Monday, June 27, 2016

Straight-faced liars of TRAP

Architects of the anti-abortion restrictions struck down by the Supreme Court this week are about as concerned about women's health as a Texas football throng is about head injuries between each whistle.

They want their team to win. They want to march down the field to their goal of burying the foe in the turf.

In Republican-controlled states, they have sought one goal alone: to put government firmly in charge of a woman's reproductive decisions, and to take away a legal right from as many women as possible.

The forces behind what's known fittingly as TRAP laws are interested in one thing only, and it's not women's health at all.

TRAP – Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers – has become the method by which anti-choice forces have sought to block abortion because they can't amend the Constitution.

The Supreme Court majority – containing three women -- did not buy Texas' argument that it wasn't tunneling under Roe vs. Wade by making it possible for only a handful of women with means to attain what the court consistently has held to be a woman's  constitutional right.

As reports, these laws come straight from a playbook devised by Americans United for Life that includes "model legislation that state lawmakers cut, paste and use."

Ah, but this was about women's health, say the architects: this stuff about requiring admitting privileges at a local hospital for an abortion provider, requiring clinics to become "ambulatory surgical centers" with prohibitive costs.

"Texas acted to protect women's health," said state Solicitor General Scott Keller, adding that "abortion is legal and accessible in Texas."

Both of those statements are a soft-shell lie, and Keller knows it. And the Republican Party promotes it far and wide.

Under the law struck down, the number of abortion clinics had been reduced from 25 to fewer than 10. By making abortion almost unattainable for millions of Texas women, many of them poor, the new law made desperate, dangerous attempts to self-abort more likely.

In the New York Times, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz wrote about the return of do-it-yourself abortions.

He said that last year in the United States there were 700,000 Google searches for inquiries like "how to have a miscarriage" and "how to self-abort." Those searches included the quest to get abortion pills online including the search for "free abortion pills."

He observes that the state with the highest number of such searches is Mississippi, which because of its own TRAP laws, has but one abortion clinic.

He also cited a survey that found that 4.1 percent of Texas women suspected that a close friend had tried to self-abort.

Hmmm. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion striking down Texas H.B. 2, "When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners ... at great risk to their health and safety."

Hence, she said, "It is beyond rational belief that H.B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women."

Ginsburg just called lawmakers who justify such tactics on the pretense of "women's health" bald-faced liars. Of course, they had to adopt underhanded means of doing what they want. Their objective is stopping as many abortions in a deceitful way because abortion remains a constitutional right.

This front being forged by the anti-choice right has been aimed at providers, but vulnerable women face other policies aimed at taking them out at the knees.

Whether the ruse is unnecessary waiting periods, unscientific warnings linking abortion and breast cancer, and other "informed consent" laws that institutionalize anti-choice propaganda, it's all a TRAP.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, June 20, 2016

Lady Liberty vs. the fear merchants

        Texas didn't need a federal court to know it couldn't do this. Neither did Indiana, Alabama, or any states seeking to excuse themselves from what America has always done.

We welcome refugees in life-or-death straits.

"Oh, no, we don't," said those states. "Not if they're Muslim."

Oh, yes, you do, if the president orders it.

U.S. District Judge David Godbey is the latest federal judge to say so in rejecting Texas' attempt to keep out Syrian refugees arriving under a 2015 Obama administration directive.

The ruling comes in the midst of political appeals to fear that are starting to make Sen. Joe McCarthy look like Mr. Rogers.

Judge Godbey pointed out the obvious: Immigration is a federal responsibility. What President Obama ordered not only is legal but almost too modest, considering the dire situation.

While Europe and nations like Turkey, Jordan and Egypt heroically deal with an unprecedented wave of Syrian refugees – some 4 million desperate people -- the United States is doing the bare minimum by committing to accept 10,000 of them.

Texas' share at this point is 235 -- not enough to fill one section of the average high school gymnasium.

Chin-high hyperbole has accompanied a matter which would have gone without comment before the Republican Party decided that its core mission includes demonizing Muslims.

Donald Trump said that Obama planned to admit as many as 200,000 Syrians. If Trump knew anything about the matter, he wouldn't have said it. The administration is constrained by Congress as to refugee totals. But, then, Trump has never factored actual understanding of public policy into his exhortations.

Sen. Ted Cruz, in his air-raid-siren way, warned that an inordinate number of the refugees are young males. False. The refugees referred to us by the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees almost exactly match Syria's demographics, meaning that most are families with children.

More demagoguery: Cruz said that any Syrian refugees admitted should be Christians, as they are the targets of ISIS. He assailed Obama for the absence of Christian refugees in the mix.

Cruz does not grasp two key factual matters: (1) that most of Syria's refugees aren't fleeing ISIS but the destruction wrought by the Assad government in its battle against insurgents, and (2) refugees are referred by the United Nations agency. Obama isn't picking and choosing based on refugees' faith. Nor would he ever do that. He's got too much integrity.

So, Ted, what would Jesus do? You say he's your model for behavior. Would Jesus sift the Muslim chaff from the wheat in deciding who lives or who drifts out to sea on rafts of desperation?

With the ascent of people like Cruz and Trump, and first-term Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who wants Christians to be first in line for relocation, we are seeing a shameful descent into the kind of nativism that has spawned so much oppression in less tolerant lands.

The assassination of British Parliament member Jo Cox has been cast in terms of a maniac's opposition to Britain's place in the European Union. More accurately, this was a white supremacist who wanted to keep Britain pure. Cox was a voice of compassion and reason about providing haven to refugees from the war-torn Middle East. It cost her life.

Back home, Franklin Graham, heir to Billy Graham's once-healing pulpit, talks in war-like terms, not just about ISIS but about Muslims in general. And Trump, seeking the nation's most powerful pulpit, doubles down on his indefensible call to ban Muslim immigration.

Once upon a time, George Washington expressed the hope that the nation he helped found would be "a place of safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted."

It is an outrage to see how many Americans today are committed only to compounding the persecution.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Recriminations for upward mobility

       "This is the year of jubilee/Send them angels down/The Lord has come to set us free."

The words of the Negro spiritual are celebratory, but the truth of them is in the title: "My Way's Cloudy."

A long struggle was ahead. Many who sang it would never know freedom.

Emancipation launched a century of recriminations and malevolent machinations. The Voting Rights Act? It would be resisted with fury. And the oppression would continue. And it continues, even when the Supreme Court chief justice pronounces this to be a post-racial time.

These civil rights dynamics came to my mind when Hillary Clinton stepped on the stage as the presumptive Democratic nominee, the first female in U.S. history so poised.

As she pointed out, the year her mother was born was the year Congress passed the 19th Amendment giving women the vote.

Since then women have led Israel, India, Pakistan, Great Britain South Korea and a host of countries. The United States is as far behind on gender equality as Cuba is on automotive technology. 

Evidence? The front-runner for the Republican nomination didn't hurt himself at all when he launched insults employing a female debate moderator's anatomy. They were his best rejoinder to her question about his referring to women as barnyard animals.

The Virginia Slims cigarette slogan of 1968 intoned, "You've come a long way, Baby." Would that it were true in 2016.

The evidence is that it's not, and don't expect even the ascendance of a woman to the presidency to be the "jubilee" moment one might conjure.

If anyone presumed the election of our first black president would herald the last rites for racism – well, no. In some corners, particularly the South, Barack Obama's presidency has proved to be much like the disturbing of a pile of fire ants.

Similarly, were Hillary Clinton to break through the "last glass ceiling," the view from there would be one of silent oppression – in the workplace, in the board room, in the courtroom.

Consider what happened in the court of Santa Clara (Calif.) County Judge Aaron Persky, who ruled that three months in jail was enough for boyish Stanford swimmer Brock Turner for raping an unconscious co-ed behind a trash receptacle.

Or consider that Baylor University football player Sam Ukwuachu kept practicing after he had his way with a female soccer player. (And after Baylor made a cursory investigation of her claim.) She, on the other hand, had no choice but to transfer.

Recriminations. No one would consider sexual violence a manly response to the equal athletic opportunities mandated in 1972 by Title IX. But the way that young lady was treated would make a young lady wish she opted for homemaking and child-raising, and that she'd dispensed with the big-picture dreams of seekers and strivers.

Those of us who would wish for a better set of priorities sometimes bemoan the fact that the only thing one ever hears about, in regards to higher education, is athletics.

Of late, it seems the only thing one hears about higher education involves sexual assault.

Stanford. Baylor. Tennessee. Kansas State. Brigham Young.

BYU, by review, was the fine institution that expelled a coed who reported she was raped. She was judged to have violated the school's honor code for having premarital sex. Oh, and this action came as a result of a Title IX investigation.

Recriminations. Once upon a time these things didn't happen to women because, well, because women couldn't attend college with men, didn't have opportunities that placed them so commonly in the paths of privileged predators.

While this form of oppression may not necessarily be in our DNA, it is deeply embedded, much like racism. 

As women ascend in power, expect to see even more jet trails of ugliness along the paths they set.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, June 6, 2016

Baylor and the gladiators

  You've got to give it to Southern Baptists. When they do implosions . . .

  Two, count 'em, two spectacular demolitions visited Baylor University mere days apart.

  First – boom, boom, boom – the 66-year-old pillars under stoic but still highly functional Floyd Casey Stadium took lethal injection by dynamite.

  And then.

  Boom. Football coach Art Briles. Boom. President Ken Starr. Boom. Athletic   Director Ian McCaw.

  Boom. Boom. Boom.

  Floyd Casey's ruins were still being digested by big-toothed equipment when the highly successful football program that caused the old stadium's obsolescence fell apart, too – aftershocks sending blue-chip recruits scurrying.

  In the stead of that old stadium is a jaw-dropping football palace: McLane Stadium. The problem now: Who will don pads for those who, we presume, will fill McLane's seats?

  And before we consider that, understand that the demolition team known as the NCAA has yet to visit the scene of the crimes.

  Those crimes need not be itemized here, as the matter has dominated the Texas press for weeks.

  As one who resided in Waco and wrote about Baylor matters for most of my newspaper life, it does seem, however, that thoughts are in order that transcend what becomes of gladiators in pads.

  First, Baylor is an institution of which any community could be proud. That could not always apply to officials who have run the show.

  Right now the Board of Regents preens officiously and without sin, withholding the report it used to jettison Starr and Briles.

  The Baylor governing board once did valiant things like insulating the institution from fundamentalist takeover. Now it is simply insulated -- a Skull and Bones on the Brazos without any ritual animal sacrifice that we know.

  The new stadium, named for Regent emeritus Drayton McLane Jr., is beyond sumptuous. It could be considered the regents' pride and joy. With what now has become of the football program, it also could be considered a real estate deal with the devil.

  You don't compete with the biggest and baddest football programs in America without recruiting big and bad people, or so it now appears. And don't forget sporting facilities beyond belief. Utterly necessary, we're told.

  But opulence is not a fleshy sin of the big-time college sports alone. It is a higher education syndrome.

  Before Briles' program, on the wings of Robert Griffin III's cleats, became a national presence, on-campus building was a Baylor fixation. Many derided the administration's "edifice complex."

  A controversial development plan focused on go-go building efforts – in part to achieve artificial aims in national college rankings. Many faculty members bemoaned an emphasis on research at the expense of teaching.

  Teaching. Educating. We so often forget. Baylor aside, let's wonder if all that's spent on sporting glitter were applied to lowering college costs across the country, what a better world would emanate.

  As a journalist, I am often bothered when personalities and distractions crowd out matters that matter in the national discourse. When discussing colleges, the matter that matters is cost – obscene costs, obscene debt.

  And don't let any college say, "Well, we provide generous financial assistance." Generally, that assistance equals debt.

  So-called prestige colleges are soaking young Americans for all they're worth. Trust me when I say that a quality higher education can be obtained at community colleges and hundreds of supposedly no-name state colleges.

  I teach at a community college that doesn't even have a sports program. But it has a great library (partnered and shared with the local library district.) It sends students onward, well-educated and owing a ton less than most higher-educated peers. Even then they'll owe too much.

  Wait a minute. I forgot what we were talking about. Was it football? A fall extra-curricular activity? It must be important. The sounds are deafening.

  Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: