Death Row, chili would be my last meal. Green, red, white bean, black bean, chicken, venison, vegetarian, it's all good. And now? Talk about spoiling the pot.

    Incredulous though I was, I decided to spin the Google wheel and see if this monstrosity — sweet potato chili — was an aberration or a trend.

    Go ahead. Google it yourself. You will find "about 7,750,000 matches" for those terms. I decided to hold my nose and click on Page 7 of these to see if this ruse could be sustained. There I found the recipe for "chipotle chicken sweet potato pumpkin ale chili."


    This just tells me I have roughly 7,750,000 new reasons to continue my lonely quest on yet another Thanksgiving Day.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

‘Red Dawn’ remake for today

    It's so rare to see a movie, a true box-office smash, so relevant, so timely, that we can literally see life mimicking art outside the multiplex.

    Such is the timeliness of "Lincoln."

    How could Steven Spielberg have known that when his Civil War biopic came out, talk of secession would be following the Election Day victory of a once-embattled president?

    Or is this secession stuff just one more publicity stunt for Twentieth Century Fox?

    The parallels? Oh, my. Abe Lincoln risks his presidency freeing the slaves. Barack Obama does the same for working-poor Americans by addressing an accepted byproduct of economic slavery: life without health insurance. And what happens? To hear scattered red-state barkers who wish for it: civil war.

    Well, that's not going to happen, in part because even the reddest states aren't that deranged. Their governors,  lawmakers and attorneys general will hold their breaths (careful not to turn blue, guys) in protest of the Affordable Care Act. But like a certain rebel army that ultimately swapped swords for plowshares, they are on history's losing side.

     Thinking of the spooky timeliness of Spielberg's masterpiece causes me to think this as well:

     What in Beelzebub's name possessed anyone to bring to theaters this week a 21st Century remake of 1984's iconic Commie-baiting "Red Dawn"?

      This economy couldn't be too horrific if a studio will throw good money after such a bad idea.

      I have to point out that the name of the studio is Contrafilm. If you were cognizant of U.S. affairs in 1984, you appreciate the irony.

      You see, it was the Soviet-suckled Commies in Nicaragua we were supposed to fear back then, just an economy flight from our southern reaches, they were. The freedom-loving Contra rebels we were supposed to support, even illegally, under Team Reagan.

    Today? The Soviet empire is deader than Gen. Augusto Pinochet. So — the just-released "Red Dawn" conjures an invasion by North Korea.

    I don't know about you, but the mere thought sends me up into the attic to fish out that '80s model Stinger missile I thought I'd never need again. I'll also have to take my camo jump suit to the tailor to let the waistline out a few inches.

     If the makers of this movie were really attentive to today's headlines they could come up with something that, like "Lincoln," rings true to what's happening across the land. Contrafilm blew it. But I have a screen concept. All I need is a similarly hard-up-for-a-holiday-hit studio to produce the remake of the 1984 hyper-Republican farce (I know they meant it as a drama).

      And so, drum roll, trumpets . . .

      "Flotsam Films (in cooperation with Fox News) presents:

      "'Blue Dawn.'

      "The year: 2013 — morning in New Real America. The people, having headed to the fields after state-sponsored group devotionals, scan the skies. Having seceded from the United States after an oppressive regime refused to relinquish the presidency, they have struck out on their own to reconstruct paradise.

       "Suddenly the skies are filled with airplanes, parachutes, and men in suits.

       " 'Actuaries incoming,' echoes the battle cry, 'Get your handguns.' 

       "New Real Americans' worst nightmare unfolds right before their eyes. Washington has sent in insurance experts to set up a means of chaining God-fearing freedom lovers to what they want least: affordable health coverage that allows them to choose their own providers.

       "Word has circulated for weeks that the feds will invade to set up health insurance exchanges and begin brainwashing uninsured New Real Americans with crazy ideas about preventive health care, well-child checkups, inoculations, and more.

     "But, well-armed, and with God on their side, the New Real Americans have just begun to fight . . ."

     Like I said, I've scanned the movie listings and today's headlines, and this can't miss. If not direct to DVD, at least it will make it big in regional distribution.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:      

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In 2012, these rights are winners

   The new speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives is gay. So are five of his colleagues, all Democrats. 

    Once closeted, marginalized and demonized, all are "in" by virtue of a progressive wave that now has the whole of Colorado governance in Democrats' hands.

    Out? Former House Speaker Frank McNulty. In May, though the House had enough votes, to pass a bill authorizing same-sex civil unions,  including a couple of Republican defections, McNulty refused to allow the bill to come up for a vote.

    It was the last official thing he did in said capacity. The first act of business in that body likely will be to enforce the public will and enact civil unions. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign it.

     Bulletin: Oppression based on sexual orientation is a loser. Gay rights are a winner.

     With voters assenting Nov. 6 in Washington state, Maryland and Maine, nine states now allow same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Minnesota voters refused to write a ban into their constitution. And days earlier a federal court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act — you know, because it treats people unequally.

    The right speaks with righteous fury about our blessed Constitution being ignored. The last thing it really wants, though, is the 14th Amendment and "equal protection of the law" taken literally.

     The people of Wisconsin are fine with that interpretation, though. They looked at Tammy Baldwin's sexual orientation (she's a lesbian) and her qualifications (not necessarily in that order) and elected her to the U.S. Senate. She defeated the state's most well-known politician, former governor and Bush Cabinet member Tommy Thompson.

     Gay rights is a winner, and not just because of the Constitution, though that should be sufficient. Another reason: Discrimination against gays and lesbians is a loser among young Americans. They don't understand it. People are people. (Whether the issue was slavery, women's suffrage, Jim Crow or school desegregation, this concept has been a hard sell in America for most of its storied, exceptional past.)

     Speaking of women, here's another bulletin from Election Central: As a campaign issue, reproductive rights are a winner.

     Planned Parenthood? Mitt Romney wishes he never brought it up. Abortion? Republicans made it a central issue while "speaking to the base" in the primaries, but ran frantically away from it in November. Comments about rape and pregnancy by Indiana's Richard Mourdock ("God's will") and Missouri's Todd Akin ("legitimate rape") ruined campaigns blessed and consecrated by the tea party.

    In Colorado, the "Bennet strategy" is being hailed as one for winners. In 2010, when so many in his party lost, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet went after tea party/religious right darling Ken Buck for being extreme, prinicipally being dead set against a woman's right to choose. Bennet's victory showed that the campaign appeal resonated with centrist voters, and not just women.

     In 2012, President Obama's commercials in battleground states came out strongly and repeatedly on these matters. These appeals wouldn't let women forget which dance partners Romney had chosen.

     Remember when it appeared that the president's disagreement with Catholic bishops over health coverage and contraception would hurt him among Catholics? No, it didn't. Obama won the Catholic vote by roughly the same margin by which he won the national vote.

    Some will seek to diminish these things as insignificant side issues. When the economy is under such strains, maybe that's so. But such matters still matter.

    Like the demographic tide that is trending Democrats' way, these issues are indicators of winners who will change with the times and losers who, like the hangers on to ol' Jim Crow, liked it much better in the 1950s.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Peckings on a post-election morning

   Here's a saying to savor in the silence of a post-election morn, when the robins sing, doves coo, and commercial breaks once again are back to glorious things like erectile deficits:

   The early bird (voter) gets the worm. Make that the White House.

   Another aphorism from 2012: A robocall gathers no votes.

   And another: What do you get when you combine the propaganda/spending power of Fox News, the Koch brothers and Karl Rove's Death Star Super PAC? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    But, first: early voting.

    How many Republican office holders devoted how many man hours to figuring out ways to limit voter turnout this year? From voter I.D. bills to limits on early voting, they put more effort into this matter than putting forth a presidential candidate worth his spot on the ballot.

     Guess what? The undeniable march of early voting, inspired by the corruption and collusion of the 2000 debacle, paid off most handsomely for Democrats.

     As The Nation's George Zornick reported on election eve, early voting was an Obama rout in just about every swing state. It meant, for instance, that Mitt Romney needed 59 percent of the walk-in and absentee vote on Election Day to win Nevada, and close to the same in, yes, Florida. These are powerful numbers. In Colorado, for instance, some 70 percent of the voters had already done the deed by mail or early voting. They faced no lines, no voting machines. It is time for all states to emulate this. Voters should insist on it.

    As for those who voted this time, MSNBC's Chris Hays had a brilliant analysis: How could successive national elections have delivered first a rebuke to the Democrats (2010) and then a rebuke to the Republicans? His answer: two different electorates. In the off-year election, angry tea partiers were the key players in the Republican takeover of the House. This time, in a higher-turnout general election, a broader, younger, blacker, browner, more progressive sample arose to re-elect the president and deliver victory after victory to Democrats.

   If Tuesday it was "up with people (and down with Super PACs)," it was "up yours" to robots. If 2012 showed the power of early voting, it demonstrated the fecklessness of robocalls, surely one of the most mystifying and counterproductive inventions of modern times.

    Residing in one of the key swing states, I got an average of five Republican robocalls a day. It was amazing, and galling — possibly the most pestilent intrusion in the history of telecommunications. Captured on our exhausted answering machine, each robo call was like having Sean Hannity commandeer the sofa, nosing his way into the candy corn dish, then talking politics with his mouth full.

     We cannot let this election pass without observing a few campaign moments:

     Most compelling appeal: Colin Powell endorsing Obama.

     Least compelling appeal: John Sununu explaining Powell's words as, you know, those negroid types gotta stick together.

     Most effective yard signs: "Dope." "Nope." "Fire Obama." What do I mean by effective, you ask? They were the most effective means of getting undecideds to vote FOR Obama.

     Add ceaseless, buzzer-to-buzzer jeremiads calling Obama a socialist, a communist, a Nazi, a nation destroyer. The president owes these critics gratitude for making him seem all the more reasonable, rational and re-electable. Obama owes a particular shout-out in this category to Donald Trump.

    What will they say now? How insistent will they be for his papers, his college grades, and for us to know that "Hussein" is his middle name?

    Not so insistent this morning, now that the early bird has spoken.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:







Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All together now: ‘If I were president

     You can't always get what you wa-ant.

     You can't always get what you wa-ant.

     But if you don't take some time to make up your mind, you'll get what you detest.

     Apologies to the Stones.

     No apologies to the Nader voters in Florida who elected George W. Bush in 2000.

     They voted their conscience, and facilitated their worst nightmare.

     Voting for the "lesser of evils" is exactly that, voting for less evil.

      It's only rock 'n roll, but it's also the truth: You can't always get what you want.

      I wanted a lot from President Obama's leadership that I didn't get. I wanted troops out of Afghanistan the day before yesterday. I want them out tomorrow.

      I wanted more leadership about immigration, about climate change, about gun carnage, about corporations' influence over just about everything. I should be furious at Obama, not wholeheartedly in his corner, which I am.

     This is wholly rational, and I'll shout it from this corner without apology. Why? Because of what's in the other corner: Grover Norquist. The National Rifle Association. The religious right. Fox News. The Koch Brothers. The Minutemen.

      Revulsion for said components drives many of my columns, rather than praising anyone in particular. Recently, observing as much, a Republican  asked, "Really, what are you for?"

      The question caused me to write down a list of things I'm "for" — in fact, what I  would do if president — the intention being for us to compare notes.

      Having so committed myself, I realize that every American should do the same at a time like this, and vote accordingly, choosing which of the viable options is closest to enabling what would happen if he or she were in the Oval Office.

     If president, I would:

     Tell the truth about deficit spending: For more than a generation we've bought more government than we wanted to pay for, and we should pay more — every one of us, and immediately — so as not to ask our children and grandchildren to do it.

     Chastise Americans into investing as much in peace as in war. For instance, I'd advocate to have school children study the art of conciliation as intently as their history books extol missiles and muskets.

     Make conservation our official energy policy, and in that way, with demand plummeting, let the free market take care of all else, including gasoline prices and OPEC's urges.

     Lay out for the nation the actual costs (lucre for middle men) of relying too heavily on the makers of profit for our health care.

     Remind Americans of two things at every turn when the issue of abortion flares: The best means we have of preventing it are (1) contraception and (2) comprehensive and smart sex education.

     Campaign for gay rights, including gay marriage, in the same way Lyndon Johnson campaigned for civil rights, and Martin Luther King Jr. campaigned against bigotry.

    Point out that standardized tests aren't a way to boost the performance of public schools but to hobble them.

    At every point, put a human face on the need for the DREAM Act, and on the dilemma faced by young people whose parents came here illegally and would have nowhere to go, even if we forced them. This is their home, after all. I'd also crusade for a streamlined path to citizenship for those who, though here illegally, work every day for America's betterment.

     Denounce the cost — in dollars, cents and human potential — of the insane, futile and ultimately counterproductive drug war, which only succeeds in filling prison cells and making creepy goons into wealthy goons.

      Tell Americans it would be my objective as president to have fewer inmates in our prisons than resided there at my inauguration.

      Shame so-called men and women of faith into worrying as much about the poor and the disenfranchised as they appear to worry about sex and sexuality.

     Those are things I am "for." It's clear to me which side leans in the directions I support. What about you? You can't always get what you want. However, if enough of us talk about those things that matter most to us, as opposed to those things driven by corporate influences and money bags who buy air time, maybe we'd get what we need.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:








Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tea party's ship of tools

   "His political platforms were only the wings of a windmill . . . His celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman."

   Sinclair Lewis' line in It Can't Happen Here describes a fictitious candidate who leads a populist-tinted corporate takeover of America. In other words: a tea party dream.

    Lewis could just as well be speaking about Allen West, Ted Cruz, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock and any number of love interests of America's extreme right this election season.

   West, the Florida congressman, famously announced he "heard" that 80 members of Congress, give or take, are Communists. Well, OK, then.

   He said more recently that the "Forward" slogan of the Obama campaign is shorthand for a "Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist theme." Well, thanks for alerting us.

   Cruz rocked the Republican establishment in Texas when he won the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in a contest with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Among other things, Cruz has ranted about a "dangerous United Nations plan" (the Rio Declaration sustainability principles) by which the U.N. would dictate the abolition of American "golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads." I know I'm gripped with fear. How 'bout you?

    Akin, the Missouri GOP Senate choice, has educated us on the difference between rape and "forceable rape," the latter resulting in magical uterine responses that prevent impregnation. 

    Add an "amen" to Mourdock, who defeated six-term Sen. Dick Lugar for the Indiana Senate nomination. Mourdock this week said that if a women is impregnated by a rapist, the resulting child would be "something God intended."

   What do these clanging cymbals have in common? They share adoration of the tea party, and corporate backers, of course.

   Collectively for the GOP, they are a portrait of what President Obama has observed of the once-moderate Mitt Romney. Like his party, he's had "an extreme makeover."

    Well, you betcha. These are heady times for Americans who found their voice in the voices in Glenn Beck's head.

    Listen to West and Akin, both already in Congress, and know how thin the line is between national elected office and sleeping on a grate.

   The only problem for the GOP is that moderate Americans are in fact listening. In state after state, tea party-backed candidates have blown Republican chances to gain ground.

   It happened in Nevada in 2010 where a vulnerable Sen. Harry Reid turned back scary tea party wonder woman Sharron Angle.

   The GOP rightfully should have taken the U.S. Senate seat in Colorado the same year. However, instead of nominating very-electable former lietenant governor Jane Norton, it chose tea party-backed Ken Buck, who lost to vulnerable Democrat Michael Bennet.

    Tea party favorite Christine O'Donnell defeated former Delaware Gov. Mike Castle in the '10 GOP primary for U.S. Senate, then opened her mouth once too often, much like Mourdock and Akin, and got trounced by Democrat Chris Coons.

   The race in Florida between West and Democrat Patrick Murphy is one of the nation's most interesting. Murphy, a Republican repulsed by West's extremist statements and the rightward drift of his party, switched parties to take on West in a newly drawn district.

    In Texas, where the GOP's grip on state government is monolithic, everyone assumes Cruz, U.S. solicitor general under George W. Bush, is a lock against very solid Democrat Paul Sadler. That may be the case this time, but like the other extreme voices increasingly being rejected, Cruz offers an opportunity sooner rather than later for Democrats to take back the Senate seat previously held by moderate Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, and before her that centrist of centrists, Lloyd Bentsen.

    Right now the tea party thinks it hung the harvest moon. What it doesn't realize is how many voters' ears its wolfen howl is hurting.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Two fighters, two posers

  The heavyweight bout was already won Tuesday night when the president turned to his rival, looked at only him, and delivered a knockout blow:

  "The suggestion that anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive . . . That's not what I do as president. That's not what I do as commander-in-chief."

   Believe what you will about that, but when President Obama was done chastizing Mitt Romney about politicizing recent horrifying events in Libya, it was only Obama in the ring. Romney was left sprawling, dazed and drenched in bystanders' beer in the second row.

     The second presidential debate was about what it means to be a president, and for the loser, what it means to be a spectator.

     It was odd that Romney would prosecute the line that Obama misread events early on in Benghazi and mispoke the next day — odd because it was Romney who embarrassed himself rushing to score political points to pronounce the president a sop to America's enemies.

     It continues to be bizarre that Romney follows the Limbaughesque "apologist" line against someone who oversaw the end of the war in Iraq, the killing of Osama bin Laden and cohorts galore, and who also helped facilitate the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi. The next debate is on foreign policy. Romney had better take another tack.

    For now, score it a rhetorical comeback for Obama, paced by Vice President Biden's fiery performance Oct. 11. Unlike the first debate, the president showed up as a fighter, his opponent as a dancer.

    In the vice presidential debate, Biden's most devastating punch came after Paul Ryan talked about the crippling debt Washington has accumulated, you know, because of President Obama.

    Biden shot back deftly and powerfully. As a senator, he had watched Ryan and fellow Republicans unblinkingly "put two wars on a credit card."

    Folks, if Romney-Ryan really thought the deficit was crippling, they would admit, as does the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission, that new revenue has to be part of the solution. The budget approach Romney embraces is to cut taxes, cut domestic spending, increase defense spending, and hope for brighter days.

   Meanwhile, how many opportunities do Romney-Ryan to be evasive and disingenous about the tax loopholes they say would close to make up for lost revenue from their tax cuts?

    What is certain to happen with the tax cuts they advocate is that either the deficit would rise dramatically or Washington would be forced to slash such programs as student aid, Medicaid, housing and environmental protection.

    But, of course, defense spending would go up.

    We've heard all this before, from Reagan through Bush. The only time Washington actually balanced the budget was under Bill Clinton.

    Clinton, by the way, raised taxes on America's wealthiest. We were warned by Republicans at the time that doing so would lead to economic Armageddon. Um, not quite. Make it instead the first time in decades the United States actually bought back some of its debt. And the economy hummed.

    George W. Bush became president with "surpluses as far as the eyes can see," and left with a economy on life support, two wars and a debt accumulated with reckless disregard. Deficits, quoth Dick Cheney, didn't matter.

   What was Paul Ryan saying then? Where were those mavens of fiscal outrage, today's tea partiers? Most likely they were holding devotions in Fox News' amen corner. 

   Whether the issue is protecting America's interests abroad or truly caring about its fiscal fate, the last two debates have revealed the GOP ticket to be less like fighters for what's right and more like impostors in shiny shorts.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Word associations for a winner

   Head bone's connected to the neck bone. Shoulder bone's connected to the arm bone. Arm bone's connected to the thumb bone. Thumb bone's connected to the "mute" button.

   This election has been a pain in the neck bone.

    To win our hearts, the dueling sides cumulatively have spent enough to build gated communities on Mars.

    All that, all the grave and grim narrators, all the stirring images, charts, graphs, and . . . Not a line sticks in my mind except this:

    In a locally produced commercial — yeah, one of those — a bespectacled "grandma on the street" says this about a Republican congressman: "He's more like Rush Limbaugh than you and me."

    The ad looks like it was done by the high school Audio-Visual Club, but that's a great line — the clearest statement about what's at stake Nov. 6.

    Understand, until a few days ago when Mitt Romney showed he could debate, Limbaugh was the titular head of the Republican Party. We'll see how long it takes for Rush to reclaim the throne.

    My wager: It will be as long as it takes for Barack Obama to decide "punching bag" isn't a good look for him. That would be their next debate at Hofstra University.

     To do that, the suggestion here is that the president emulate the grandma on the curb. Practice some name association.

     Romney did it in the first debate when he mentioned Solyndra, the failed solar firm that defaulted on a federal loan. A favorite of the Fox News smoke machine, the name is dropped often to obscure the tidal turn to alternative energy and conservation built into Obama's 2009 stimulus bill. One year later, Time magazine termed it truly transformative: "the most ambitious energy legislation in history."

    But, hey; give debate points to Romney. We knew full well the sound bite would make it onto Fox News.

    If Obama wants to reverse fortunes in the next debate, he needs to drop some names. This should not be hard.

    If "Solyndra" was a one-word jab, two words by Obama would be even more powerful.

    "Tea party."

    They are the most important words in the election. Romney may portray himself as a moderate. Whatever he may believe, if elected he will be a mount, a vessel, for the most strident conservative movement since the days of night riders and Red scares.

    George W. Bush came to government posing as a moderate, too. He became a vessel for neocon schemers with wars to wage. We know what war the tea party wants waged. It's against everything government does that doesn't directly benefit those holding the antigovernment signs.

     So, Mr. President. Say "tea party." Say it repeatedly. Remind moderate Americans who the real opponent is.

     Then drop these words: "Scalia." "Thomas." "Alito." Don't be shy. Remind Americans of these stakes. This will help get some progressives to put down the pout, act like citizens and vote, if nothing else, to blunt the gestation of an intractably authoritarian, "corporations are people" Supreme Court.

    Two more words: Grover Norquist.

     Mr. President, point out the no-new-revenue pledge Romney made to Norquist, he who would delight to see federal government "drown in the bathtub." Who runs America? People? Or Norquist? We know the answer Norquist would like. It's run by the corporations that furnish him his plush headquarters and all that walking-around money.

     Don't forget to mention G.W. Bush, too. Though the Republicans call him yesterday's news, with their trickle-down "solutions" to our fiscal straits, everything old would be new again. As a bonus: On the foreign policy front, that could include another war with another oil-rich Middle Eastern country.

     Drop names, Mr. President.

     Though the effort goes on to brand you as a radical, foreign, out-to-destroy-America type, you're more like most Americans than Rush Limbaugh will ever be.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

For schools, 'spring' coming

  You wonder: How possible?

  Some crazed idealist immolates himself in the square. A small, hapless group of protesters makes the case against suffocating oppression. Protests get bigger. A general jumps ship here. A lieutenant jumps ship there. More protests emanate.

  And suddenly, stunningly, "school accountability" as we once knew it, and feared it (though we dutifully fed it), has been stormed and stoned and stomped under freedom's feet. Granite walls tremble.

   All those days as we watched protesters in the streets of Libya, Syria, Iran and Egypt, we wondered: Who could get so riled up?

    We see it now. We see it in the Yemen of the Fed-Up Spring, that being the revolt against educational oppression in the United States.

    It's happening in the place where it all began, and where the end would begin — where people power flowered, or more pertinently, parent power: That would be Texas.

   See it in organizations like Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment ( pronouncing: "We see what is happening in our children's classrooms: too much time spent on standardized tests; too little time left for exploring and creating."

   See it in a resolution signed by 520 Texas school boards that couldn't be more blunt: Standardized testing "is strangling our public schools and undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into a broad range of learning experiences."

   See it in the defection of former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, calling the increasingly stifling combo of standardization and penalization "a perversion" of school reform's "original intent."

    Add to the dissidents Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken: "Why should we 'stay the course' of an overly prescriptive curriculum and a high-stakes testing system that haven't delivered on (their) promises since they were first put in place in the mid-1990s?"

    Why? Why? Why, ahem, because that's how we do it, say state lawmakers, tugging at tight knots under their chins.

    Emerges school reform architect Sandy Kress to assure the populace that all is orderly if not well. Kress is known in royal circles as archduke of accountability.

    He's not elected, but as a proxy for authority dating back to the Bush dynasty, his tone is that of a sacred gong. (Of course, his credentials as a lobbyist for testing giant Pearson mean that no door will shut on him in Austin. So, hear ye.)

    Kress trots out an army of easels: test scores that most surely will assure the masses that in fact, on this course we best stay. And now, let's round up the dissidents.

    But wait. The masses ask: While cutting education dollars in every imaginable way, the state has spent $450 million over five years on testing and top-down regimentation. For what? The Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis ( says any truth to Kress's claim of "closing of the minority achievement gap" is tempered by the fact that "overall student performance lags."

    Such grand results. Were they worth the cost? Worth the loss of freedom (once known as local control)? Worth the loss of classroom inspiration? Worth the loss of great teachers?

    Yes, say the "accountability" autocrats. Why? Because they say so. 

    It you've followed our narrative, this is the way brutal regimes fall — regimes deaf to the masses and attentive only to their authoritarian itches.

   This is how "school accountability" falls — not just in Yemen, er, Texas, but in state after state (states which by and large want the heck out from under the yoke of the dynastic No Child Left Behind).

    You wonder: How possible?

    Simple. It begins out in the street and ends up shaking granite walls.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sticking it to the wretched 47 percent

    It's time to stop dog piling on Mitt Romney for what he said about the "47 percent." Time is better spent dogging him for what his words mean regarding public policy.

   After all, that's what elections are supposed to be about.

   Let's give the GOP standard-bearer credit for spawning, on tape amid the clinking of high-rollers' champagne glasses, an amazing public information campaign. The problem for him and his partisans is that the truth revealed runs directly counter to one of their favorite talking-point myths.

    That claim: The wealthy pay way more than their share in taxes, and a whole bunch of us pay nothing.

    As analysis after analysis has explained since the unveiling of Mitt''s YouTube daytime nightmare, that couldn't be more wrong — particularly when it comes to the payroll tax that funds Social Security. In fact, the working poor and middle class pay a higher percentage of their income into that than the wealthiest, for whom taxes are capped at the first $108,000 of income annually — six sumptuous digits to which the sorry, dependent-on-handouts, allergic-to-personal-responsibility 47 percent can never aspire.

     Taxes? Don't forget that a goodly chunk of Mitt's 47 percent are retired and paid income taxes throughout productive working lives. Now they have little income to tax. Freeloaders. Professional victims.

    And those people, like the rest of us, pay regressive sales taxes, state and local. Add the federal motor fuels tax and assorted fees.

    So much for the notion that 47 percent of Americans aren't carrying their load. The obvious implication: They should carry more.

    That's what drives one of the more cynical proposals that never leaves the table when Republicans convene: the flat tax. Add its cousin, the national sales tax.

    Prove me wrong, but in each free-market maven's heart of hearts is a lust for two things (1) no taxes; (2) failing that, a low flat tax or a consumption tax that benefits the wealthy.

    Romney was one of few contenders for the GOP presidential nomination who did not advocate for a flat tax. Rick Perry: 7 percent. Newt Gingrich: 15 percent. Herman Cain: 9 percent. Ron Paul: um, zero percent?

    Romney is characteristically vague about what he'd do. Let's just say, however, that if he were president, emboldened Republicans in Congress would go for the gold: the flat income tax.

    This, of course, would mean significant tax increases for those in the wretched 47 percent.

    Flat-tax proponents who don't want their pet proposal to be seen as regressive and punitive talk of direct payments to the poor to make up the difference. Sure. And watch those payments evaporate once the trickle-downers decide this is just so much government dependency by a bunch of victimhood losers.

    Virtually every effort of today's Republican Party is directed by the quest to lower taxes for upper incomes. That's what the House-passed Ryan budget would do. The lost revenue? Ryan and Romney say they'd make up for it by "closing loopholes," though are scrupulously vague about which ones they'd close. Mortgage interest? Charitable deductions? Medical care?

    Romney would rather that we talk about how his passionate hands can produce millions of new jobs. Unfortunately for him, his "47 percent" statement has told many voters where his real love lies.

    A new Obama campaign advertisement featuring those comments points to Romney's sub-14 percent tax rate in 2010 and the untold bounty he has sheltered in the Cayman Islands.

    Yes, 1 percent brethren, let's figure out a way to get that 47 percent to shoulder more of the tax load. Flat tax. National sales tax. The super wealthy, whom Romney represents in body and soul, have had it too tough too long.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

If Mitt had used hand sanitizer

  I have no other explanation for this except in terms of the petri dish.

  None but the kind of culture that goes from throat swab to black plague.

  Take a moderate, statesmanlike, center-right Republican. Expose him constantly to the germs of extreme ideology and backwater stagnation. Watch fever consume him.

   Watch his tongue swell. Watch him say unimaginable things. Watch him row his boat off into the sunset of extremism expressing love to a face-painted coconut.

   At this point, it is too late to have suggested this: Mitt Romney should have worn hazmat garb all these months when pressing flesh with the core constituency he didn't need to convince to vote against Barack Obama.

   Too late it is, because he got infected, got a serious case, a politically fatal snoot-full. And now many Republican strategists are breaking out tissues.

    Romney offered no apologies for possibly the century's most politically costly blunder, saying that 47 percent of Americans believe they are "victims," are "dependent upon government," and apparently are under-taxed.

     He offered no apology for the century's second most politically damaging quote a few days earlier when, on a horrifying day in Libya and Egypt, he dashed off a denunciation of President Obama for appeasing terrorists without knowing what he was denouncing.

   GOP strategist Matthew Dowd said the latter sounded like Sarah Palin was serving as Romney's foreign policy adviser. A cheap shot, yes. We have yet to hear Romney say he can see Russia — or the Tripoli coast, for that matter — from his Massachusetts equestrian estate.

   The fact is, of late Romney is a lot of things we didn't assume him to be. A strident right-winger. A birther. An anti-choice zealot.     

    When Romney criticized GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin for implying that rape victims' bodies could  repel pregnancy, Mitt sounded moderate, like the Mitt who once supported reproductive rights. But that was the moderate, solutions-seeker Mitt, not the one  now contaminated by the "anti" virus.

   Since then, Romney has embraced the so-called personhood movement pushed by the anti-choice fringe. Fringe, you say? Yes, indeed, for "personhood" amendments not only would prohibit abortion but also outlawing many forms of birth control.

    What's amazing at this point is that Romney has done very little of what political scientists say a candidate ought to win a general election. It was understandable that he would veer right to win the GOP nomination. However, he has done very little to steer back to the center — you know, where elections are won.

   Once again, I must attribute this to microbiology, to the strain of super germ that spread rapidly in the 2010 elections, now infecting one house of Congress and one major party, known clinically as staphylococcus tea baggus.

   Carriers basically believe that government should be sent to bed, except where it might be needed to get into people's beds and venues of other personal choices, particularly matters sexual.

   Carriers are known for their irrational outbursts and overstatements: assertions that Obama is a Muslim; references to his "appeasement of Islamists." Let us understand that someone with said fever may not be aware that with Obama as president, al Qaida has been decimated, Osama bin Laden killed, Moammar Gadhafi ousted. He's an appeaser, and that's that.

   Said fever causes the afflicted to speak of Obama's designs to install a socialist — make that communist; make that fascist; he's a Nazi — utopia and otherwise bring America down by the stroke of 2016.

   Romney, before contracting this plague, knew none of this to be true. In placating his party's right wing, however, he did not take necessary prophylactic measures to remain his own man.

   At minimum, a pair of Latex gloves might have been the difference between a viable candidacy and one in quarantine.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Flash mob against No Child Left Behind

    This is Quebec souring on maple syrup.

    This is France joining the Coalition of the Willing.

    This is Alabama lawmakers swearing off public use of Bible verses.

    This is Texas seeking a waiver from No Child Left Behind.

    For those current-events challenged, the first three are fanciful, as in "never in a million years." The fourth actually happened, and what do you think of that?

    Texas, of course, is the cradle of "school accountability," and of the presidential soarings of George W. Bush, who made the franchise national. Many of us, particularly the parents and teachers of teachers of our school children, long came to know the spawn of Texas' crib as a real-life Rosemary's baby.

    This week Texas got in under the wire to become one of 41 -- count 'em, 41 states -- to seek a waiver from many of NCLB's suffocating requirements.

   Basically, say these 41, "If there's going to be any suffocating, it will be at our hands."

   NCLB, said new Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, has become an "obsolete system that does not 

adequately reflect the accomplishments of the state's schools."

   Among the considerations: By NCLB's taunting definitions, less than half, 47.8 percent, of Texas schools, and less than a third of its school districts — 27.6 percent —made "adequate yearly progress" this year.

    It should be said that Williams worked in the Bush administration's Department of Education. Oh, how those mantras must have resonated with him and all those — of both parties — who saluted the most intrusive federal law ever to knock on schoolhouse doors.

    Texas seeking waivers? Isn't this "the soft bigotry of low expectations"?

    For years, anyone who suggested that hammer-wielding, corporate-style, top-down, test-heavy directives were bleeding public education of vitality were told they were "against high standards." What, then, of state policy makers who want out of NCLB's unreasonable, oppressive, unrealistic requirements? Who's rubber, and who's glue?

   Forty-one states. That's some endorsement. With support like this, who needs opposition?

   The waivers are possible because Congress, hewing to its 21st Century bylaws, has done nothing to address state concerns about NCLB such as the unreasonableness of the requirement that all students be proficient in core subjects by 2014. President Obama made the waivers possible through executive order.

    What's amazing is that anyone would continue to talk about reauthorizing NCLB, rather than scrapping it.

    It's amazing that the Republicans, supposedly opposed to overreaching government, just can't loosen this grip. It's amazing that Democrats, supposedly most attentive to the concerns of teachers and the people who most depend on public schools, don't see or hear what NCLB has done to hurt those schools.

    Most significantly, the law has caused schools to focus so intently on testing and test objectives that they toss the rest of education out the door. Particularly in low-performing (read low-income) schools, the result has been the well-chronicled syndrome of narrowing the curriculum. That means rubbing one sore subject — say math — until it bleeds, at the expense of all else Americans consider to be education.

    What's so sad is that regardless of whatever rise in test scores might be used to justify all of this, said increase — barely statistically significant in most cases — hardly merits the immense expense, the stress, the loss of great teachers who say "ya basta" to systems that impose scripts and one-size-fits-all methods.

    Lies, damned lies and statistics. Arizona State University professor David Berliner points out that, "Any time you invest a lot of value in an outcome measure you get a corruption of the measure."  That means that higher test scores don't necessarily mean more learning, just better programming of those being tested, like Pavlov's dogs.

    Abolish NCLB. Then states, at least some of them, will shake out of their Pavlovian trance.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: