Sunday, August 29, 2021

Stinkin' rotten stupid COVID politics

            Tetanus. Polio. Measles. Mumps and rubella. These are vaccinations Texas required of my sons before they started school in the '80s.

            Over the years, Hepatitis B. Chickenpox and Hepatitis A were added to the requirements.

            Ten years ago the Texas Legislature appended meningitis to the list.

            These vaccinations are required unless parents fill out extensive forms every semester for a religious exemption, or if they fill out even more extensive forms to obtain a medical exemption at the start of every school year.

            Why not require vaccination for the virus now overwhelming Texas hospitals and cutting a swath of tragedy through the South?

            The only legitimate "why not" at the moment is that children under 12 are not eligible.

            The other, "why not," tragically, is stinking, rotten, outrageous, stupid politics.

            A Republican Legislature added meningitis to the required protections. That was smart. Interestingly, I don't recall meningitis killing Americans by the hundreds of thousands and circling the globe with deadly variants.

            What's the difference now?

            Stinking, rotten, stupid politics.

            It's the kind of politics that would lead a Republican audience to boo Donald Trump – Donald Trump! – for speaking favorably of life-saving vaccines.

            How can these people call themselves pro-life? Of course, they do.

            Stinking, rotten, stupid politics are at play as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threaten school districts if temporary policies require students to wear masks.

            It is unconscionable that ideologues who otherwise preach "local control" fight like hell against that very thing as schools seek to keep children – and their families – safe.

            But of course, this is all about stinking, rotten, stupid politics.

            I teach on a college campus. Every individual is masked. It is not convenient. It's a hassle. But it's the price paid for staying healthy and convening face to face.

            The price too often paid for the absence of face coverings, and of course the absence of vaccinations, is gruesome, lingering death or long-term disability, and huge medical bills.

            This shouldn't take a judge. All it should take is the word of health professionals. However, when a state judge told DeSantis he couldn't bar schools from mandating masks, he said mask mandates are "reasonable and consistent with the best scientific and medical opinion in the country." That means DeSantis (as with Abbott) is unreasonably following his own base political instincts at the expense of public health.

            The Florida judge also pointed to two court cases in which individual rights were limited by their impact on the rights of others.

            "Freedom of choice" is the anti-mask, anti-vax line. This does not compute when the matter is contagious, deadly disease.

            To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes: Your freedom ends where my sinus cavity begins.

            Back to vaccinations. Last week Abbott issued an edict that local governments could not require vaccinations. He said that such a matter has always been the responsibility of the state. Fair point.

            He did, however, recommend that the Legislature, now in special session, discuss whether or not to add COVID-19 to the required vaccinations.

            Ten years ago the addition of meningitis to the list was largely uncontroversial and passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Now, scandalously, the GOP is pushed around by anti-vaxers.

            And so, we won't get our hopes up.

            The other day the man who was my family doctor in Texas wrote this on Facebook:

            "Vaccinated and masked with an N-95, I walked through HEB noting that 95 percent of patrons were not masked. Then I sadly realized that one or two of these mask-less individuals may die of COVID-19 over the next six weeks.

            "Oh, what would Charles Darwin think of us today? Evolutionary biology is playing out for all of us to witness and experience."

            Evolutionary biology driven by stinking, rotten, stupid politics.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Republicans have sworn off the future

            This just in: The author of "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future" says he never said global warming was a hoax.

            That would be Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who still is not interested in doing anything about the problem, even if it isn't a hoax, which is how he, or someone, describes it in the title of the 2012 book that bears his name.

            He is among growing ranks of Republicans cited by The New York Times who now acknowledge climate change. Still, admitting climate change exists is scary enough for these latecomers. They want to do nothing about it.

            Well, not nothing, exactly. The Times reports that Republicans are inclined to "prepare communities to cope" with a climate situation that saw the hottest July on record, with thousand-year drought conditions, unspeakable storms, and wildfires without precedent.

            There's "future" implied by the word "prepare," but as Sen. Rick Scott, the Florida Republican, told the Times on actually mitigating that which threatens the planet's future: Nah.

            "I'm not doing anything to raise the cost of living for American families," he said.

            You mean like what a thousand-year drought might do for food prices? Like what superstorms and sea-level rise do to Florida condos?

            "Nah" is what most Republicans said to President Biden's ultra forward-looking infrastructure bill, which the Brookings Institute calls a "generational investment" in making this country "more inclusive, environmentally resilient and industrially competitive."

            We don't need such a thing if it will raise the vending-machine price of Goobers.

            I read the other day about a proposal to build a high-speed rail line in Texas from Dallas to Houston through College Station. A judge recently threw out a suit to stop it when foes sought to forbid eminent domain.

            The odds against high-speed rail in Texas remain great with future-averse Republicans running the show in the state Capitol.

            Reading about this proposal, my mind flashed back almost 30 years to when Texas went through exhaustive hearings on a proposed high-speed rail line along the Interstate-35 corridor, a major Texas traffic artery that's clogged throughout much of the state. Texas would have that rail today had a Republican legislature not forbidden public dollars from going to the project.

            That's tragic/comic irony when one considers the figurative gold bricks being smelted together to expand an I-35 that will be overmatched the moment it is completed.

            The definition of bad government is addressing only today's needs and not acknowledging that today becomes tomorrow by sunrise.

            Rail improvements and expansions are part of the Biden infrastructure plan, and good for our future. Yes, most of us remain tied to pavement, but millennials and younger Americans are falling out of love with automobiles.

            Colorado, with a Democratic lock on governance, is accelerating long-delayed notions of higher-speed rail traffic on the Front Range to deal with horrific traffic congestion on its own crucial artery, Interstate 25.

            Right now the leading candidate is a state partnership with Amtrak for a 191-mile north-south route using available track. It would be modeled after the rail line linking Milwaukee and Chicago in a joint arrangement between Wisconsin and Illinois.

            Enough with the "People won't ride trains" dodge. Times are changing, whether stick-in-the-mud policy makers want to admit it or not.

            It was just 12 years ago that a start-up named Uber changed the face of transportation in America. It's easy to see in Colorado's future an Uber-to-Amtrak-to-Uber-and-back night in the big city from where I live 50 miles from Denver.

            By the way, passenger traffic on the Milwaukee-to-Chicago line has paid for nearly 90 percent of its operating costs.

            And guess what? For that we get less pollution, and that region's highways get less congestion, with less gasoline used, all good things.

            The sad thing about climate deniers and climate-action sandbaggers is that, firmly established science aside, measures to deal with climate change are all good on dozens of dimensions. 

            They save finite energy sources. They extend the lives of aquifers, rivers, reservoirs and beaches. They save forests. They save money. And they generate economic activity.

            The problem with too many Republicans is that, in their quest to preserve yesterday ("Clean, beautiful coal") they don't dare look past today.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, August 15, 2021

'COVID slide' is the least of our concerns

            Across many years living in Texas and commenting on education, I often railed against homeschoolers.

            Not homeschoolers in general, just the ones sitting on the state school board. Yes, people with no stake in our schools -- even outright antipathy toward them -- governing them.

            Which sounds way too much like the Legislature.

            Well, let me say this: My sons are done with their schooling, but if they weren't, and if their health were in any way subject to today's red-state gubernatorial antics, I'd have stacks of teaching materials on my desk right now. The boys' new homeschool year would start with PBS.

            We all know that one of the essential elements of the K-12 experience, particularly the K part, is microbial immersion. But COVID-19 isn't just any microbe.

            Scandalously, some Republican policy-makers are not treating this as a health crisis but as a Be-Like-Trump posturing fest. No parent should allow his or her child to serve as a political petri dish.

            Without question, the best education takes place face-to-face. Masks help facilitate that amid a pandemic. And, yes, Rand Paul, the consensus of epidemiologists is that masks make a big difference.

            But reckless attitudes toward COVID are not the subject of this commentary.

            It's about education and the ridiculous term, "COVID slide."

            First off, ever since the nation got fixated on standardized tests -- Texas once considered the "cradle" of that -- school policy in too many instances has been locked in on baseline training, not education. How many basic things can we train students to do?

            The end result has been to conflate excellence with competence.

            We've also been fixated on a conveyor-belt model: students flowing by at a state-set velocity as assigned criteria are implanted in their brains.

            Well, last year the conveyor belt slowed down for a pandemic.

            In some education corners, that has caused a panic over the "slide."

            Colorado just got its state test results and – ack – as the Denver Post announced on Page 1: "Virus clouds state scores."

            The headline should have said, "Of course virus messed with test scores; relax, people."

            Of course test scores would sag when education is disrupted as it has been for more than a year and a half. Remote learning is viable for many. It isn't for others.

            In an ideal world in the midst of a pandemic, those who wanted remote learning would have it. With the reduced numbers on campus, schools could have the space and resources to have the utmost protection for face-to-face learners. That would include masks, Governor.

            Regardless, the notion that because of COVID-19 today's students are going to emerge unprepared for life or higher education is absurd.

            Repeat after me: Education is not about checking a set of boxes. Education is about curiosity, enthusiasm, finding one's passion, exploring one's gifts. It's not about "what" so much as "want."

            Do you know the definition of "faculty"? Look it up. Defining it as "an underpaid person assigned to drill criteria into young brains" is just an aberration.

            Look up its synonyms and find words like "power," "capacity," "potential." Education is about those things.

            One of the worst things that has emerged from school "accountability" is the notion: "There's not enough time in the day." Not enough for recess or physical activity. Not enough for story time or show and tell.

            Under the conveyor belt approach, schools have been fixed on quantity over quality, and in a factory there's only so much time to meet one's quota.

            Teachers: Your enthusiasm, your passion, your caring pace – these are going to make for an educated populace. And there's time for that, even amid a pandemic.

            I'm rooting for schools that operate at their own pace, and for cities and school districts that fight politicians bent on undermining their decisions that would keep children safe.

            As for microbes, let us do our best so that our little ones acquire them at the measured pace of their raw-nosed forebears.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:



Monday, August 9, 2021

They would not lie for him

            It is possible to low-ball even Donald Trump's threshold for corruption.

            I did. When reports showed he sought to extort Ukraine to torpedo Joe Biden's candidacy, the assumption – my assumption – was that Trump had demanded an investigation of his most-likely Democratic rival.

            Wrong. What Trump wanted, as revealed by his (second) impeachment trial, was for Ukraine's president simply to lie for him.

            Say there's an investigation. Just set up some cameras and say it. That'll do. I'll take it from there.

            Ukraine's president refused to lie for him.

            We find out this very dynamic was as play in Trump's bullying of the Justice Department after getting shellacked by Biden by 7 million votes and 74 electoral votes.

            According to several reports, Trump pressured acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to report, in words dictated by Trump, "significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states."

            Notes from Rosen's deputy contained this from Trump: "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me."

            But Rosen refused to lie for him. So did Rosen's predecessor, William Barr, on Trump's search for someone, anyone, in Justice to say the election was stolen. Ultimately Trump left that up to big-bellied thugs in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

            "Lie for me, please" was the gambit at play in an hour-long call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State George Raffensberger pleading for him to find a way to show that Trump had won the state, pressuring him with, "I just want to find 11,780 votes." Just 11,780.

            Raffensberger refused to lie for him.

            Trump demanded fealty to him, at the expense of truth and democracy, when he summoned Michigan Republican leaders to the White House to block certification of his 154,000-vote loss of that swing state.

            Ever heard of Aaron Van Langevelde? He refused to lie for Trump as well.

            Though pressured by fellow Republican leaders, the member of the Michigan Board of Vote Canvassers voted with the two Democrats on the board to certify those votes. Since then the Michigan GOP has remove him from the board.

            Warning to any Republican elected official who won't lie for Donald Trump.

            Watch Wyoming Republicans eviscerate Liz Cheney in the congressional primary to come. Watch Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger go down. They will not lie for Trump.

            They will not stand for Trump's behavior. They believe he bears responsibility for the terrorist rampage of Jan. 6 incited by the Big Lie. This disqualifies them from office, sayeth today's GOP.

            The "Lie for me" dynamic doesn't apply simply to the 2020 election.

            The New York Times reports that Trump's demand that scientists play his game of denial on climate change resulted in a massive void.

            Trump's appointees "undermined federal studies, fired scientists and drove many experts to quite or retire."

            They left because they refused to lie for him.

            So, who will?

            This week we read reports that Trump's political organization has raised $82 million.

            That's real money, apparently, but raised on a false pretext. And isn't that a surprise?

            Trump raised much of it by telling supporters they needed to contribute to his challenge of the "steal" of the 2020 election.

            Only a fraction of that money has gone to said challenge, which effectively is over. The rest has gone to Trump to do what he wishes.

            I have an educated guess about where a great deal of that money emanated. The New York Times reports that last year when Biden announced a major climate-change initiative, Big Energy ramped up online advertising and other spending to counter Biden's message, with Facebook reaping $10 million in new ad dollars.

            Who is guessing with me that a lot of the booty Trump has reaped out of office comes from these very players?

            Rest assured, someone can be found who will lie for Donald Trump.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, August 1, 2021

Deadly disease is no trolling matter

            Hardy har har.

            Increasing numbers of Floridians are dying of a newly invigorated virus, and Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to make puns of Anthony Fauci's name.

            Yuckety yuck.

            Amid a resurgence of death and devastation, Marco Rubio wants to mock face coverings – again.

            Chortle, chortle. Twitter titter.

            Has anyone noticed that amid this pandemic, Republicans have become a party of trolls?

            They can't treat a deadly matter with straight faces. While others address a public health emergency, they huddle in the corner and squirt sounds from their armpits.

            This especially is the case with some elected Republicans. They ran for office saying, "Government is the problem." Then they set out to prove it with their own infantile irresponsibility.

            Up until Jan. 6, that mode was solely modeled by the troll immortalized by a blimp labeled "Baby Trump." Now we have little trolls in red state after state.

            DeSantis sells "Don't Fauci Florida" tee-shirts and says Florida won't be a "Faucian dystopia." Whatever that means, he can't blame Fauci for 400-plus deaths a week of mostly unvaccinated and unprotected Floridians.

            He can blame attitudes that ignore or outright mock health authorities.

            DeSantis was respectful at the site of the Florida condo collapse that killed 97. What about the disaster that this week will kill four times that?

            Rubio took time to exercise his Twitter fingers when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in the Philippines double-covered against COVID – face mask, face shield.

            Since Austin is vaccinated, Rubio called these precautions "embarrassing COVID theater."

            Ah, but the Philippines has mandated that people wear face shields along with masks in public places.

            Austin and the Philippines are taking COVID seriously. Republicans like Rubio, not so.

            Red states are where the virus is surging -- the virus that is forcing governors and health officials into excruciating decisions. And red state Republicans are doing the mocking.

            Unvaccinated Americans are causing this. People who aren't taking proper precautions against the virus are causing this.

            Leaders who pose as trolls are causing this.

            We are supposed to give points to people like DeSantis – and, stunner, Sean Hannity – for finally saying, yes, vaccinations are a good thing to do.

            It's only a pause before the mocking resumes.

            Congressman Clay Higgins should take COVID seriously. The Louisiana Republican has claimed he caught the virus twice. Yet he refuses to say whether he's been vaccinated, and he refuses to promote vaccination. Indeed, he's sponsoring a bill to prohibit companies from requiring vaccination of employees.

            Meanwhile he refers to COVID as the "Chinese Communist Party biological attack weaponized virus." Chortle, chortle.

            And now for a COVID trolling flashback:

            Last July Sen. Ted Cruz had this sterling prediction which, like so much else Republicans have done, dismissed the severity of a horrible disease:

            If Biden were to win the presidency, he said, "I guarantee you the week after the election, suddenly all those Democratic governors, all those Democratic mayors will say everything's magically better."

            The "cynical" Democrats' interest, Cruz said, wasn't containing the virus but acceding to their inner desires to "destroy people's livelihoods, their lives."

            Look around, Ted, and tell me how that prediction stands up today.

            How tragic it is that the political equations employed by Trump as president continue to infect a major party.

            The party of Eisenhower would not have acted like a bunch of trolls amid a national health emergency like this. Neither would the party of Bush -- either iteration.

            But this is the party of Trump, and Fox News. People are dying because of it.

            Yuckety yuck.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: