Sunday, May 31, 2020

'Jane Roe,' Donald Trump and other 'pro-life' cons

           To certain fanatics who call themselves "pro-life," the means always justify the end.

            The end of a woman's right to choose, that is.

            Those means include specious "informed consent" laws to promote myth and misinformation.

            Those means include surreptitious and illegal efforts to entrap women's clinic workers into saying something scandalous.

            Those means include harassing women and threatening physicians who perform a constitutionally protected procedure.

            To a few even more fanatical fanatics, the means are torching clinics and killing health-care workers. Yes, to advance "pro-life" ends.

            But few of the disturbing things done by this movement match what we have learned about Norma McCorvey's role in it.

            McCorvey was the Texas single mom whose quest to get an abortion (she ended up having and giving up the baby) resulted in the Roe vs. Wade decision that stripped states of the power to regulate abortion in the first trimester.

            We learn about her story, and how she became a pawn in the anti-abortion game, in the FX documentary "AKA Jane Roe."

            We find out that a massively touted anti-abortion conversion by "Jane" was in fact a business transaction -- nearly half a million dollars over time.

            Yes, McCorvey put on an act for income. Struggling to pay her bills and always an unreliable narrator -- she once claimed that her third pregnancy was the result of rape, and later said it was not -- she found a way to live comfortably at the hand of Operation Rescue leader Flip Benham – "a trophy for the movement," says the movie's narrator.

            In fact, McCorvey went to her grave believing the state should stay out of abortion to the extent that the Supreme Court ruled it 1973. Yet for years she allowed people to think that she'd made a massive conversion against a woman's right to choose.

            The truth was in her final interview: "I took their money, and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say, and that's what I'd say."

            Digesting this, I thought of a key figure in the anti-abortion movement by the name of Donald Trump, who also likes public attention.

            Not just a figure – the messiah, the chosen one, sent from above, via escalator.

            The movement will accept any means Trump employs as he clutches the reins of power. Any and all.

            When he said, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody" and not lose supporters, the movement said, "Count us in."

            Ah, but Trump has always been the con. He is documented to have supported abortion rights and to have practiced no faith whatsoever. When did that change?

            My explanation: It changed when right-wing Svengali Steve Bannon sat him down to explain the path a Republican must take to get anywhere politically these days.

            Kiss the ring of the religious right. Keep kissing. Don't stop. Don't think. Just kiss.

            Of course, save some slobber for the gun lobby, Big Energy (don't forget "beautiful coal"), big business, anything big.

            For the blue-collar types, offer empty promises to bring back manufacturing. You can't keep those promises, but do, do.

            The one promise you can keep should you thread the needle and become president is to add to the Supreme Court jurists who please the religious right.

            It doesn't matter that you are a full-time biblical charlatan, that you use your position in front of news cameras to lie daily. Just keep kissing those rings.

            McCorvey believed in abortion rights but arrived at a financial arrangement with the other side that kept a roof over her head. For Trump, such accommodations helped put over his head the roof on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

            Toward the end of "AKA Jane Roe," the narrator borrows from the New Testament to reflect on the presumptively godly who dispense with ethics: "What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world but lose his soul?"

            Apparently it all depends on what ends that man has in mind.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, May 25, 2020

Baseless blather on voting by mail

            If you want Baby Trump to go full diaper rash, mention an alternative to risking one's life at the polls.

            Rash was the word when Trump threatened Michigan and Nevada with losing federal funds when they took steps to make it possible for more people to vote safely in the Pandemic Election.

            Oh, my, the tantrum. Bring the talcum.

            Trump called it the "Great Voter Fraud scenario."

            Really? Michigan and Nevada would call it the Safe-Voting Scenario.

            So do Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, Utah and Oregon, which have vote-by-mail systems in place.

            Many others states are moving in that direction, or at least moving to liberalize their processes to allow more voters to participate by mail.

            Set aside the fact that Trump's blast aimed at Michigan was false. Michigan didn't "illegally" send out mail-in ballots. It sent out applications.

            (Side note: What a great advertisement for Michiganders to fill out that application. Well-played, Sir. So much accomplished in one Tweet.)

            Let's focus on the blather that brands vote by mail as ripe for fraud.

            I vote by mail. Colorado has been doing it for years. In the 2016 election it found only 48 cases of fraudulent voting out of 3 million votes cast. Put that in your pipe, Mr. Partisan Schemer, and smoke it at a safe distance away from me.

            Demonizing vote-by-mail (which Trump and Melania have done absentee from Florida) is just one more front in the Republican Party's endless war on voter participation.

            Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has a serious case of posterior redness over a federal court ruling that could make it possible for all Texans to vote by mail.

            U.S. District Judge Fred Biery expressed concerns about the safety of voters and said the right to vote "should not be elusively based on the whims of nature."

            Texans of all ages should be offended that their duly elected representatives would risk voters' lives to hew to debunked concerns about mail-in ballots.

            Of course, such issues have never been the Republican Party's true concern. They have turned to any trick in the book to tamp down voting, in particular to keep marginalized people from voting.

            So-called voter I.D. laws are demonstrably aimed at this very objective.

            U.S. District Judge Nelda Gonzales Ramos ruled in 2017 that Texas' strict voter I.D. requirements discriminated against black and brown voters.

            Paxton's hind quarters grew damp about that ruling as well. The thing is, Republicans really can't argue that their voter I.D. designs discriminate against the poor and people of color. That's their whole objective.

            Thus far, however, a Supreme Court that effectively has ceded voting rights to the states has remained true to the notion that elected officials can rig the game to their benefit, whether the matter be vote suppression or gerrymandering.

            Trump has acknowledged that lower turnout is his friend, and a higher turnout may return him to his previous career of branding scams and reality TV.

            Trump claimed that mail-in ballots "for some reason don't work out for Republicans." Again, nothing in the track record of mail-in voting that bears that out.

            In 2014 Colorado elected Republican Cory Gardner to the U.S. Senate via those horrible mail-in ballots. (Because Gardner has been a dutiful rubber stamp for the immensely unpopular Trump, Colorado is likely to retire him in November, but don't blame mail-in ballots.)

            There's no secret to all of this. Republicans know that when more people vote it benefits the Ds. When fewer people vote, it benefits the Rs.

            I would love to be proven wrong and see the Rs act in ways to increase voting by people of every stripe.

            However, when its power is on the line, trust the Republican Party to never err on the side of democracy.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Two words for Commander Trump: You first

           We are warriors, says Donald Trump. You, me -- enlistees in a war against a killer.

            In waging it, however, apparently most of us have been doing the wrong thing.

            We thought we did right by social-distancing, covering faces when out, and otherwise just staying home. Wrong.

            No, to win this war, we should lift a frosty mug at a local tavern and order the nachos. Hey-yo, Wisconsin!

            We shall fight it on the beaches. We shall fight it on the dance floors and every Karaoke Night. We shall fight it in sweaty tights at Zumba class.

            Or we shall die.

            Message to Trump from most Americans: You first.

            It took him only a few news cycles after COVID-19 started to ravage humanity to cement his rep as the most incompetent and tone-deaf president ever. Trump insists still on adding mortar to his ranking in history books.

            This is a time in history when Axl Rose, the rocker who flunked conjunctions in grade school, won an argument with Trump's man in Treasury, Steve Mnuchin.

            The Guns N' Roses lead man blasted Mnuchin on Twitter when the latter suggested that we warriors should hit the roads, "a great time for people to explore America."

            In response, the Treasury secretary tweeted of the rock star, "What have you done for America?"

            Whatever that may be, tweeted Rose, at least he bore no responsibility for tens of thousands of deaths.

At the time, the first week of May, the toll was 70,000. Those were the days.

            You might say that Axl administered a cheap shot aimed at Mnuchin and his boss. But I was doing a personal inventory the other day and determined that I am doing more to fight the virus than the very man who said he's leading the fight.

            I've done everything possible to keep my family safe.

            Other than my wife, I have not touched a family member -- or any member of the human race in three months.

            I go to no public gatherings. The only time I've been away from the safety of my home, I've kept six feet from others, per Centers for Disease Control advice.

            I get our groceries and other supplies via curbside or delivery.

            I wear a facial covering when off my property, even on walks when I encounter almost no one.  

            I've done my job as a college instructor remotely. It hasn't been easy for me or my students.

            None of these things are easy. They're just necessary. I've done my job to stop the killer.

            What has Donald Trump done?

            He dismissed the threat of the virus as it pounded at our gates.

            Now that it has arrived, he ignored much of what science says about it.

            He hears his own health advisors urge social distancing and then does just the opposite.

            He hears the CDC urge the wearing of masks and ignores it.

            He helps foment irresponsible attacks by protesters and general resistance to governors and health experts doing their best to keep people like you and me safe.

            He pooh-poohs the consequence of testing and the need for contact tracing.

            He dismisses what health professionals report, to news media he derides as "fake," about shortages of PPE and testing.

            He made federal assistance a game of patronage for his political friends and a game of "Bow to me" to others.

            He has ignored his own health experts' warnings against rushing the country back to "normal." (Sorry, folks, but that definition has changed. Check back soon for details.)

            Trump wants the economy going as soon as possible. Otherwise he will be gone as soon as possible: Nov. 3.

            But here's what the majority is saying: Not so flippin' fast with the economy. You, however, can get out now.

            Yes, Mr. President. Hustle out to the flea markets and the car shows. Shake hands like a madman.

            See how that works.

            I'm inclined to suggest that Trump convene a whole bunch of red-cap followers, packing them elbow-to-elbow sans masks.

            (Don't play into the epidemiologists' hands. If science wins, we lose. Right, folks?)

            However, that would mean more infections, more strained hospitals, more tragedy, more time to endure before the rest of us – we who have listened to scientists – can enjoy the embraces of our families.

            A recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that 56 percent of Americans disapprove of how Trump has handled this crisis.

            Additionally, 71 percent of Americans approve of their governors' handling of the matter. That would include comparable percentages in Wisconsin and Michigan where Trump has sided with "open now" insurgents.

            Sorry, Sir. A healthy majority is not about to risk that health to make you more electable, but you are invited to wing it alone.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The slog of science vs. self-certainty

            "Kill all the lawyers."

            Misusers of the line from Shakespeare's "Henry VI" see a put-down of the legal profession in it. Nah. It is a tribute. It comes from a rogue who wants chaos and lawlessness.

            Listen closely and you'll hear it in the "Liberate!" mobs. They're saying, "Kill all the scientists."

            In so many words.

            Dispense with science. That way we can get on with whatever shoot-'em-up business we desire.

            Donald Trump every day wishes the scientists would just go away and leave the metrics to him and his melon.

            As a citizen, I'm going to implore the lawyers suing to reveal the expurgated parts of the Mueller report to pursue the same regarding the deep-sixed Centers for Disease Control guidelines for reopening the country. Trump doesn't want you to see them either.

            Out, damn scientists.

            Out, like Rick Bright – the top vaccine guy in the administration. He was fired for expressing concerns about hydroxychloroquine after Trump FOX-trotted it out with a "Try it" that was like a pitch for breakfast cereal.

            Bright since has filed a whistle-blower's complaint saying Team Trump "let politics and cronyism drive decisions over the best scientists."

            Well, of course. How else for anything stamped with Trump values?

            Something other than cronyism is at play here. It is a continuation of an ideological war. You might call it a battle between self-certainty and science.

            Science isn't driven by the self. It is driven by inquiry. Science is slow and steady. It's a slog. It's not a chariot race

            True, it's frustrating, and it's not good TV. So certain consumers of information turn to almost-experts who assure them that what one's self says is assured.

            Calling Dr. Drew. Calling Dr. Phil.

            Science journalist Ed Yong, addressing the politics of the coronavirus in The Atlantic, writes that the very nature of science lends itself to attacks by those who don't want it to rain on their political parades.

            The virus, he writes, "not only corrupts our cells but exploits our cognitive biases."

            Because so much is yet to be known about the virus, certain segments of society, and certain political players, find gaping holes of doubt into which to plunge certitude, or at least seed further doubt about the evidence available.

            Hence, writes Yong, "the devaluation of expertise."

            A scientist learns to be humble when searching for answers. Politics does not always award humility.

            Yong warns of "society's tendency to reward projected confidence over humility."

            It's the kind of confidence now prematurely projecting a "back to normal" situation when no one who understands the pandemic says that is wise.

            This is nothing new. We have a veritable industry of creating skepticism for anything that might impede business-as-usual.

            We had it in Big Tobacco's herculean effort to seed doubts about how smoking kills.

            We continue to have it with Big Energy's effort to counter the science behind climate change.

            Of the virus, writes Dr. Lisa Gralinski of the University of North Carolina, when scientists, as they're trained to do, "offer caveats instead of absolutes," it "creates opportunities for people who present as skeptics."

            In other words, when Anthony Fauci makes sobering projections, they are based on evidence yet to come, not on certainty already poised on the tip of someone's tongue.

            Donald Trump convinced a lot of Americans that he alone could fix things. What a disastrous spiel. In him we have absolutely the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

            As Yong writes, "In a pandemic, the strongest attractor of trust shouldn't be confidence, but the recognition of one's limits."

            That would mean proceeding with extreme caution until we know the enemy better. Unfortunately, we have a president who is certain he knows enough now and is tired of dealing with very dull science.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, May 4, 2020

Of remedies that didn't work: Trumpism

            In the news where I live, a young man was arrested after sending two baggies of cocaine through a drive-up bank vacuum tube.

            For safe-keeping?

            My wife and I shook our heads, laughed, and agreed on this:

            "It's refreshing to hear of bizarre behavior by someone who's not president of the United States."

            Imagine what we've come to laugh off – a president who has attempted to slide all sorts of dangerous stuff right up our tube.

            First he told us not to concern our pretty little heads about COVID-19. Then he told us, as we grew concerned, that tests would be like spring flowers, one for every man and maiden.

            Then he started offering remedies that weren't, indeed, that can kill and have.

            I hesitate to say he capped things with his injection-of-disinfectant musing on live TV, but come on. The man is a bottomless well of abomination.

            Yes, this commentary started out in a madcap, "What ya gonna do?" tone, but things are so very serious. More people have died from this disease than did in Vietnam. More die as these words come from my fingers. Our president dismissed this reality at first.

            Amid all of this, as states and employers face life-or-death decisions, the federal government under Trump is a blinking bystander.

            This speaks to something more serious than the fact that Trump has made himself a running joke. It's the fact that his policies are not serving the country on a broad scale, or the world on an international scale. And those in charge of his party apparently second those policies.

            Hands, now: As we face an actual health crisis that calls for massive spending, who wishes Congress and Trump had refrained from whimsical tax cuts adding a trillion dollars to the federal deficit?

            Hands, now: As we face a global pandemic, who wishes the United States were in its traditional role leading the nations of the world?

            Instead, it's, "America first -- and second, up yours."

            The sobering extent of what we've reaped with a charlatan and xenophobe in our highest office was remarked upon in scathing ways in a New York Times article in which foreign observers commented on America's changed world standing under Trump.

            "This is the first global crisis in more than a century where no one is even looking to the United States for leadership," writes the Times' Katrin Bennold.

            "There is special irony," she continues. "Germany and South Korea, both products of enlightened postwar U.S. leadership, have become potent examples of best practices in the coronavirus crisis."

            Dominique Moisi, a senior adviser at the Paris Institute Montaigne, pulled no punches:

            "America has not done badly; it has done spectacularly badly."

            Observing what has become of the global leader America has been, Oxford European historian Timothy Garton Ash remarked, "I feel a desperate sadness."

            It's indicative of the Trump mindset that the most decisive things he's done in the crisis have been trademarks of his "up yours" mentality: Circle the wagons relative to the White House's pitiable role versus states' struggles, and close the borders.

            Criticize the media as liars and fakes, and urge others to do the same. State "facts" not in evidence. Divide the country even more through name-calling, pitting states and even parts of the country against each other.

            Like intravenous bleach, Trumpism is a disastrous remedy for any national problem not conjured by the religious right and outright racists.

            Trump talked of strength on the campaign trail. We see a weak presidency now exactly when we need a strong one. He preached isolation. We find ourselves in a situation now that demands ironclad global coalitions.

            The world will be a better place, the nation sounder, when we can all laugh off the remedy that was Trumpism instead of crying over the reality that is Trump's weakened once-United States.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: