Sunday, May 9, 2021

Culture war's ghost hunters

            If this is "woke," bring it.

            Add my voice to those calling on the NCAA to stick it to states that marginalize transgender individuals.

            That could mean pulling tournaments based on the NCAA Board of Governor's April 12 statement that "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender athletes to compete in college sports."

            The action of taking business away from those states requires newfound spinal fortitude from the NCAA and would allow it to show its expressed policy of being committed to sites "free of discrimination."

            Like mastodons ahead of a thunderstorm, red-state legislatures have stampeded to make life even more miserable for those who don't identify with their birth genders.

            This includes "bathroom bills" based on wild claims about the ridiculous threat when someone who is transgender meets nature's call.

            Their miserable actions create horrific and unconscionable restrictions against gender-affirming medical care, and require schoolchildren to compete in high school sports based on the gender of their birth.

            That's the one that has the NCAA's attention.

            With all this action – bills in 20 states -- you'd think that transgender athletes are coming in like waves of sword-bearing Cossacks.

            Actually, an Associated Press analysis found this to be a ghost pursuit -- almost no examples of transgender students stepping into the fields of prep athletic pursuit, citing but two – one in Hawaii and one in Alaska.

            That leaves 48 states to be plundered.

            This is in keeping with Republicans' forever efforts to do anything but meet the needs of the commonwealth – instead to posture and engage in the culture war maneuver of the moment.

            This is what has made Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz what he is – a man in search of a new offensive. Hear him huff against "wokeness."

            Let highways crumble. Let schools gasp for resources. Let the working poor despair for the lack of health coverage. Let's create a menace and alarm the troops. Down, Ted. Down.

            Years ago in Texas, then-Gov. Rick Perry, another Republican culture warrior, put a lot of miles on state vehicles campaigning for a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, which – ahem -- was already illegal there. In other words, it was posturing and nothing more.

            A raft of court rulings on behalf of gay rights have cut off avenues of discrimination against people based solely on their sexual orientation. With the religious right clamoring for something to discriminate against, the Republican Party has chosen transgender individuals.

            The most phantasmagoric of all threats remains the so-called specter of voter fraud. No matter how hard Republicans search, they can't seem to find it.

            That hasn't stopped waves of "ballot security" measures.

            Of course, as several federal judges have observed, the one and only reason for these measures is to boost Republicans' advantages at the ballot box. More pertinently, it is to make voting more difficult for the aged, the poor, the people who need help voting and their helpers, and people of color.

            Now these bills are papered around the newfound imperative to do anything to posture one's self before the Golden Calf, the con of Mar-a-Lago.

            What do Republicans stand for anymore? Observe the national debate over leadership. By and large, they stand for the Big Lie and a big liar. Only a few of those Republicans who know the Big Truth have spoken up.

            The rest have found an issue in "woke" initiatives aimed at making states and people in power pay for policies that harm those with the least power, seeming to ignore the fact that some voters who are Republican actually like easier voting.

            Understand that "woke" has its roots in black slang, a statement about not submitting to injustice.

            That should tell you everything about today's Republican Party. It was once the Party of Lincoln. Now it is the party of pettiness, motivated by phantoms and fallen idols.

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

Monday, May 3, 2021

Where's America's apology for lie after lie?

          I'm waiting for my apology from Newsmax.

          Last week it apologized to Eric Coomer, director of security for Dominion Voting Systems, for spreading Republican lies about the 2020 election.

          It apologized for "any harm that our reporting" caused to Coomer and his family. They had received death threats generated by the Trump lie machine.

          Newsmax is trying to save its tail feathers ahead of a lawsuit for which, in the case of Fox News and its own Big Lie claims, Dominion seeks $1.8 million.

          Dominion also is suing Rudy Giuliani and One America News Network, among others.

          It dropped Newsmax from its lawsuit after the apology and a retraction of its false reporting.

          What I want to know is why Newsmax is not apologizing to me, and to all Americans who value democracy and dread oligarchy.

          I want an apology from agents who triggered an insurrection -- blood flowing in our Capitol – my Capitol.

          I want an apology from those who continue to live by the Big Lie. I won't get that apology, because they live for lies.

          Lies – like the claim that Joe Biden is out to take the hamburger right out of your hands, and cut beef production by 90 percent. Based solely on a British tabloid's squirrely "analysis" of Biden's climate proposals, Fox News went to town on that Whopper with cheese.

          Fox News' John Roberts later acknowledged the speciousness of that. Though among his on-air comrades, he was the only one with the guts to admit it.

          They felt no such obligation, as truth is not what they do.

          Further evidence comes from the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, where a reporter resigned after being ordered to write that a children's book by Kamala Harris had been imposed upon unattended minors at the border. 

          Lies, lies, lies. But none supersedes the Big Lie about the dethroning of our previous president.

          A recent survey found that 60 percent of Republicans think the election was stolen -- a harrowing premise if derived from actual evidence.

          Clearly 60 percent of Republicans need none.

          Donald Trump will go down as a most inconsequential president for his lack of accomplishments, but as pertains to lasting radioactivity, the Big Lie looks to have the half-life of plutonium.

          As the Republicans populate their leadership ahead of 2022, quite clearly the only thing that matters is allegiance to the Big Lie.

          That means that Congresswoman Liz Cheney is toast.

          To be nominated by the GOP, truth need not apply.

          The folly of the Arizona recount now ongoing, and claims that the results in Georgia and Pennsylvania were rigged, is that several Republicans won in precincts where voters could not hack voting for Trump. Were their ballots tainted as well?

          The interesting thing about the posturing to win Trump's favor in advance of what's to come in Republican primaries is that he is more reviled today by Americans than ever before – and that's a lot, because he's Gallup's least popular president ever polled.

          As low as Trump's approval ratings are – 38.6 percent in leaving office, it's still stunning that even that many Americans support him. But they have been conditioned to accept lie after lie, and so they were quite ready to accept the Big Lie.

          Back to the matter of Joe Biden supposedly wanting to take beef off your table:

          "Crazy narratives are tough to dispel," writes Molly Roberts in the Washington Post. "They're designed to inflame by warping a matter of policy into a matter of identity."

          With the lie about Biden taking our beef, Roberts writes, Trumpians find a way to deflect any serious discussion of climate change, just as Trump did in dismissing wind power: "And they say the noise causes cancer."

          The Big Lie lives on not because of anything factual that supports it but because angry people don't want to think about serious responses to serious national challenges. They desire that a clown shall lead them.

          America deserves an apology and a retraction.

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

 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Hearsay and 'herd' stupidity

            "First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff."

            Sad to say, that 2005 account from USA Today reflects not only the behavior of woolly creatures but also those we assume capable of knowing a water hazard from a fairway.

            But then we elect people like Ron Johnson – and Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Marjorie Taylor Greene – people fit only to lead followers off a precipice.

            Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, has, like too many Republican leaders chosen the path of ignorance in the face of a pandemic that continues to kill and hospitalize.

            Johnson, who has had COVID-19, has questioned the need for mass vaccination, assuming, I guess, that somehow the virus will burn itself out.

            He's eschewed the vaccine, saying that having had the virus makes him immune, and the numbers of Americans who have had and recovered it so far negate the need for mass vaccination.

            Ah, but Senator, the CDC says don't bank on immunity from contracted COVID-19, either in its effectiveness or in its longevity.

            Last December the previous occupant of the White House was spouting nonsense like this.

            "You develop immunity over a period of time, and I hear we're close to 15 percent. I'm hearing that, and that is terrific. That's a powerful vaccine in itself."

            In terms of dealing with a pandemic, this ranks with Clorox spritzers.

            "I hear" – favorite words of that one-time, one-term president -- words typical of knowledge that is nothing.

            People like Sen. Johnson cannot be prevented from speaking, but we all could hope for the scientific breakthrough by which, when an elected leader tells a whopper, he gets a mackerel across the kisser.

            Anyone who talks about herd immunity at the expense of vaccination should get a wet one until further notice.

            Fifteen percent. Those who know something about epidemiology say the notion is not relevant until we exceed 60 percent immunity, although the threshold could be as high as 80 percent.

            Until then, vaccinations are the answer, most likely with booster shots required in a year. The virus won't vanish, nor can it be wished away.

            For Johnson to act as if he is done with the illness is pure idiocy, which is looking like the chief means of getting nominated as a Republican in 2021.

            One of the key resources in understanding the pandemic is a forecasting model by independent data scientist Youyang Gu. Until recently it was called "Path to Herd Immunity." Recently, however, Gu changed the name to "Path to Normality."

            He said that herd immunity may be unattainable because of several factors, headed by reluctance to be vaccinated.

            In other words, the ignorance of the very people who talk up herd immunity as our salvation are the reason it may never come to pass with this virus.

            As with COVID-19, the rampant speculation bred by the political and media leaders on the right is a virus unto itself.

            From what we know after a year of this pandemic, "herd immunity" at this stage is nothing more than wishful thinking minus the thought.

            I recently heard a radio voice say that he'd like to see someone other than Anthony Fauci, someone "without the baggage," lead the nation's pandemic response.

            The only "baggage" Fauci has is that weighted on him by the previous clown squad that second-guessed and otherwise made his job so untenable.

            As of this writing we have lost 571,000 Americans to this illness. How many followed a leader like Ron Johnson right off the cliff?

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

Monday, April 19, 2021

Baby Talk from the Infantile Right

            Jim Jordan, cover your nose.

            A full-grown individual should know the function of a mask in a pandemic.

            There was the Ohio congressman, however, in full 3-year-old mode, his nasal instrument hanging out as he berated Anthony Fauci.

            Jordan was reprising a tiresome Republican act: assailing Fauci for being what scientists always are, which is circumspect.

            Jordan used big-boy words like "metrics" and "liberties," but all translated to: "I wanna."

            I wanna go about business like there's no pandemic.

            I wanna ignore the CDC.

            I wanna do whatever I wanna.

            Fauci refused to give Jordan what he wanna-ed: a date for when this whole pandemic thing will be over. Tuesday? Thursday?

            Are we there yet?

            Well, sure, every child wants to stop at the next Stuckey's. But let's get somewhere, people.

            Someone has to be the grownup in this car.

            Someone has to be the adult Ted Cruz has chosen not to be. Cruz will no longer wear a mask in the Senate because, well, his pandemic is over.

            This and so much more about today's Republicans tells us we need a new term for the life-force of the party.

            It used to be the religious right, and didn't Donald Trump know it. He knew what rings to kiss and what positions to take to earn its love even if he thought it was garbage.

            Now Trumpism is the party's life force, or its death wish.

            What does this mean beyond Trump? Projecting the behavior we see from Jordan, and Cruz, and Josh Hawley and Capitol rioters, and whatever neuroses afflict the body politic far beyond Trump, I'll offer this term: the infantile right.

            The infantile right doesn't deal in big issues. It deals in big, sopping tears. Did you hear about Mr. Potato Head? What about that Dr. Seuss book you never heard of because we started screaming about "cancel culture"?

            Did you hear what "they" did? It's all horrible what "they" are doing to our culture.

            "They" and "them" are the infantile right's pronouns of choice. Tucker Carlson is becoming the great purveyor of concern about "them" as he promotes the white supremacist code of "replacement theory."

            Translation: The Democrats want to pollute our swimming pool with brown skins and drive out those rightfully there to get a tan.

            Nothing is more infantile than the impulse Republicans have nursed to blame a virus (which many believe to be a hoax), on "them" – hence the "China virus," the "Hong Kong flu," Trump-stirred hate against our fellow man.

            The infantile right doesn't confine its whine to racist tropes. The infantile right will not countenance anything that scientists say if what science says prevents infantile people from doing what they wanna.

            This includes precautions to save the planet from climate disaster.

            This includes protecting endangered species, waterways and public lands.

            Back to the pandemic. We are not ready to change the rankings that will place Trump atop the list of influencers who have killed the most Americans by virtue of his arrogance and antipathy to science.

            However, it might not be too long before we can comfortably pronounce Tucker Carlson No. 1 as he continues to cast doubt about vaccinations.

            One of his frequent guests is Alex Berenson, a COVID conspiracy theorist who uses bogus data to convince people that shots actually cause the illness. He's asserted that the side effects of vaccinations on seniors are worse than the disease.

            The No. 1 reason why so many Republican men shun vaccination: Fox Nation.

            Tucker Carlson, reckoning awaits.

            It used to be that the right was represented by serious voices like William F. Buckley, Irving Kristol and George Will. Now it is represented by Baby Plucky Duck -- he of the '90s animated hit "Tiny Toons." His trademark line was, "I wanna flush it again."

            Which must be what Republicans wish for their party.

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

 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Forward the GOP white brigade

            Half a league, half a league, half a league onward.

            All in the valley of Death rode the 10 thousand.

            "Forward the White Brigade!"

            Apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson, but a certain full-of-self Republican in Texas has made the appropriation too easy.

            Last week the Washington Post shared video of an unidentified GOP official calling for 10,000 volunteers to brave the darker reaches of urban Houston to find -- and fight! -- voter fraud.

            Sounding like a Trumpian brigadier (Eric?), he exhorts the troops, saying that to brave a harrowing urban center frequented by people of varied colors calls for "confidence and courage."

            You see, he says, "This is where the fraud is occurring."

            Courage. Courage.

            Might this also be where the voter intimidation will be once the GOP "army" besets heavily minority precincts?

            "Army" is not my terminology but that of the Harris County Republican chairman in explaining to the Post what the white knight might have had in mind in rallying the troops: "an army" recruited "to engage voters for the whole ballot, top to bottom, and ensure every legal vote is counted."

            Presumably this will not entail handing voters any bottled beverage, something which, last we checked, remains legal in Texas.

            Water for he who thirsts. No matter how biblical, it's an Election Day misdemeanor now in Georgia.

            A Texas reader is not stirred: "Oh, my, how sad! Well, can't some people do some things for themselves? What is wrong with taking their own bottle of water?"

            Of course, the issue isn't packing one's own Perrier. The issue isn't concerned citizens volunteering to make sure that elections run smoothly.

            The issue is two-fold

            (1) All of these maneuvers are framed around a lie – the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

            (2) All are aimed at voters of color.

            A big lie. A big, racist lie.

            Call it a brigade. Call it an army. The GOP has identified the enemy, and it is voters of color.

            It is voters who traditionally endure longer lines in urban centers. And they do endure. We see them every Election Day entrusting a system that doesn't always trust them.

            They don't live out among the white picket fences where Escalades roam free. They live in the land of row houses and bus stops.

            It's a sweeping claim to call a major political party racist, or race-motivated.

            But we look at the Big Lie, and we look at the frantic maneuvers to overturn the 2020 presidential results and now to suppress the vote under the guise of "vote security." It's all about challenging or tamping down the votes of minorities. And by review, it's all motivated by a lie.

            In the words of the Brennan Center for Justice, which monitors voting rights, these vote suppression measures are "a solution in search of a problem."

            Ask Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, long and loud in trumpeting the Big Lie.

            His staff last year devoted 22,000 hours investigating voter fraud and found just 16 cases of it.

            Gov. Greg Abbott preceded Paxton in the same role and launched his own futile quest to find the kind of rampant voter fraud that would justify increasing levels of "vote security."

            There is no other reason for what we see today in a host of red states but that Donald Trump said the election was stolen – and stolen by heavily minority districts – and that's that.

            A big, racist lie.

            So it doesn't matter what the "army" calls itself. That's not the issue. Presuming it doesn't break the law in intimidating voters, the visitors are welcome down where all those urban dwellers dwell.

            The issue is that the Republican Party's quest is that few people of color vote.

            Forward, White Brigade.

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

Monday, April 5, 2021

Vote suppression: the GOP national pastime

            Wanted: a new location for the Major League All-Star Game. Qualifications: (1) must love baseball; (2) must show fidelity to self-government, meaning opposition to chicanery that makes it harder for poor people to vote.

            Georgia, you're out, says Commissioner Rob Manfred.

            Hey, MLB, pick my state, Colorado. It has done great things to increase voter turnout.

            My state loves democracy as much as it loves baseball. Our governor has put out the word to MLB. Pick us.

            Atlanta just lost the All-Star Game and baseball's draft because the major leagues joined the swelling ranks of those repulsed by Georgia's newly restrictive voting laws.

            Hopefully it's just the beginning of pain for a host of Republican leaders who have aimed a dark stream of spittle at our democracy.

            President Biden calls what Georgia has done "Jim Crow on steroids." That's not hyperbole when, in addition to decimating the number of ballot drop-off boxes, Georgia goes so far as to forbid giving water to voters standing in line.

            This is not a new initiative. Baseball is America's pastime. Vote suppression has become the Republican Party's pastime.

            That condition has not beset my state. Colorado leads the nation in making voting easy and accessible.

            Colorado has demonstrated that Donald Trump's screeching about the perils of mail-in voting is just blather.

            Colorado has universal mail-in voting. It works.

            Not only does Colorado not restrict when people can register or vote, it has same-day voter registration. It works.

            Colorado supplies a plentitude of drop-off boxes for mail ballots. It works.

            What baseball has said to Georgia is that you can't host a game treasured by Americans if you spit on something even more cherished: the right to vote.

            Not surprisingly, Texas Republicans are winding up to deliver a loogie.

            You would think Republicans in Texas wouldn't need to go all Houston Astros to retain their political advantage. Well, bang that trash can.

            A Senate bill would submarine local efforts to increase voter turnout – like extended early voting and the wide availability of voter drop-off boxes.

            It would prohibit extended hours meant for shift workers. It would outlaw drive-through voting. It would take decisions about polling places out of the hands of local officials. It would allow partisan poll-waters to videotape voters they deem "suspicious."

            It's offensive. It's wrong. It's hyper-partisan. It's driven by racism.

            Just as surely as Republicans tried to overturn the votes of minority-heavy precincts in the 2020 election, these laws draw a target on poor people and those of color attempting to carry out their citizenly duty.

            Republicans cannot deny this. They know it. People of color know it.

            Republicans say this is about "election integrity." It is just the opposite. It's election dishonesty.

            Fortunately, some other players know it, like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines in Georgia. Like American Airlines and Dell Technologies, which have registered their revulsion with what the Texas Senate has voted to do.

            What's most scandalous about the flurry of vote-suppression measures in red states is that their pretext is Donald Trump's Big Lie about the election. Worse still is the transparent, Trump-style racism inherent.

            It's heartening to see the blowback.

            The next blowback will be from black and brown voters.

            Godspeed to Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Beto O'Rourke in Texas and progressive forces in Arizona who impress on voters what the Republican Party has attempted to do. I predict it will backfire with increased minority turnout.

            The first shoe to drop is what Major League Baseball did last week.

            Again, MLB: For your All-Star Game, let me offer a state that loves democracy as much as it loves baseball.

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

 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Kneel before gleaming utensils of death

          Louis Klarevas is alive only because it was a shotgun pointed in his face that day and not an AR-15.

            The gunman got off only one errant shot when Klarevas and his two frantic friends knocked the shotgun to the side and disarmed the maniac.

            Klarevas later learned that the nut wasn't your textbook gun nut, not one with an arsenal fit for a Third World army like so many mass assailants. The weapon was a vintage family heirloom.

            Writes Klarevas, "Had the shooter been carrying a concealed, light-weight, high-capacity semi automatic weapon, the outcome would have been dramatically different."

            For one, Klarevas likely wouldn't be alive to appeal for sane gun laws in his 2013 book "Rampage Nation."

            As for countless dead and maimed Americans, their families, their communities, reasonable people must appeal for them.

            Tragically, public policies are in grips of a love triangle: the Republican Party, gun hobbyists, gun lobbyists.

            Despite clear and pronounced majority support in this country for reasoned gun laws proven to save lives, we remain sitting ducks in a shooting gallery.

            Most of what comes from the gun lobby is ridiculous and whiny pleadings based on buyer convenience.

            The most ridiculous argument is that stricter gun laws serve no purpose. Wrong.

            The first four years of the 10-year Assault Weapons Ban, in effect from 1994 to 2004 when it lapsed at the hands of a Republican-controlled Congress, the United States had not even one gun massacre (six or more killed by one gunman). That law saved lives.

            Another ridiculous argument is hobbyists' attempt to parse away any distinction from military-style weapons and hunting arms. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography, we know an assault weapon when we see it. And we can ban it.

            What is an assault weapon? It's whatever we, the governing powers of a democratic republic, say it is. The Second Amendment allows it, say the courts.

            As for that amendment's broad-brush application, former Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Republican appointee, said, "The Gun Lobby's interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word 'fraud,' on the American people by special interest groups that I have even seen in my lifetime."

            That amendment was about a well-regulated militia, not convenience for a deranged individual who decides to mow down grocery shoppers.

            To treat only a portion of that amendment the whole of "Second Amendment rights" is akin to those who saw the 2020 election count on Election Night, ignored the count of subsequent mornings, and said Donald Trump won.

            Freedom to bear arms? How about a Stinger missile? How about an Abrams tank? How about dynamite?

            Again, it is we who decide what weapons shouldn't be on dealers' shelves.

            In the wake of the Aurora theater shooting, in 2013 Colorado banned the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines that carried more than 15 rounds.

            The gun lobby staged a slobbery tantrum. A manufacturer of the killer wares moved to Wyoming. Good riddance.

            Trying to understand the dynamics of a school shooting in writing his 1994 book, "Lethal Passage," Erik Larson asked far and wide for a civilian justification for high-capacity magazines. He found only one lucid one from a hobbyist: "simply to save time on reloading while you're at the range." Hey, gun ranges charge by the hour, you know.

            Let Ted Cruz preen about the sanctity of gun rights. We know what this is all about: commerce -- the filthiest lucre on the planet.

            And the gun industry isn't the only beneficiary of all this. In the 2018 election cycle, Cruz received $311,151 from gun-rights interests.

            As one reader wrote me after the Boulder massacre:

            "Those who fight to maintain this nightmare are cowards. They worship false idols, which their guns have become. They should be fearful of the day when they discover what weapons of death they have become."

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