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:

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:


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:

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: