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:


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Ignorance needs a punching bag

           On a scale of pretentiousness, from 1 (Mr. Rogers) to 10 (Mr. T), Anthony Fauci is a 2 and Rand Paul is a 15.

            Badgering Fauci in a Senate hearing, Paul, who puts more stake in herd immunity than masks, said Fauci is "making policy based on conjecture."

            Science often is based on conjecture, which Rand Paul, a physician himself, should know.

            What Fauci promotes is the best guess of the best medical minds at the Centers for Disease Control. What Paul promotes is his own suppositions.

            Sadly, he also promotes a kind of myth-making that contributes to ignorant acts.

            It goes this way: People who want to reject scientific convention seek out a boogie man.

            We saw that with climate change, aka "Al Gore's global warming theory," disregarding that Gore was simply a vessel speaking the truth held by most climate scientists.

            We see that now with conspiracy types who warn that vaccines are somehow linked to one figure's dark designs -- Bill Gates, George Soros . . .

            Only a degree of separation exists between those who seek to make Fauci a punching bag and those who direct their ire at China, or Chinese-Americans or anyone Oriental, amid the pandemic.

            The insidious lip-baiting by Donald Trump and Republicans about China and the virus serves only to deflect the role Trump played in making the pandemic much worse.

            Whatever the claim, making Fauci the bad guy is outrageous when he is simply acting in consort and consultation with fellow epidemiologists.

            In the hearing last week, Paul said he wanted proof – a study – that wearing masks after vaccination is a necessary step.

            Fauci wouldn't play that game. He said that mask wearing for those vaccinated is simply a precaution because we don't know at this point if people who are immune via vaccination can transmit asymptomatically or if they might be susceptible to new variants of the virus.

            Understand, Rand? The answer is we don't know.

            What Paul is doing is what we've seen done in so many public health issues: the seeding of doubt in science.

            We saw it when the tobacco industry did all in its immense power to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the public about smoking's link to cancer.

            The very same strategy by some of the same players, has been employed to forestall useful steps to curb carbon-loading in our atmosphere and hence to moderate global temperatures.

            Read all about it in Eric Conway and Naomi Oreske's book about that two-pronged assault on science, "Merchants of Doubt."

            It is very useful for those merchants to make Al Gore the punching bag. It's easier to assail one man than a massive body of scientific inquiry.

            Say what you will about Fauci; it's not HIS science that is at play in this still-tender moment. It's a whole bunch of scientists making a bead on a moving target.

            Only the hawkers of ignorance would make him a target.

            That brings us to the unfathomable rage directed at Asian-Americans – for what?

            We know what.

            Certain individuals, like the man from Mar-a-Lago, know what whatever ails us that might involve reasoned changes in our behavior, they can block by making someone else the villain.

            Mexicans and Central Americans seeking new lives. Black people seeking justice amid unrelenting oppression. Muslims seeking simply to exist among us. Any and all can be made great distractions.

            All it takes is a blowhard and a microphone.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, March 14, 2021

'Doddering Joe' takes off like a geyser

           "President Biden delivered his first prime-time address today to speak about the past year and present a hopeful vision of America in returning to normal, and then the Republicans were given 30 minutes for rebuttal." – Seth Meyers

            So, a joke or not?

            Based on public opinion, the joke is squarely on those who mocked Joe Biden.

            That's "Sleepy Joe," via Donald Trump, "doddering Joe" by Sean Hannity.

            So decrepit. So pitiable.

            Well, pity his foes. Biden has done more in 50 days than any president since FDR.

            Republicans in Congress, in their stout unanimity against the American Rescue Plan, must gulp to see the 70 percent-plus public approval of the measure.

            Even Americans who identify as fiscal conservatives are embracing federal assistance aimed at households rather than board rooms.

            That, of course, brings up the age-old question that Republicans never ask themselves when they control the wheel: What about that deficit?

            In 2017, when Republicans went all in on a $1.9 trillion tax-cut bill weighted almost criminally toward mega corporations and the wealthy, nary a peep escaped their lips about that deficit.

            Similarly, the Republicans couldn't come up with a good reason why those tax cuts were necessary. The economy was robust. Their motive came down to one reason: They did it because they could.

            Economists advise against cutting taxes when the economy is growing. That's what our economy was doing coming out of the Great Recession.

            Who knew a pandemic and job numbers not seen since the Great Depression were around the corner? The GOP's signing off on budget-busting tax cuts was a crass gesture for a party living for the moment, a farmer feeding seed corn to the swine.

            As to Republican criticism that the pandemic package is not solely targeted at the poor, one could ask them: To what targets were your tax cuts directed?

            The Democrats' bill does more for the poor than any piece of legislation since the Great Society.

            First, let's talk about the checks that will go to most Americans. We are talking about two tiers of taxpayers and what those checks will do.

            The first is low-income people for whom those checks will pay for rent and heat.

            The second, those less distressed financially, will use their checks to repair a roof or put some money down on a replacement vehicle.

            That spending will mean jobs for those desperate to get off unemployment.

            Beyond those checks, Biden's signature is going to mean transformational assistance for the less privileged.

            It will extend unemployment. It will make unemployment benefits during the pandemic nontaxable.

            It will dramatically increase the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, lifting millions of American families above the poverty level.

            That's not all. It will provide additional subsidies to make the Affordable Care Act more affordable. It will provide small business loans and assistance to restaurants.

            The support for the Democrats plan, after electing a Democratic president and congressional majority, may signal that the nation is turning the page from trickle-down mythology.  It's harder to convince a majority of voters that "government is the problem." A system of untenable inequality is the problem.

            Could it be that this nation no longer is under the voodoo spell of Reaganomics and the top-down, trickle-down approach to addressing the nation's ailments?

            With a transfer of assets from social programs to the military and the wealthy through regressive taxes, Republican rule was never about fiscal austerity. It was about unfairness.

            If it were about austerity, the deficit would have been tamed.

            The fact is that Democratic presidents have been more successful through the years in reducing deficits. However, Democrats also have shown that when the economy is flagging, they are willing to step up with a bold rescue.

            Our new president, true to his promise, has stepped up to lift both the nation and its neediest out of despair.

            We have gone from trickle-down to geyser-up. Let's see which gets us higher.

            Sleepy Joe? Doddering Joe? Let me suggest a nickname more suitable for this president as he dedicates himself to the nation's needs geyser-style: Old Faithful.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Build the wall -- at Texas' entry to New Mexico

            In his 2013 best-seller "Spillover" (subtitle: "Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic"), David Quammen used quotation marks to introduce "superspreader" to the reading masses.

            Wholly unneeded keystrokes now -- the meaning self-evident -- I doubt a single Republican flinched to see Trump rallies denounced as superspreader events, because they were, unapologetically so.

            To that category add the recent CPAC spread-fest and boos for the word "masks." Add a certain Jan. 6 rally and riot. And to the list now, add the state of Texas.

            One could quibble semantically, since Quammen's definition is meant for a party of one "who directly infects far more people than does the typical infected patient."

            So, award the title to Greg Abbott.

            By dropping any pretense of fighting the spread of the disease with state mandates, Texas' governor has done his part to assure that the pandemic, like March, will not recede with a whimper.

            It wasn't going to anyway, despite the false sense of security underlying the loosening of restrictions. The virus will just be that much more recalcitrant because of policymakers more interested in commerce than lives lost.

            It's not too late, however, to dent the tide of suffering. To that end, I have a special request for New Mexico.

            Build a wall – at the town of Texline, if nowhere else.

            Texline, on U.S. 287, is the sleepy gateway where the Lone Star State cedes northward to the Land of Enchantment.

            Texline means much to me. Growing up in Colorado with kin down south (both parents born in Texas) the state-line marker in Texas' sandstone image staged countless family photos.

            Later I got a newspaper job in my folks' home state, and it served the same purpose for my children when we traveled north.

            Now I live in Colorado, and it is a threat to us all that people who might boo masks are traveling up U.S. 287 to pack the ski lifts during spring break.

            It also is alarming that young people without a care heard the "all clear" from Abbott and will make the reverse trip down 287 from up north, headed for Texas' beaches and all that aerosolized merriment.

            Dear New Mexico: Stop this before it's too late.

            Nothing grand needed, nothing worthy of Donald Trump's signature. Just a chain-link fence, and a yellow-and-red "We take pandemics seriously" sign with the state insignia.

Texas is not taking it seriously. Abbott gave lip service to "personal vigilance" against the disease. He knows, however, that his directive has promoted just the opposite.

            He knows that people will die so that cash registers will ring.

            In my time in Texas I interviewed Abbott several times as state Supreme Court justice and attorney general. I never thought of him as a goon.

            When given a chance to explain his rationale for this decision, however, he sure came off like one.

            He didn't even attempt to defend it on health-policy grounds. When asked about President Biden's rightful criticism of it, he said Biden "is bringing illegal immigrants into the state of Texas and then releasing them" -- them and their germs.

            Abbott clearly has learned the art of deflection at the knee of the master – he whose irresponsibility as president was and is central to the fates of more than 500,000 dead Americans and so many more who suffer today.

            By contrast, Joe Biden is doing everything he can to save lives.

            The galling thing about the debate about masks is that there's even a debate. The bottom line about mask-wearing is that it shows you care about your fellow man. Supposedly that's what Christians do.

            Regardless of where you live and what your governor has said or done, wear one.

            And New Mexico, build that wall.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: