Monday, December 30, 2013

Stepping sanely into a new year

   We walk upright. We have a foot up.

   At least that's how it looks on paper.

   In practice, I'm alarmed to report that we act like a bunch of gambusia. And they breathe through gills.

  Also known as mosquito fish, gambusia have a lifespan of two years. A hiccup. No problem for them; they are so busy breeding they pretty much don't care.

  Breeding aside, we do other things to pass the time. Unfortunately, many of those things don't point toward the sumptuous lifespans advertised for those who are upright, have opposing thumbs and expansive cranial regions.

  Consider, for one, the problem with the habitual wearing of ultra-high pumps – high heels. Podiatrists point to crippling conditions, from neuroma (painful thickening of toe joints), to capsulitis (inflamed feet), to hammer toe (what happens when toes are jammed for too long into a too-confining space).

  For these very reasons, The Washington Post reports $3.5 billion is spent each year on women's foot surgeries.

   No need to gang up on the ladies. As a new year begins, most of us examine habits that would make it appear we are racing those tiny, hyper-sexed fish to death's door.

  Those range from the low-hanging fruit of FDA admonitions and Breathalyzer blows, to the fudge rolls around our bellies.

    Probably no stronger evidence exists of a collective death wish than the growing tendency of drivers to obey their smart phones rather than the rules or contours of the road.

   Similarly, we have birthed a generation of pedestrians who can't put one foot in front of the other – that is, unless their smart phones instruct them.  For those people, a collective New Year's resolution: Look up. Look around. Not everyone is going to be looking out for you.

  We seem sentenced to live life faster and faster, with ever more useless information each day. What's the fate of your favorite TV duck- call philosopher, I ask? Oh, and by the way, do you know your neighbors' names?

  This thought leads to some big-picture concerns as the Earth completes another solar revolution.

  I appreciate the sanity implied in Pope Francis' statements that the veneration of profit, held up by our society as the only universal good, isn't so good.

    Some of that message has been contained in President Obama's dogged initiative to conserve energy and find alternatives to Earth-depleting, Earth-spoiling kinds of energy, profitable though their addiction may be.

  The twin imperatives of a profit-driven system are (1) that growth is always good, and (2) bigger is always better. Sorry, folks. That's not so much a philosophy as a pathology.

   As Thom Hartmann writes about the once-great Mesopotamian empire in The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, there's another word for the pathology of hyper consumption: conquest.    

     From commoners to kings, the people of ancient Mesopotamia thought their way of life was superior to all others, writes Hartmann. "But although things looked good for a time, they didn't realize it wasn't sustainable: It only worked as long as they had other people's lands to conquer."

    Of course, conquest takes many forms, whether it applies to multi-national corporations or voracious and militarized nation states. The driving principle in all such cases is one of acquiring power and wealth at others' expense, and at the cost of precious and finite resources. Sometimes that spells war.

    In 2014, let us come to understand that the highest order for each of us is to do that which is sustainable and real.

    To that end, let us find alternatives to habits which endanger us, hurt or diminish others, or make our toes hate us.

   Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, December 23, 2013

2013: When the conversation changed

  It was a bad year for the president, some would say his worst.

  The nation was divided to the breaking point. It seemed nothing went right for him in 1862.

    And yet, Abraham Lincoln, his proxies being pummeled on the battlefield, rose above it to bring about a fundamental change regarding a most basic human need.

   In Lincoln's case, that need was education. That year he signed the Morrill Act, transforming this from a nation with a permanent have-not class to one in which all could aspire to higher education.

   Reading about what many historians consider Lincoln's worst year, I thought about 2013. Even his friends say it couldn't have been worse for Barack Obama. We know what his critics say.

  However, they don't write history.

  History will show that 2013 was when America's conversation about health care changed. The nation started the excruciating, jarring shift from the status quo —  with a permanent have-not class — to something better.

  Yes, we know Congress had that conversation in 2009 and 2010, passing the Affordable Care Act. But it wasn't until 2013, with the individual mandate kicking in, that the rest of us had that talk.

  Whatever is being said now, even if obscenity-laced, is good for the country, because it's about what the nation needs.

  Want to vent about Good. The more outrage, the more quickly its problems will be addressed.

  Want to talk about the fact that some states will deprive millions of Medicaid available in other states? Good. Maybe those millions will vote.

   Want to say the president misled about unintended loss of coverage for many? OK. Say it. Say, "He lied," if you wish. But understand: The ACA is in place for people who lose their coverage. Before 2013, millions lost their insurance each year, with nowhere to turn.

     Back to 1862 and the Morrill Act, which created land-grant colleges in the states: It didn't apply to the Confederacy, which declared it didn't belong to America anymore. After peace reigned, that changed and the former breakaway states benefited as well.

    Right now, in similar fashion, the potential of the ACA is blunted in red-state America, not just on Medicaid expansion, but with states having refused to set up their own health care exchanges to help their citizens shop for coverage.

    But I have two examples from such states that illustrate the ACA is working even in hostile environs.

    Take a woman in Texas who used to drop her individual health insurer (with premiums slated to go up 27 percent), and ended up with coverage at half of the projected cost, with a lower deductible.

     Easy? No. "It took several tries, and I had help." Now she knows how it works. She knows that if the plan she just purchased is insufficient or gets too costly, she can shop around with many more options than before. To her, "It's the American way."

    Meanwhile, a woman in Florida whose pre-existing condition — breast cancer — made coverage crippling, reported that because of the ACA her premiums went down and and her deductible will be cut by three-fourths.

   "For those who disparage Obamacare," she wrote in a letter to the editor, "do some research and stop believing the naysayers who have insurance and are blessed with good health."

     Sticker shock ahead for some Americans? Absolutely. Disruption of coverage? We've seen it.

     But 1 million Americans have signed up at this point, meaning there's no turning back.

     The conversation has changed. Whereas once America was resolved to the forever-inequitable status quo, it is figuring out how to address a new, fairer, reality.

     And history will show that it happened in Barack Obama's worst year.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus is black, and . . .

   What would you expect from this corner but a spirited defense of Megyn Kelly?

   Aside from being blonde, she is paid to convey truth per memo from Fox News management. So when declaring as "verifiable fact" the racial makeup of Santa (and Jesus!) to be white, like Fox News management., she is simply securing her job. Get off her case.

   The person who has no defense: that teacher in Rio Rancho, N.M., who told a dark-skinned student the same thing:

   Get real, kid; Santa Claus doesn't come in your color.

    As for Kelly: Too much attention has been directed at the baselessness of her claim. Truthfulness is a high bar her employer has never deigned to ascend. Why demand it now?

   It's pointless to observe, as Jon Stewart did, that the original St. Nicholas was most likely a Turk, making him closer in appearance to TNT's Charles Barkley than Fox News' agent of mirth Karl Rove.

   But those are facts. And, well, consider the news source.

   What I cannot imagine is a teacher in New Mexico saying Santa is an Anglo.

   Early in my career I ran a newsroom in a lovely place called the San Luis Valley. Though titularly in Southern Colorado, culturally it is an annex of New Mexico. And so it was that the Santa figure to whom my first son gurgled his first-ever Christmas wishes was not Megyn Kelly-tinted.

    Pancho Claus, they called him. His white beard hung low, betraying a hint of black scrabble. His belly was not so round. But he was jolly and elf-like, and brown-skinned. 

   It is sad to scandalous that a teacher in a richly diverse environment such as New Mexico would say what that one did.

   Yes, sad; but as an editor once told a young Virginia O'Hanlon in an editorial in the New York Sun, some people "think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds."

   The most inspiring vision of Santa I've ever seen was in a mall in Waco, Texas. A friend named Melvin Rueffer, who is deaf, clad himself in red suit and white beard for just a few minutes each holiday season. For a specially arranged audience, he subbed for a hearing Santa. Then he and a small procession of deaf children communicated, by hand, the little ones' Christmas wishes heard in sign.

    I've seen a plus-sized woman show up at  a school pageant as Santa. I've seen a 12-year-old (big for his age) in the same role. No one assembled a panel on Fox News to say, "That's not factually correct," or to say, "See? The war on Kris Kringle continues."

    Yes, Virginia, Santa is black. Yes, Virginia, Santa is brown. Santa has slanted eyes. Santa is Cuban. Santa is Filipino. Santa speaks Vietnamese and Cajun.

    (Sorry to alarm anyone, but just like those pernicious ballots that some Fox News viewers believe to be an abomination, Santa is multilingual.)

     Santa bats right, throws left. Santa bats left, throws right. He is a machine worker. He is an attorney. Santa works the docks and the fields, the night shift, the morning shift. He is in the union and in management. Santa is on unemployment. In too many cases, Santa's unemployment has expired.

    Santa is a he. Santa is a she. Santa is a she who used to be a he, and vice versa. 

    Santa is you, me, us. That's what makes Santa such a great concept.

    Santa wasn't invented by Coca Cola. Santa wasn't born on 34th Street. As that sage editorial writer once wrote back to that little girl, Santa is wherever "the heart of childhood" beats.

   And that is as "fact"-based as this debate needs to be.

   Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Where discrimination still takes the cake

  Discrimination is a thing of the past. It's sooo 1964. Right?

  So why did a Colorado judge just make a ruling regarding discrimination and wedding cake?

  Because discrimination isn't a thing of the past. It's soooo 2013.

  The Masterpiece Cake Shop in Denver was more than willing to take Charlie Craig's and David Mullins' money when they ordered a cake last year. However, when the owner found out that the two were legally wed in Massachusetts, and they wanted a celebratory wedding cake, he said, in effect, "Your money's no good here."

   See? It's so 2013.

   As did the cake shop owner, this discrimination is justified by people who, Bibles in hand, will flip past pages and pages of teachings about love and Golden Rule-living to find one bookmarked line in Leviticus.

    Thank goodness for the American Civil Liberties Union. It advocated for the Craig and Mullins before an administrative judge, who ruled against the cake shop. If you set up shop to serve humanity, you had better have good reason to refuse any of its members.

   You may say that's unfair; this is a proprietor's prerogative. So said the owners of the Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth's in 1960 when refusing to serve persistent black students. Hence began one of the most amazingly organic chapters of the civil rights era: confrontation-based desegregation of lunch counters.

   Something similar is happening in America all those 53 years later. This year four more states legalized same-sex marriage, making the total 13. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to swallow the argument that the Defense of Marriage Act did not violate the 14th Amendment's equal protection provision.

   Oh, Robert Bork, where ye be?

   Most Americans don't remember Bork, but legal principles for which he stood are worth a trip down Memory Lane.

   When nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1987 to serve on the Supreme Court, he came as a symbol and standard-bearer of "strict constructionism." We can be assured that he would not have sided with the court on gay marriage.

   Bork testified that the intent of the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, was to provide protections for emancipated slaves, and no one else. Not women. Not Latinos. Not the disabled. And certainly not homosexuals.

   To use the 14th Amendment to make a protected group out of any other kind of person would be pernicious "judicial activism," he said, and conservatives said. "Amen."

   The Senate's refusal to confirm him represented the biggest victory in generations for those who understand, rightly, that the Constitution is a living document.

    And so it lives, even when discrimination still goes down for many people like good Kentucky bourbon.

    It is worth remembering that many in Congress who had been dragged into the 20th century to support the Civil Rights Act (passed in 1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) at first had no intention of making the latter expansive enough to serve all potential victims of discrimination. Then a guileful Texas congresswoman, Barbara Jordan, obtained wording that protected the rights of Spanish-speaking Hispanics and immigrants of all stripes in the voting booth. The bill required bilingual ballots where necessary. Jordan convinced enough people in Congress that allowing local governments to do otherwise would result in de facto literacy tests.

   And strict constructionists wept.

   Now, shades of 1964: Congress is debating passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — ENDA, workplace protections for gays, lesbians and the transgendered.

    You might say its chance of passage compares to that of North Korea's Kim Jong Un being named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.

    You might say this is so because the House has done nothing whatsoever for three years, so why change?

    More likely, it is because pernicious and foul discrimination remains comfort food for many Americans. Yes, in 2013.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Worshippers at Church of the Immaculate Profit

    War on Christmas alert:

    In this season as we gather for our most cherished tradition, who stands ready to serve as an agent of its besmirchment?

    Who but Pope Francis.

    And we thought he was on Christmas's side.

    That most cherished holiday tradition? Spending money, lots of it, and making profits, lots of them.

    The pope has called that into question, and with it the spirit of Christmas as we practice it. And just as the fist fights had commenced.

    Granted, when he said that "unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence," he wasn't necessarily talking about Black Friday brawls over bath towels. He was talking about economic inequality.

     But what the pope had to say wasn't all about matters that make a few rich and so many poor. It also was about the "idolatry of money." Indeed, he called unfettered capitalism a "new tyranny."

     He might as well have plugged Snoopy between the eyes at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

     The subversive comments are contained in his "Evangelii Gaudium," described as the platform for his papacy. And let us say, the pope let 'em — er, us — have it.

     He denounced "the absolute autonomy of markets," particularly when the poor lose out relative to those whose ungodly riches and interests are ever pre-eminent.

    Wait. A tyranny of free markets? That can't be. Anyway, isn't this the freedom implied in Genesis? You know: "Be fruitful and multiply"? Well, it depends.

    Recent comments by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the maverick Vermont Independent, sound a lot like the pope's. Instead of the poor being Sanders' chief concern, however, he is thinking of our planet.

  He speaks of "hyper capitalist" conditions, where policies even promote efforts "to privatize water, for God's sake."

   Relative to hypercapitalization's sway, he points to special interests' successful resistance to addressing fossil fuels' role in climate change. Industrial and political forces hold sway against even incremental responses. Why? Because in our value system, profitability is next to godliness.

   To those who reject the science of climate-change causation: Even if you are right and the science is wrong, reducing pollution, conserving fossil fuels, and being better conservators of the Earth are all right. "Drill here, drill now," is about making something that is already scarce even scarcer. Energy conservation is about extending the life of what we have.

   "Conserve" Is the root word of "conservatism." Unfortunately, as pertains to economic matters in a state of hyper capitalism, "conservative" has come to mean "profit-driven."

  Gordon K. Durnil, in his 1996 book, The Making of a Conservative Environmentalist, expressed frustration at getting fellow Republicans to see the health costs associated with pollution when calculating whether environmental initiatives might be worthy.

   In a debate over a state GOP platform, Durnil recalled being on the losing side of a clash over what a "cost-benefit analysis" meant. He maintained that "cost" should include general health costs. The winning side in the debate simply wanted to know what a particular policy might cost business (or taxpayers).

    How will the Affordable Care Act shake down ultimately? Will it mean higher premiums for some? Extra government subsidies? Better not, say those who see costs in only one way, the corporate way.

   What about the benefit (and avoided costs) of millions of previously uninsured Americans getting preventive care? What about the benefit (and avoided costs) of these people's needs being met by primary-care providers rather than ER staffs?

    These conditions carry incalculable costs. We avoided addressing them for generations. Why? Because, as Pope Francis explains, our system is built on inequality, and material gain is valued above all else in a tyranny that is money-driven.

     Talk about raining on our holiday parade.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sweet potatoes and assorted mass hysteria

   I saw the man with the tent pitched outside the electronics store, three days before Black Friday. For some reason it made me think of sweet potatoes.

   I wish that I didn't have to think of sweet potatoes at all. Then again, I also wish the same about Grover Norquist. Such is the curse of thinking.

   I'm thinking that you don't wish to be reminded of Black Friday, either. As always, the media have gone full-bore about the annual non-story.

   "Shoppers shop in great numbers. More at 10."

    The question I've been asking ever since the term Black Friday came to be an object of mass hysteria is: How so?

    It wasn't that long ago — 20 years? That no such creature existed. And then, literally overnight and without due justification, Black Friday was everywhere — a living, breathing, snorting, salivating merchandizing beast. "FEED ME."

     Black Friday is the one day when each shop becomes its own Little Shop of Horrors.

     Now, you are asking, why would these horrors remind this guy of sweet potatoes?

     Simply put: I can't explain either phenomenon.

      Black Friday: Why would anyone willingly, even with ample discounts in the package, expose him or herself to the chaos and discomfort attached? The lines. The vicious jostling. Logic cannot be assigned to this.

      Sweet potatoes: Why would anyone place said orange matter in his or her mouth? And swallow? Yes, it takes two steps. Either of them stretches basic human credulity.

      For many years in this space, I have been pointing out that just as there is no reason to stream out to the malls and big-box labyrinths on the day after Thanksgiving, no reason whatsoever should cause Americans to consider sweet potatoes food.

     For some reason sweet potatoes came to be identified with Thanksgiving, a magnificent American tradition.


     I know what some will say: Sweet potatoes are nutritious, "the perfect food," even. That might be the case if indeed the sweet potato were eatable, but it's not. As with all good science, this case is made based on credible research. I ate sweet potato once. Once.

    I don't remember much else about that Thanksgiving 52 years ago, but I remember that it had sweet potato in it. And for one interminable second — "thousand one" — I had sweet potato in me.

   I resolved long ago as a newspaperman that I would do what I could so that such horrors never happened to anyone else.

   Really, who is behind the sweet potato-as-side-dish hysteria? Who started this side-dish hoax? Much like the blight that is Black Friday, which sprang out of nowhere, how did so many Thanksgiving spreads buy in to Orange Thursday?

   Granted, these are not the only mysteries in mass hysteria that we associate with the holidays.

   How did fruit cake happen, and why?

   What is egg nog? Why does it suddenly appeared on grocers' shelves this time of year? Where does it go on Dec. 26 when we ignore it? What is "nog," anyway?

    Granted, much that is irrational is associated with the holidays, the most irrational of which is about to commence tomorrow. That doesn't mean we have to partake, no matter what the media say.

   On that subject, someone just emailed me six "holiday sweet potato recipes," including "bourbon-spiked sweet potato puree" and "sweet potato apple bread pudding."

    How bad do those things sound? Here's how bad: I'd spend a week in a tent in front of an electronics store before I'd have one bite.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:









Monday, November 25, 2013

If ditching cursive is in your script

   I hear the case made against teaching cursive writing, and it tells me this: My third-grade teacher, Miss Coleman, wasted my instructional time.
   And heretofore I thought her to be a wonderful lady.
   School reformers are saying cursive instruction is pointless because 21st century technology has made it irrelevant.
    Understand: School reformers are always right. But I must point out that in this instance, the case they make is nearly a century and a half late.
    The typewriter was invented in 1868. That technology which would quickly obviate the need for handwriting. Right, Miss Coleman?
    So, why in 1961, almost 100 A.T. (after typerwriter) were we learning cursive?
    Nine years after learning all that handwriting, I didn't pull out a quill to write my college-admission essays. A blue portable Smith-Corona did my pleading for me.
    Maybe it would be nice and quaint, say the school reformers, to continue teaching cursive, but what teacher has time? With all those school reforms to prosecute, that is.
    Interesting, it is, that it's teachers who say they'd prefer to make the time for it.
   The fate of cursive instruction is in the balance because the Common Core standards, adopted by a host of states with federal backing, gives it thumbs down.
   The Common Core is the latest effort to make children row as one in the learning regatta dominated by the Japanese, Germans and Chinese.
    I'll admit, the Common Core has some virtues. I like its cross-curricular approach to reading and writing. On the other hand, it also continues — indeed, accelerates — the troubling trend of making "workplace readiness" all that education is about.
     Across a generation of school reforms, policymakers have shown an accute inability to know the difference between true education (that which elevates the human mind), and training (done with military recruits and spider monkeys alike through repetition and reprimand).
    Lawmakers, many of whom had no buy-in to the concept of public education (their own children safely ensconced away from all that) set out to "fix" schools. The result: a tunnel-visioned emphasis on core subjects that, with standardized test scores attached, could be painted as promoting "excellence."
     Schools got the message: All that mattered was passing those state tests. Test-prep activities, scripted lesson plans and school ratings became fixations.
    This gobbled up increasing time, causing some reformers to say students didn't have time for extraneous matters like recess and physical education.
    Now I look back to my third-grade classes in the early '60s and wonder what Miss Coleman (who also sent us out for recess) was thinking. There she was teaching cursive instruction with sweeping arm motions, when we could have been calculating the missile trajectories of the Soviet arsenal bearing down on us.
     I shouldn't care about cursive. I generally print. However, a sadly resonant chord is struck when supporters of cursive instruction talk about it as an art form. It does more than convey thought on paper, they say. It develops aesthetic sensibilities, much like music and art, two other things some would jettison in the "accountability age."
    Actually, those who study such matters affirm that music and art make for better learners, even better math learners.
    I might support ditching cursive instruction if the time saved actually went to something truly instructive and elevating for children — like becoming expert and enthusiastic about how our government works, or doesn't. ("Class, today we will learn about the filibuster.")
    Since what is likely to replace handwriting instruction would be more of what already dulls down and crowds out real education, I say we keep teaching the art of cursive — yes, even in this, the age of typewriters with built-in TV screens.
     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chris Christie, meet the ‘Thirders’

   New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is thinking about the Republican presidential nomination. Then again, considering a particular segment of the electorate whose embrace he'll need to get it, he'd best think twice.

   I speak of the Thirders, a hard-right bloc from whom a bloke like Christie is — let's be honest — irreconcilably different.

   And until further notice, that group, and not people like Christie, will call the plays for the GOP.

   No one else has identified this political faction by that name: the Thirders. The term occurred to me a while back when it became apparent that based on any number of polls, one of three Americans could be led to believe anything at all about Barack Obama.

    At the time, that margin of Americans polled said they didn't believe Obama's claim to be native-born. Another poll found the same figure believing he is a Muslim.

    If his opponents alerted Fox News to the claim that Obama had first introduced gum disease to America, one third of Americans would believe it. More than a few are firmly, absolutely, hardened against reality — an obstruction a tanker truck of Drano could not unclog.

     Functioning plumbing is against Thirders' nature anyway. They prefer to curse the sink. If Chris Christie is to move them, he has some tough plunging ahead.

      After all, he has done several things Thirders would not countenance. For one, he and President Obama met among Hurricane Sandy's rubble together and said conciliatory things about each other (right before an election!) Thirders were inflamed by this niceness.

   For another, Christie was openly derisive of the government shutdown, the rightness of which remains unquestioned by, yes, one third of us.

   Yet another problem: Christie is among few Republican governors expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

    His response to the partisan incredulity greeting this? "It's going to mean a lot" in helping the uninsured. And with federal subsidies, "It's going to benefit New Jersey's budget." 

    No wonder, then, why a Nov. 12 NBC News poll showed those with any opinion a one-third/one-third GOP split over Christie (the rest undecided), his popularity considerably less robust in the South.

     This is no surprise. We are well aware of what type of person the Thirders want.

      They want someone like Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who pronounces global climate change a hoax, though it's thought otherwise by NASA, the National Academy of Science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the 192 nations that signed the Kyoto Protocol.

    These voters want someone like Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who said that socialized medicine kills — "one in five people," in fact. No wonder so many people scream and claw against the life-threatening prospect of Medicare. It'll kill you.

    (True, America's average life expectancy is lower than France's, Italy's, Spain's, Canada's, Germany's, Great Britain's and Norway's, but that couldn't have anything to do with its socialized health care.)

   The Thirders like a straight-shooter like former Congressman Allen West, who never backed down from claims he couldn't back up — that up to 80 members of Congress were Commies.

    Thirders not only think that Sarah Palin is a great American, but as Joe McCarthy remains deceased, she's the greatest living American.

   Thirders think Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is sufficiently strident and obstructive to be their idea of a presidential nominee. They are even more enthusiastic, however, about drafting his father, Rafael "Go back to Kenya" Cruz.

   Christie should know that these are people devoted to investigating the truth, and that's why even after Obama leaves the White House, they will maintain discussion groups to parse his ethnicity, birthplace and Muslim ties.

   Sure, being a smart man, Chris Christie is well aware of the Thirders. The question as he contemplates his future: Does he really want to know them better?

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, November 11, 2013

I didn’t know you cared

  Excuse me, free-market conservatives, but why the sudden concern over millions set to lose their health insurance?

  Did such a problem concern you before President Obama and the Democrats set out to insure more Americans?

   Did it? I may have to review my notes.

   I'm pretty sure those notes say you said that people who didn't have insurance just needed to trust the free market, raise their sights, and get down to some heavy bootstrap lifting (like you did, right?).

   And if all failed, they were to head to the nearest emergency room and dump their expenses on someone else.

   Based on the righteous uproar, one would think people never lost their insurance before the Affordable Care Act screwed everything up.

    But of course, millions lost coverage every year, the free-market way.

    Again, I may have to review my notes to see how many people on the right were doubled over with angst over that free-market problem. I'm thinking: not one.

    This is not an attempt to dodge, bob and weave away from the present problem. That's not so. We are about to see, however, if the old bob and weave on this matter will be the response from the Plastic Outrage Band (not to be confused with any move by Yoko Ono to return to the studio).

    A bill supported by the president would amend the ACA to allow those people to keep their coverage. It simply would require insurers to tell them which parts of their coverage don't meet ACA requirements.

    Presto. Problem solved.

     Will it happen? Or will Republicans who say they care about those people find a way to  "go fishing," and leave the problem to fester so they can continue to use it against the president?

    That Congress swiftly can amend the matter puts the lie to the right's narrative about the Affordable Care Act: that it was rammed down Americans' throats; that it was a dictator's power play: Obamacare.

    Nope. It was an act of Congress. It can be tweaked by Congress. Surely this won't be the only adjustment needed — not unless Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid all came out of the chute mint perfect.

     (As for problems with Republicans had to ask the public for patience themselves when launching the Medicare Part D website in 2006.)

     The question, again, is if the GOP will even allow for a necessary change to the ACA, or partisans in Congress don't want to give up the propaganda value of, "Millions to lose health coverage."

     Plastic outrage being politically desirous, we've seen this kind of behavior before.

     Back in the '90s the anti-abortion movement came up with the smartly contrived rallying cry: "partial-birth abortion." A term unknown to obstetricians, it portrayed a rare and graphic procedure generally performed when an infant could not survive outside the womb.

    "Barbaric." "Unconscionable." So said those in Congress who said they cared.

    However, when Democrats proposed simply to prohibit extreme late-term abortions except when a woman's health or life were in danger, Republicans blocked it.

    The fact is, they were getting too much mileage out of "partial-birth abortion" to support something that took the issue off the table.

    So, will this be the case with a rapid fix that can end the crisis for all those Americans about to get the slip from their insurers? Or is the political mileage to be had from this problem too profitable to surrender?

   One thing: If obstructionists do block a revision to help the millions about to lose their health insurance, the Affordable Care Act still will be there to cover them anyway.

    That's what it does.

    That's what the free market doesn't.

   Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why the hate?

  Based on the advance news clippings, Dallas was a very bad place for John F. Kennedy to visit that day. Based on crowds that were beyond adoring, the clippings were wrong and the moment was very right.

   Then, gunshots. Mortal wounds.

   Dallas survived, but its convalescence would be excruciating. Few were willing to give it a fair hearing, charged as it was as being Lee Harvey Oswald's accomplice.

   After all, there were those news clippings.

   Those clippings, including a hate-filled advertisement in The Dallas Morning News, remained long after Air Force One carried the body away.

    Today the question I ask is one that escaped Americans at the time, and still does: Why the hate?

    The full-page ad in question, paid for by a group headed by Dallas oil heir Nelson Bunker Hunt, made a slew of conspiratorial claims addressed to Kennedy, principally that he was a pawn of communists.

   "Why have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists?" it spewed.

   For the visit, the John Birch Society distributed pamphlets picturing JFK above the words, "Wanted for Treason."

  Among the charges: that Kennedy "consistently appointed anti-Christian officials to federal office," and that he was complicit of "support and encouragement to Communist-inspired racial riots." (Most Americans now refer to the latter as the civil rights movement.)

   Long a Bircher hotbed, Dallas indeed had an extreme case of extremes. A throng accosted Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson outside the Adolphus Hotel in 1960, screaming and spitting at them for his having joined JFK's ticket. A crowd treated U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson similarly shortly before Kennedy's arrival in 1963 — one woman clocking Stevenson over the head with her sign.

   This is not an attempt to psychoanalyze Dallas all over again, something that was never necessary. What occurs to me, 50 years this month after the horror, is this question:          

   Why such hate anywhere? And directed at any such man?

   John Kennedy as a conduit of communism. Wow. Promoting "Communist-inspired racial riots." Really.

    By any political yard stick, Kennedy was a pragmatist. On social justice of all stripes, he was decidedly incremental. His boldest domestic move wasn't about elevating people of color but sending Americans up in space suits.

    The ideological viciousness which littered Dallas' streets, ignored by most, makes one wonder about conditions today.

   Historian Darwin Payne, a Dallas newspaperman when JFK was shot, said this in a recent Dallas Morning News retrospective about Nov. 22, 1963:        

   "When I hear some people express hatred for (President) Obama, it feels the same."

   I don't want to assume it to be so, but how does it feel to you?

   For five years, the frothy right has been like a pock-marked 45 rpm recording. "Socialist." "Communist." It has tried to convince Americans that President Obama ("Hussein" is his middle name!) is not one of us.

   When Ted Cruz's father told a crowd that the president should "go back to Kenya," the senator said it was just a joke. To that claim, we award one yuck.

   "Obama's no Christian," goes the warped and crackling appeal. He's a madrassa baby, Baby.

   It's been tried before, folks. One of the claims in the anti-Kennedy John Birch Society pamphlets in Dallas was that he had been married once before — and not just to anyone, to a German.

   Well, Brother John B.: That fellow traveler, John Kennedy, was one of us.

I know, as you pointed out repeatedly, he was a Catholic. When JFK was seeking the presidential nomination, Hunt's father H.L. — paid to reprint a sermon by W.A. Criswell of First Baptist Church of Dallas warning that under a Kennedy presidency the pope would dictate U.S. policy. Oh, yeah.

   And you know? Americans just wouldn't listen.

   History tells us that they were either much smarter, or much weaker, than the professionally irate among them.

   Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ah, that plastic outrage

   "Glitches" is miserably inadequate to describe the online fiasco that has crippled the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. An outrage is what it is.

    However, outrage from you, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.?

    You, Congressman Murphy, hammering administration officials last week in Capitol hearings? "We were promised a website where people could easily compare health insurance," you berated. "Five hundred million dollars later the American people have been dumped with the ultimate 'cash for clunkers.'"

   Citizens: Don't you just love it when people who oppose something — say, government — with every fiber in their being suddenly develop empathy for the thing they wish to destroy?

    Don't you appreciate it when people who stalled, and sued, and obstructed, and conspired against the Affordable Care Act long after it had become law, would have done all that and at this moment ask, "Hey, what happened?"

    Thanks for caring about Americans trying to obtain health insurance, Rep. Murphy. Some of us actually care about insuring all of us. You and your tea party friends, on the other hand, shut down the U.S. government to prevent any such eventuality.

     Five hundred million dollars, you say? That's real money. But you don't mention the $24 billion that your heroic government shutdown cost the taxpayers.

    The website about which you, Congressman, suddenly are gripped with concern is being made functional, meaning that the $500 million in question ultimately will have been spent on something. That is wholly unlike the $24 billion you and our tea party brethren exhausted on, well, nothing.

     Voters, did you notice the indignation from these very individuals when their own budgetary hysterics caused national parks and veterans memorials to be closed? Suddenly, these politicians were all about federal spending. Government is good, and all that. Give our constituents their White House tours.

     One who pays attention to today's discourse grows accustomed to this kind of plastic outrage. Generally it's summoned by those who really couldn't be bothered by the actual concerns they will cite when their opposition research latches onto something:

    — When President Obama promoted long-lasting, energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs, suddenly conservatives were all about protecting the environment, pointing out the mercury contained in those bulbs. It's fascinating, because when the subject is mercury settling into our soil and water from coal-fired power plants, these same people suddenly turn indignation-impaired.

     — Wind power, promoted by this president, is one reason this nation actually showed marked reductions in carbon pollution over the last two years. But wind power is dangerous, say the 24/7 Obama critics. What about the birds? You know, birds killed by the giant wind turbines? These concerns often come from people who've fought the Endangered Species Act and who want to neuter the Environmental Protection Agency. For many of them, development always trumps nature. So when it comes to avian interests, these conservatives are birds of a feather —  partners in eco-hypocrisy.

    — Republicans in key red states seek to take away women's reproductive rights with promiscuous measures like scientifically dubious "informed consent" requirements and prohibitive restrictions on clinics that provide abortion. On what grounds? Well, on the grounds of "protecting women's health," of course.

       Ah, but the clinics they have targeted dedicate every effort to women's health.  Abortion rights themselves prevent the desperate measures that women took back in the dark days when they were deprived of a safe and legal option.

      Saying anti-abortion measures are about "women's health" is like saying that beer is consumed for its nutritive qualities. Beer has nutritive qualities. It also makes a person challenge a mail box to a duel.

    Meanwhile, back to Rep. Murphy, he of the polystyrene outrage. Back in 2006 the Bush administration's new Medicare Part D website had major problems. Murphy was downright forgiving about that: "Any time something is new, there is going to be some glitches," he said.

     President Obama knows this and appreciates the congressman's support.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:     

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

America speaks (again): Get on with it

It had every ingredient of Election Day — the crispness of autumn, the electricity of pronouncements, the winners, the losers. 

It was as if Americans had voted. In fact, they had. And for the second time in two years, Republicans finally conceded defeat. They would cede to the popular will and, in this case, let our government govern.

So lopsided was the result this time that not even Karl Rove could say it wasn't so.

And, let's face it. If the 2012 presidential election was far less close than GOP strategists thought, this one, the public's pronouncement on the shutdown, was a true rout.

Poll after poll found most Americans angry at the tea party obstructionists. "A pox on both houses"? The House could only wish.

This quest to disrupt government for show was received much like a sporting crowd greets a streaker.

In pro sports, when a grandstander strips naked to get some air time, the cameras point elsewhere. It's too bad CSPAN's one camera has had to indulge Ted Cruz in his exhibitions.

Once again this time, anti-government types didn't get the answer they wanted — the one posed by Sen. Phil Gramm about government during the last shutdown: "Do you miss it?"

Yes, Americans did — missed the paychecks, missed the services, missed the parks and attractions.

More importantly, the shutdown gave them time to think about how much they miss government that actually functions. They realized how tired they are that governing has become a zero-sum morality play by those more interested in emoting for the camera than doing what the founders established three branches of government to do.

Oh, and Sen. Cruz, as you gun for the GOP nomination, you may be interested that one Democrat is gunning for you.

There could be no mistaking what Hillary Clinton meant when, in endorsing Terry McAuliffe in the race for Virginia governor the other day, she blasted politicians who choose "scorched earth over common ground." She was calling out Cruz. Indeed, she was inviting the hard right to put him forth as the GOP's choice. Go ahead. Make her day.

She pointed out that McAuliffe wasn't so dogmatic that he hadn't supported some of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's policies. I invite anyone to supply one policy, one thing whatsoever that President Obama has proposed that the tea party has ever supported. One. Thing.

Americans see this, and they are not pleased. Favorability ratings for the political brand Cruz seeks to put before voters in 2014 have dipped into the low 30s; yes, below freezing.

So, once again, make the Dems' day, GOP, and saddle up with The Streaker.

The shutdown crew bet everything on perceived public antipathy toward the Affordable Care Act. Without question, the public has questions and concerns. But what it has said, first in 2012, and now in 2013, is, "Get on with it."

Get on with health reform. Get on with whatever government can do to keep a precious recovery going. Get on with reining in the deficit.

Contrary to the right's boombox rhetoric, Obama has made budget concessions. He will again. So doing, he will infuriate members of his own party, as he has before.

Get on with it, or get out of the way.

Republicans like John McCain, Bob Dole and Alan Simpson have watched in horror as pouting, petulant, tantrum-throwers in their party have held their breaths until the nation turned blue.

Get on with immigration reform. Get on with entitlement reform. Get on with real-world education policies not pinned to dubious testing, false comparisons and meaningless slogans.

Ask the people what they want. They want all that. How many times must they say it?

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

If at first you don't secede . . .

    Call it the conundrum of the New Confederacy. Call it, "All dressed up in gray and no place to go."

     They passed around "we secede" petitions when President Obama won re-election. Didn't work.

      They sued to stop the Affordable Care Act. Didn't work.

     They shut down the government to unhinge the two-year-old law, just as health exchanges sprang into action. Didn't work.

      And now? If you were contemplating that the most dedicated opponents of everything Obama stands for would just up and flee the country; well, where to turn?

     Refugees would find a single-payer health care system to the north of us and to the south of us. Yes, in 2003 Mexico decided that having millions without access to health care was barbaric, so it did something about it.

      In Texas, a foamy hotbed of foment, Republican leaders cover their ears and hum real loudly to not hear this: The state will leave $79 billion in federal funds on the table over the next 10 years for its refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Yes: $79 billion that could cover families against catastrophe, pay for checkups and vaccinations — things no good red state would ever need. The free market takes care of all that.

     But Texas is not alone. The confederated belt of resistance that is the New American South is where most of the ear covering and humming is going on. The result: 8 million Americans, most of them residents of Deep Dixie, are left out — earning too much for Medicaid where they live and too little for federal subsidies under the ACA.

    Their hope: Maybe this monstrous injustice can be addressed when the tea party becomes so efficient at alienating Americans that the House changes hands in 2014. (The trending of national polls indicates Congress' approval rating will be below zero before the first hard frost.)

      It's no surprise that many of the 25 states that refuse to participate in the Affordable Care Act won't do anything about the Medicaid matter no matter what it costs them. An exception is red-state Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer said that turning down federal dollars that could ease suffering is crazy.

      So: Can't secede. Can't flee to Canada. Can't head south to Mexico. Fences, you know, and a single-payer system on the other side.

      What can you do? Political provocateurs Charles and David Koch have decided to use some of their gazillions this way: They will seek to cause the Affordable Care Act to collapse when Americans refuse to participate.

     Their organization Generation Opportunity is promoting an "opt out" campaign which pitches to twenty-somethings that they can save money by ignoring the law and buying their own health insurance on the free market.

     The Atlantic attempted to get someone with Generation Opportunity to explain how this was possible, as the Affordable Care Act provides subsidies and tax credits. Turns out, the spokesman contacted couldn't do it.

    In fact, those who take the worm on the Koch Brothers' hook could either be buying some extremely pricey coverage or would face, with extremely cut-rate plans, deductibles that are out of this world.

   According to The Atlantic, a low-cost plan recommended by the opt-out group has a $10,000 deductible. In other words, the only thing it would cover is if you caught space debris between the eyes — and not if, say, the space debris took an ear off. Aren't ears just cosmetic contrivances anyway?

    Can't run. Can't hide. Can't opt out, unless you want free-market buzzards to feast on your bones.

    No wonder the brightest idea of late by the knights of the New Confederacy has been to ride a TNT-filled horse-drawn wagon onto the Capitol grounds, light the fuse, and run back to precincts where political amnesty looms.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:    






Monday, October 7, 2013

This is the House that Fox built

   Gather 'round, children, as the first chill of autumn presents itself. The Farmer's Almanac forecasts a harsh winter. The Almanac of American Politics calls that an understatement.

   Rarely has a wind this ill so beset the nation's capital.

   Speaking of magazines: On the cover of the Oct. 14 Time, "Majority Rule" is smudged out in red against dark clouds, the Capitol shrouded in black and gray.

    The shutdown leaves most Americans dismayed beyond words, especially 800,000 federal workers. But you wouldn't know it if you happened upon Fox News. You would see this termed a "slimdown" (snicker, snicker) with one talking head after another giving his or her rendition of, "Hey, no biggie."

   Gloom in Washington? On Fox News you would hear Rep. Michele Bachmann describe Republicans as being at their "happiest" at this opportunity to have a nation twisting in mid-air from a gleaming ideological meat hook.

    On the Fair and Balanced news source, you'd have heard "Fox and Friends" report that President Obama had offered to pay to keep a "national Muslim museum open" with his own dollars, though other museums were shuttered. "Fox and Friends" didn't realize the story was from a parody website whose other posts have included, "IRS plans to target leprechauns next." Ah, well. No biggie.

     As I said, it's gotten chilly out there. So, gather at my knee for a nursery rhyme that puts matters in terms that even a child can understand, sort of like Green Eggs and Ham. Let us read:

    "The House that Fox Built"

    This is the House that Fox News built.

    This is the calculated bias that underpins every story, every graphic, every crawl, particularly about the House that Fox News built.

      This is Roger Ailes, the Nixon operative, hired as CEO in 1996 to deliver the calculated bias that today underpins the reporting of the disruptive actions by the House that Fox News built.

      These are the talking heads of Fox — O'Reilly, Hannity, Huckabee, Rove, Palin, Gingrich, Oliver North — each hired to convey the calculated bias that today underpins the reporting of the disruptive actions by the House that Fox News built.

     This is the tea party. In 2009 Fox News hyped this creature — a Fox creation? —  nonstop in advance of "Fox News Tax Day Tea Party" rallies across the country. Fox News talking heads were dispatched as on-stage celebrities — more calculated bias, more hard-right froth, building off-year hopes for a House that Fox News built.

   This is the 2010 congressional elections. Low turnout, high conservative anger, high ratings for Fox News. Enough tea party candidates won for the GOP to gain a majority in the House that Fox News built.

    This is gerrymandering. With a new decade comes new red-state opportunities to construct invulnerable Republican congressional districts, emboldening the hard-right tea party types who populate the House that Fox News built.

   This is the Affordable Care Act, health coverage for millions of Americans, duly passed by Congress, duly upheld by the courts. In its "news" coverage, no force is more vital than Ailes' Army in portraying it as a totalitarian ploy. "Obamacare" is a great spiel and battle cry in the House that Fox News built.

   This is the shutdown. It is based on one thing alone: the refusal of tea partisans to acknowledge that a law is a law. Why should they? They are invulnerable. Additionally, they have an echo chamber on cable that will justify for their custom-designed constituencies whatever happens in the House that Fox News built.

   This is our government. Well, it used to be. An invincible cadre, a minority of a minority, has decided that if it can't repeal a duly legislated law, it can disable the mechanism — democracy — that produced the law. It's a scandal, a slap in your face and mine. And for this we owe the House that Fox News built.

   Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why this law scares them so

   Look it up. The symptoms of hyperventilation are dizziness, tingling in the lips and extremities, fainting, and in the most extreme circumstances, full or partial shutdown of the U.S. government.

   We are seeing hyperventilation's fruits in the Republican Party's frantic bid to talk away the Affordable Care Act.

   The duly authorized, duly appropriated, already-law Affordable Care Act.

   And to think that this could be addressed simply by having the stricken party breathe into a brown paper bag.

   The most do-nothing Congress in American history has done so very little, but the quest to defund this law is the do-nothing-est.

   Though carrying no hint of hope in the Senate, the House has voted 40-plus times to do it. It would have been vetoed at the speed of electronic transfer. Yet the tea party-driven House persisted, and persists.

   The reason for opponents' urgency was clear, of course. As more and more people use the new law to address their medical needs, the "do nothing" barkers will sound more and more like the clanging cymbals they are.

   The clang gang knows that every time an uninsured American has his or her health care covered at reasonable cost, their rollback fantasy becomes more fantastic.

   Considering that just about everything Americans have heard about the new law for these many months has been based on hearsay, guesses and politically driven falsehoods, there's no wonder that public opinion is weighted "agin'" it.

   But let's consider: We are told that this measure is wrecking the U.S. economy. Show us one indicator, from the stock market, to job figures, to housing, to the federal deficit.

    True, some companies are limiting, and will limit, employees' hours to evade the requirement of covering them as full-time employees. That's a shame, but it's no different from what employers did when the minimum wage became law. They cut hours. They laid off. We aren't going back to the bad old pre-minimum wage days, though the right wing may lust for it.

    Meanwhile, a few other developments that are considered strikes against the new law are not so.

   Much alarm has been raised about the companies like Home Depot and Trader Joe's discontinuing part-time employees' health insurance, moving them to coverage under the Affordable Care Act. A disaster? It's just the opposite.

    The Employee Benefits Research Institute reports that in virtually all cases, these employees will get more comprehensive coverage at a considerable discount under the government plan. Indeed, the director of the institute, Paul Fronstin, pointed to the miserly limits on some of these private "mini-med" plans and said, "You have to question whether that's really insurance."

    As for individual plans, a study by, reported in Parade magazine, points out that the plans available on health exchanges "provide better benefits than 98 percent of the individual health plans sold today."

   Confusion? It's a guarantee. Glitches and foul-ups in the online marketplace? Count on them. Some people will emerge dissatisfied. But a lot of people are going to have exactly what was promised: low-cost health insurance geared toward prevention.

    The tea party isn't about to stop venting its high-pitched squeal. But John McCain was stating simple fact when he  said, "We lost," and derided the obstruction-fest being staged by certain members of his party. He said the GOP should work with the president to improve any deficiencies the law might have rather than holding its collective breath hoping it would go away.

     Barack Obama ran for office promising to do something about the nation's horrific gap in health coverage. He and allies in Congress did that. Obama stood before voters in 2012 and won re-election.

   So is this, as the tea party claims, a disaster in the making? If it is, the American voters know from where the impetus for it all came: their ballots.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Behold, the GOP’s boulder brigade

   Did we ever tire of it?

   No matter how many times Wile E. Coyote face-planted on the cliff or came up on the underside of his own boulder, we watched for his next botched plan.

   Wile E. is a lot like an increasingly cartoonish presence on the political scene these days.

   All he hungers for is one particular carcass for dinner.

   So he spends his every waking moment positioning an anvil above the desert roadway.

   Today's Republican Party is a Wile E. bunch, and we know whose carcass it craves. Nearly six years in tongue-dragging pursuit, most of its ranks in Congress still can think of nothing else, certainly not governing.

    The sad irony is that keeping to the script of never learning, a new breed of coyote has emerged — canis deleterious — which appears even more desperate.

    Sen. Ted Cruz, tea party darling, was seen as the equivalent of those mail-order ACME spring-loaded boots that Wile E. ordered by mail — you know, to put some "sproing" in a Wile E's step. Watch that step.

    Cruz has made defunding the Affordable Care Act his signature feat. He's led fellow partisans up to the precipice — wait, this sounds familiar — of shutting down the government in order to get what they most fondly fantasize.

    Yes, and position a grand piano at the edge of the butte, just so . . .

    At times House Speaker John Boehner has feigned intention to work with the president, but with the House's latest budget gambit, we can ascribe Boehner's seven-layer tan to anti-Obama tea party patrol: hours upon blistering hours along a blinding and desolate highway.

    Probably nothing has demonstrated the cartoonish nature of this quest like the feedback from certain players on what to do about Syria and chemical weapons.

    Quoth Cruz in June: America needs a "clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them and get out."

     Quoth Cruz once President Obama started talking tough with Syria: "We certainly don't have a dog in that fight. We should be focused on defending the United States of America."

      Always consistent. Whatever the president says, say the opposite. And stay resolute.

      "Rushing us to war," said the very people who rushed us to a war 10 years ago based on claims they could not support.

       "Hedging and telegraphing his punches," said those who apparently wanted Obama to rush.

     He didn't, and turned to talking, to the nation, to Congress, to allies.

     "There you go: weakness," came the howling rejoinder.

     Now, look at what's happening: negotiations to secure Syria's chemical weapons (which of course don't exist; right, Mr. Assad?), as well as the hint of movement toward a negotiated peace in Syria's civil war.

     "A shell game," comes the howl. "Syria will hide them or ship them to Iran."

     That could happen. But if this deal goes through with Russian participation, and with United Nations participation, a likely-to-be-unified U.N. Security Council will be more likely to hold Assad accountable if Syria uses those arms again.

     Oh, and did anyone notice that Iran has said it is interested in making nuclear concessions to end the sanctions strangling it?

      As The New York Times' David Sanger writes, referring to Syria and Iran, "Without much warning, diplomacy is suddenly alive again after a decade of debilitating war" in the Middle East.

     Whatever the case, the lean and hungry opposition (forget that "loyal opposition"  stuff) will do everything in its power to make a case against it — if this president has a hand in it.

     Because all it wants is that bird on a platter. Th-Th-Th-Th-Th . . . That's all, folks.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, September 16, 2013

To the extreme, in climate and inaction

In Colorado, headline writers have run out of ways to say “unprecedented.”

In the span of two weeks, the state went from unheard-of “heat day” school closures — yes, in September — to the worst floods since the mountains were under the sea.

This follows a fire season worse than the previous, each the costliest since the invention of coin. It seems residents and policy-makers can pencil in a worse one for next year, and the next.

For many years the city of Boulder had contemplated a destructive 100-year flood on Boulder Creek. Headline, Sept. 13 Boulder Daily Camera: “100-year flood.”

Our atmosphere has become a microwave oven. The Big Thompson River just had that 100-year flood, devastating Estes Park. Its last 100-year flood? Thirty-seven years ago.

Heat waves and drought not known since the Dust Bowl. Sea levels rising.

Extreme: Our weather has become that, and we are coming to know why. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's authoritative explanation: global warming.

A NOAA report says that climate change made several 2012 events more likely: U.S. heat waves, Hurricane Sandy’s flooding, shrinking Arctic sea ice, drought in the European Iberian peninsula, and extreme rainfall in Australia and New Zealand.

The 78 NOAA researchers involved in the study weren’t making broad-brush claims, either. They said, for instance, that the U.S. drought of the same period was most likely cyclical, along with several other weather events including a cold snap in the Netherlands.

Sens. James Inhofe and Marco Rubio may not want to hear this, wanting to believe that climate change is just, you know, change, but NOAA asserts that levels of man-produced carbon dioxide are behind the events linked to rapid climate change.

The scientists’ point is that these events aren’t as freaky as they appear. They are predictable because of how human activity has upset the balance of nature.

Whatever activity we are generating, when it comes to addressing this menace — the biggest story in the history of our planet — American policy-makers are inert, for the simple reason that necessary change is inconvenient.

Actually, that statement needs qualification, because one person has been doing things about it: President Obama. Not only has he directed the nation’s most significant shift to renewable energy and conservation under the 2009 stimulus bill, but he recently issued a directive for power plants to curb greenhouse pollution.

By doing so, Obama applied CPR to a dead decade regarding this crucial global matter.

The United States is the only signatory to the climate-change measures of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol not to ratify it. (Canada pulled out after ratifying.)

Some people will ask, haven’t matters already gone too far to avert the types of events we now experience? Maybe so. That doesn’t mean we don’t do what’s right regarding the pollution and resource deprivation that comes with our pedal-to-the-metal approach to fossil fuel consumption.

The Sarah Palin Pollyanna dodge is that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. But even if the greenhouse effect did not exist, and even if CO2 is harmless, what accompanies it out the smokestack and tail pipe is not.

Policies to limit fossil fuel usage are good for all living things.

Climate change is real, as real as the 100 days a year in which the gondola city of Venice now finds itself under water. Vendors there have now resorted to selling disposable galoshes to tourists.

This is the policy of private enterprise, the policy of profit today at the expense of tomorrow. Get used to it. There’s money to be had. Hey, Bud, grow some gills.

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, September 9, 2013

GOP: from ‘big tent’ to biodome

   As if what one Republican state lawmaker said wasn't bad enough, another came along to, um, second it.

  The subject was fried chicken. And barbecue. And black people.

  We need not point out the skin color of Colorado state Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, and State Rep. Lori Sain, R-Dacono. Not at all. The former made the news when, in a state hearing about poverty, she launched into an aside about the genetic health tendencies "of the black race" — the propensity toward diabetes, for one — followed by:

  "Although I've got to say I've never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South, and you, I mean, I love it. And everybody loves it."

  Thank you, Ms. Marble. That will be enough.

  Except it wasn't — not for State Rep. Sain.

  Despite the uproar over Marble's comments, including condemnation by the GOP state chairman, a few days later Sain presented Marble a box of Popeyes Chicken. An eyewitness overheard Sain call it a "silent protest" against all the unnecessary flak Marble had endured.

  Wow. And double wow.

  Lord forgive these two, for they apparently know not what they do; they don't hang out much with the "black race." They live in ever-comfortable neverlands ruled by the ever-comfortable. They come to the Capitol to represent the mostly white, mostly Republican bastions that redistricting has wrought.

  Sure, in concept and in oath, they are put in office to represent us. But, then, increasingly, people like them have a different definition of "us."

  In Texas, a federal panel blocked a new voter I.D. law, saying it imposed "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor and racial minorities." Ruling Republicans' response: "And, so?" The state reactivited the law one nanosecond, or less than that, after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

  In blasting a similar law in North Carolina, Colin Powell said it "immediately turns off a voting bloc the Republican Party needs."

  Quoth the GOP: "And, so?" Today's Republican Party passes these laws by promoting a feeble fairy tale: "Nation awash in voter fraud." Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has called the whole GOP voter I.D. movement "a solution in search of a problem." 

  The real problem in the long run is one for the GOP, as noted by Powell: Black and brown people are paying attention.

  They noticed when on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech Capitol Hill Republicans effectively boycotted the commemoration on the Lincoln Memorial steps.

  Instead, GOP leaders summoned a smattering of black Republicans to dine with them in the filtered air of a banquet hall to toast and delude themselves that theirs is the definition of inclusiveness.

  After all, you know, Lincoln was one of them.

  It's not hard to think back to Republicans who stood for what Lincoln, and King, stood for: Dwight Eisenhower. Everett Dirksen. Jacob Javitz. Edward Brooke. Lowell Weicker.

   However, today with the tea party as its life force, the party that George H.W. Bush once advertised as having a "big tent" has become its own biome, encased in plexiglass, existing on filtered air.

  Fifty years ago the push for the Voting Rights Act was excruciatingly bipartisan, with lawmakers in both parties taking political hits as they rejected white statism and the Jim Crow-ing of the Dixiecrats. And now?

  With spokespeople like Vicki Marble and Lori Sain, nothing has so channeled the blissful insulation, the great white spirit of southern segregationists as does today's tea party.

  But it does appreciate good barbecue.

  Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: