Monday, December 27, 2021

Biden's bid for those living on edge

            Build Back Better. It's a great handle for bridges, viaducts and sewer lines.

            But, oh, my -- how inadequate a name for legislation that's more complex and nuanced, focused on survival – personal, planetary.

            No wonder Joe Manchin says he can't sell it to the people of West Virginia. By and large, the news media can't explain it, either. Or they can't spare the time or space.

            We've just come through a stretch in which news gatherers performed heroically in investigating the moral rot and self-dealing of the Trump administration.

            Now we have a president who stands for something other than his claim to power. Joe Biden is putting his presidency on the line in the quest to help people who need it, not CEOs, not mega corporations, and too many in the news media seem to have lost touch with what news requires.

            Bottom line: Because of inadequate coverage, too few people know what Biden is pushing beyond masks and COVID shots.

            All they know is that the Democrats want to spend a lot of money on -- who knows? On "social spending." Trillions.

            They know Biden has "failed" to pass his legislation by the end of the year, as if the positioning of the sun and stars should have any bearing on the fate of complex, history-making legislation.

            They assume it is dead because the clock strikes '22 and one pivotal Democrat continues to hold out. More about that in a moment.

            The point here, though, is as Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over 'till it's over."

            First, what's in that "social spending"? The most important component is an extension of the child tax credit that was expanded dramatically in the stimulus bill approved early on. 

            Manchin has said he opposed it because he feared parents would use it on drugs. That's you, mom and pop, that he suspects, according to NBC News' reporting of his "private" conversations with Democrats.

            The child tax credit means payments, based on income and eligibility, of up to $300 per month for each child under age 6 and $250 per month for each child from 6 to 18.

            We are talking about 4.1 million children, many lifted out of poverty for the first time, and an economic infusion of $19.3 billion into local economies.

            Next, the legislation would dramatically ramp up federal assistance to child care to make it more affordable and more available. If we want parents working, they need to have a place for their children.

            This is one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century, and one that gets almost no attention from some news outlets.

            The bill passed by the House would limit child care costs to 7 percent of income for lower- and middle-income families.

            In the same vein, the legislation would pay for universal prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds and invest in the infrastructure to make it happen.

            The legislation would do dozens of things to improve health coverage through Medicaid and expansion of the Affordable Care Act. It would mean health coverage for millions more Americans, and such improvements as Medicare covering hearing screenings and the capping of high-dollar drugs like insulin.

            People who see the complex process as a zero-sum game – "Joe Manchin blew it up" -- don't know that Manchin has said he supports the provisions for universal prekindergarten and the expansion of services under the Affordable Care Act. He also supports some if not all of the investments aimed at fighting climate change.

            Without question, there is wiggle room there, and Biden is going to probe and push to find out what in this historic bill can make it to his desk.

            As much as Democrats cuss Manchin, and I am one of them, let's remember who the real agents of obstruction are.

            Remember how Trump & Sons Demolition Inc. sought to destroy the Affordable Care Act without any alternative in mind. Remember the tax cuts that barely benefitted the average American but paid off royally for the highest incomes and giant corporations. Know that the ACA has come back with a roar under Biden's guidance.

            Manchin deserves credit for voting against both GOP efforts – unnecessary tax cuts and dynamiting the ACA -- frustrating a furious Trump, who saw the conservative Democrat from West Virginia as a potential foil.

            Yes, the fury of people who see the humanitarian needs addressed by the Democrats' initiative should be directly focused on the Republican Party. Biden's objective, toward a more just and humane society, should be to elect more of those who believe in said goals and fewer in Congress whose consuming goal is to comfort the most comfortable.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, December 20, 2021

GOP's laughable 'race-blind' claim

            In biology, surface distinctions among human beings barely count.

            Regardless of skin color, we all share 99.9 percent of our genetic code with one another.

            Biologically, race is an artifice, a distinction without a distinction.

            Try telling that, however, to the Republican Party's computers.

            They have an amazing ability to identify surface distinctions.

            Over the past decade, Texas saw its population jump by 4 million. Ninety-five percent of that growth was people of color, particularly Latinos.

            Ah, but thanks to the latest in demographic identification technology, new congressional districts drawn up by the majority party don't reflect that. Instead, they bolster gringo power. This includes two newborn white-majority congressional districts.

            That's why the Biden administration is suing. These gerrymandered districts will negate people's political power based on an artifice.

            "Decade after decade, courts have found that Texas has enacted redistricting plans that deliberately dilute the voting strength of Latino and Black voters," said Associate U.S. Attorney General Vinita Gupta.

            Following a practice that draws a direct line to Jim Crow, new maps pack Blacks and Latinos into contorted districts to preserve safe seats for Republicans. In some cases, Republican-drawn maps put candidates of color in the same district.

            In this way, Republicans -- because they can -- remove people's power to choose who will govern them and gives that choice to those who govern.

            News flash: Racially discriminatory redistricting remains illegal, even though a right-tilting Supreme Court in 2013 gutted provisions of the Voting Rights Act that required Justice Department or court preapproval of such changes.

            Let's hope that the aggrieved get a fair trial. It's more likely, however, that partisanship will prevail.

            More importantly, let's hope Congress passes the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would stop partisan gambits that undermine the power of the people. Even Sen. Joe "The Recalcitrant" Manchin supports ending gerrymandering.

            In an off-year election, the party out of power in Washington typically makes gains. If the Republicans make gains that flip the U.S. House in 2022, that phenomenon will be a factor. A bigger one, however, will be Republican computers used to eviscerate the political power of minorities.

            In several states, voters have put a stop to politically contrived districts. They have instituted bipartisan redistricting commissions. Colorado did, to the consternation of majority Dems who could have consigned minority Republicans to shacks in the wilderness. Fairness ruled instead.

            Contrast this with red states in the South where the partisan dimension has only been ratcheted up since the Supreme Court brutalized the Voting Rights Act, and pumped up more after Trump's Big Lie bullying about the election he lost.

            Whether the matter is redistricting or "ballot security" measures that the courts repeatedly have ruled to have marginalized people at the margins, these measures are hardly "race-blind," as Republicans claim.

            They are designed to benefit a largely homogenous, mostly white power center that is threatened by a world of difference.

            In North Carolina, the new Republican plan eviscerates the district of former Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Paul Butterfield, who has chosen retirement. Meanwhile The New York Times reports that the new districts threaten the re-elections of four state senators, five state representatives, and several county officials, all African-American.

            Civil rights groups are suing North Carolina. May the Constitution prevail – the one that provides for equal treatment under the law.

            Factor all these things together, and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams is right when she says, "What we are facing now is a very real and acute case of democratic subversion."

            Of course, the "we" in her statement isn't inclusive of all, only those with a particular surface distinction.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:  


Sunday, December 12, 2021

The flag of the whiny anti-masker

            Foes of masks, the Denver Post reported, "waved American flags, cheered and whistled" at the marathon school board meeting. Then a newly reconstituted, newly partisan board sided with them.

            Left out of the discussion: administrators charged with keeping children, teachers and staff safe.

            It had been impressive for quite some time that in Douglas County, a starchy Republican fortress south of Denver, the school district had boldly required masks at school despite the bleating by foes primed for battle by Fox News.

            That policy was explained politely by the superintendent as the best way to keep people healthy and in school.

            Back when the pandemic first roared in and school went remote, Republicans said in-person classes were imperative.

            Now students are back. That merits, say policymakers not cowed by MAGA mentality, the simple and demonstrable precaution of face coverings.

            From the strain of civility cultivated in the Trump era, mask opponents have treated board members and administrators backing masks with the kind of wrath reserved for child molesters.

            It's shameful. In a pandemic, it's also stupid.

            It's part of the equation by which this nation, with 200 million of us now vaccinated, still deals with exceptionally high rates of infection.

            But enough about basic prevention. Let's talk about those American flags.

            We've heard anti-maskers address this matter as one of freedom and personal choice. The only problem with either claim is the matter of when one's expression of freedom harms others.

            No one can trace the phrase, "Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins." It doesn't matter. The truth and the responsibility inherent are as plain as that nose on your face and mine.

            In a free country, by anti-maskers' standard of "freedom," speed limits would not exist. Traffic lights would be optional.

            By these standards on campus, Junior could show up in second period with his personal pizza and wolf it down while classmates salivated. And how about a six-pack? It's a matter of personal liberty.

            We don't want Junior to be inconvenienced, even if he might spread a disease that may infect a classmate and the classmate's family.

            But you say Junior's not sick. One, he doesn't know that. Two, a little science-based inconvenience might keep him that way.

            I teach on a college campus. My students have been back in classrooms since summer session. When we are inside we are masked. (Next semester our system requires that all are vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID.)

            Wearing a mask is a hassle, but you wouldn't guess it from my students' comportment. They have embraced it as the price of being there.

            I've seen the same embrace in the lively steps of little ones at the supermarket wearing their own masks at the side of caring and careful parents.

            Once again, we are in a pandemic. We do not require this apparel out of whim. I taught remotely via Zoom. Though it was workable, one thing that was hard to do was be one-on-one with students.

            When masked, a student and I can sit down a couple of feet apart and address individual needs with less fear of infection.

            I am vaccinated. I am boosted. The science says that if I get COVID-19 it will be relatively minor, and the chance of getting it is remote. I could conceivably go about my business without a mask, but I wear one in whatever indoor setting I visit.

            I wear it for two important motivations: (1) me; (2) others.

            Those who think of the American experience as simply about "me" haven't read about what it took to be "us." If it were all about "me," not one volunteer would have climbed into the amphibious crafts that assaulted the Normandy beaches or air-dropped into the Ardennes Forest. They sacrificed for all. The trudged into battle encumbered by a lot more than a piece of cloth.

            What a hill on which to place one's banner, the battle against a simple face covering. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes of "the transformation of American conservatism – the movement that complains about 'liberal snowflakes' – into a collection of malignant whiners."

            The flag of the whiny anti-masker isn't one with 50 stars and 13 stripes. His flag has one star, and he is it.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, December 5, 2021

America, here are your bomb-throwers

             "Don't worry. There's plenty that would love to take you off the face of the f-cking earth. Come and get it, bitch. You f-cking Muslim piece of sh-t, you jihadist.

            "You will not live much longer, bitch."

            No, that wasn't Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert calling Rep. Ilhan Omar to explain herself better. It's just one of Boebert's biggest fans on the phone.

            What the Colorado congresswoman, whose mouth is set on "semiauto," says daily is separated from that dangerous caller only by degrees.

            Boebert has faced rightful outrage – from everyone except GOP leaders – for having been caught on tape fabricating more than once an account about being in an elevator with Omar and telling others that since the Minnesota Democrat "doesn't have a backpack," passengers can rest easy.

            It's a joke. Get it? No bomb. Get it?

            A real side-splitter, celebrated with guffaws by a certifiable MAGA audience.

            A liar. A racist. A delight to her audience. Boebert knows how best to up her odds for party leadership.

            The Denver Post, which has denounced Boebert's torch-bearing rhetoric before, said that since her party won't apologize for what she said, it would.

            Republicans can disagree with Ilhan Omar's politics, but whatever she says is all in tones and terms of her job of deliberative representation in the U.S. House.

            In terms of dignity and intellectual heft, if Omar, Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene were in fact in an elevator together, Omar would be the only one tall enough to reach the buttons.

            What is the function of these bomb-throwers in Washington? Much like Donald Trump's was.

            Trump set this tone. Boebert and Greene believe they are giving the people what they want.

            Boebert's anti-Muslim slur fits hand in glove with Trump's body of work, slurring people of color with his first few words at the bottom on his golden escalator as he announced his candidacy, and starting his presidency with a ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries.

            With her comments about Minnesotan Omar, Boebert, elected by a deep red Western Slope district, has slandered 3.45 million Americans – our Muslim population. She has defamed more of her fellow countrymen than live in Utah or Nevada.

            The Republican Party is complicit. Feckless leaders like Kevin McCarthy don't dare denounce her. McCarthy knows she is following today's Golden Rule for Republicans: "Do unto others as Donald Trump would do unto them."

            It's interesting that Boebert would call Omar and her political allies the "jihad squad," when Boebert and Greene, and the wrecking crew of terrorists Trump sent to the Capitol on Jan. 6, waged the closest thing to an anti-American jihad we've ever known.

            Bombs? A terrorist placed one each outside Democratic and Republican headquarters in Washington that very day.

            Calling the storming of the Capitol what it was – terrorism -- got Rep. Liz Cheney expelled by her own party in Wyoming. Fortunately, she is not muzzled as she and others probe the causes of one America's darkest days.

            In light of the Republican Party swallowing its whistle over Boebert's words, "If there is any remaining traditional moral leadership in the GOP, I'm asking where it is," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

            The GOP rallies around feverish nut job Paul Gosar when he's censured for a video fantasizing about rubbing out one of his colleagues in the House. It is the dignity of Liz Cheney that makes good Republicans squeamish.

            Responding to the outcry over her indefensible comments, Boebert, calling herself "a strong Christian," said, "I never want anything I say to offend someone's religion."

            If the latter were in the form of a contract, we could trust never to hear so much as a bleat from her evermore.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: