Sunday, March 27, 2022

OK, Senator: Let's play, "Rate My Faithfulness"

            When it comes to courage under fire, the pithiest sayings all seem masculine. As in, "Bigger man than I," or, "That's some cajones."

            None of course apply to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

            From her forbearance amid a withering Republican offensive in her confirmation, let's just say the lady's got some ovaries.

            So brainless and insidious were some of the questions, if I were the nominee I'd have stormed out of my hearing long before, say, Lindsey Graham did.

            I'd have a major problem, confirmation-wise, in that I would have been more inclined to throw questions back at GOP senators than indulge them in their made-for-Fox News theatrics.

            If Ted Cruz, for instance, asked me, "Do you agree that babies are born racist?" I wouldn't have paused for a thoughtful answer as Brown did. I would have responded, "Not sure, Ted. At what age did your racism set in?"

            When Sen. Josh Hawley asked me if I was soft on terrorists, I would have said, "It depends, Senator. Are we talking al-Qaida or the terrorists you fist-bumped at the Capitol?"

            But what would have caused me to pick up my papers and hit the exit would have been the inanity Lindsey Graham asked of Jackson: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion?"

            My response wouldn't be hers, which was thoughtful, personal, and – yeah, religious.

            My response would have been, "None of your business, Senator. Since when do we apply religious tests to functions of our democracy? Since never. You irk my soul."

            However, before heading to the exit, having blown up my confirmation chances but also realizing I still had the microphone, I would add:

            "Funny you should bring up religion as a criteria for high office, Senator."

            "What's your position on adultery? Where does that rank on your scale of faithfulness?

            "How many demerits would I get for bedding a porn star and then paying her hush money?

            "How many points off for going to the extent of establishing 'catch and kill' arrangements about one's sexual exploits with a national tabloid?

            "How many deductions for mocking disabled people? How about people from other nations, and calling their homelands 'shithole' countries?

            "Any points off for inflating the value of your properties to gain pricey loans, and at the same time deflating those same property values to avoid taxes and your insurance bills?

            "To what extent is basic hypocrisy a drag on one's 'scale of faithfulness'?

            "How about railing against undocumented workers while exploiting their work?

            "How about offering one's self as a voice of the working man and then stiffing contractors who work for you?

            "How about expressing almost no interest in religion most of one's adult life until it becomes politically profitable?

            "How many demerits for, in a position of extreme power, dangling military aid for a country that is on the edge of extinction for the purpose of political dirty tricks?

            "How many points off for attempting to subvert the world's oldest democracy after the voters have had their say about who shall lead them?

            "Is there any penalty at all for exhorting a crowd that turns into a mob and, though you're the only person who could stop the mob, you do nothing?

            "On a scale of one to 10, how does that all calculate?"

            Those would be my last words in my confirmation hearings for my Supreme Court nomination. Maybe Sen. Graham and I could discuss our respective faiths further in the stairwell.

            He was being slyly deferential when he said to Judge Jackson, when asking of her faith, how often she attended church, mentioning that he only managed a few church services a year.

            I know a lot of Americans who have never darkened a church door and who show more fealty to moral standards and basic decency than those who attend religiously.

            For some, Senator, religion is just show biz.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, March 20, 2022

This is what passes for GOP leadership

            One would think Ken Paxton had sufficient issues unto himself.

            Securities fraud for one. At least a grand jury thought so. For two, allegations of abuse of office and bribery. So assert some of his former staffers. And then there's the issue of conspiring to nullify 81 million votes on Jan. 6, 2020.

            So why would a busy Texas attorney general, which we assume Paxton to be, arise on a lovely morning in March – my favorite Texas month – and make the birth gender of Rachel Levine an issue?

            Why? Well, of course, Ken Paxton felt the need to oppress someone.

            I say "of course" because this is what Paxton and his party do.

            Levine, U.S. assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, is transgender. Last week she was named one of USA Today's women of the year.

            Between his coffee and his OJ, this caused Paxton to flex the same Twitter finger that would scratch Donald Trump's itch.

            "Rachel Levine is a man," Paxton tweeted.

            This is what stands for leadership in today's Texas Republican Party.

            Nice tweet. It's sort of like, say, in 1947, a dismayed reader finding Jackie Robinson's picture on the sports page and sending the clip to the editor with the words, "This man's skin is a swim in melanin."

            Yes, once upon a time, dignifying a person born with that pigment was something the dignified did not do, especially in the South.

            Things changed, and whole industries of indignation sprouted forth when "they" made headlines with their marches and alarming orators.

            The voice of the oppressor could be heard as well – loudly and clearly, his path lit by wooden crosses.

            And don't you know politicians lent an ear. Or what's a Southern Strategy for?

            What's this got to do with Rachel Levine and Ken Paxton's itchy Twitter finger?

            It has to do with the Republican Party playbook and the success it has had in making "others" objects of fear, derision and wedge politics.

            One thing about the GOP playbook is that it's a loose-leaf binder. The party itself might be narrow, but inside is ample room for "others" to use as wedge concerns.

            There were brown people who didn't speak "our language." There were black "welfare mothers" driving their Cadillacs. There was the "gay agenda." There were Muslims plotting "sharia law" for all.

            Any strategist will acknowledge a problem when a political playbook grows yellow and weathered. Fortunately for the GOP, the 21st century discovery of transgender people in our midst provides for newly Xeroxed strategies on crisp, white paper.

            Did we say "industry of indignation"? To judge by actions in Republican-controlled legislatures, one would think that no greater threat exists than a transgender individual in a bathroom stall.

            Of course, it is no threat at all – no more so than the "threat" posed by gay teachers or gay office supervisors, or gay soldiers or sailors or Marines, or governors.

            But it certainly makes for fresh wedge politics to appeal to those dismayed by equal treatment of "others."

            And so, a rash of do-something legislation. Bills to keep trans athletes in their place. Measures to treat transitioning as child abuse. And let's not talk about gender issues in school, though some Republican policy makers can't stop talking about them.

            So there's little mystery as to why Texas' attorney general would think a March day is a good day to mock a transgender person.

            He's running for re-election and has a stout opponent in a GOP run-off.

            He doesn't want Republican voters to think about securities fraud allegations or alleged professional misconduct or his role in attempting to overthrow a lawful election.

            And they won't if he can change the subject – say to one woman's gender.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, March 13, 2022

It's all about you, Gov. DeSantis

           Question: Since when did acting like an oaf become an audition for higher office?

            Ooh, ooh. I know that answer.

            It was when a candidate mocked women, mocked disabled people, bartered in crass comments about foreigners and people of color. And then that candidate, to America's shame, ascended to its highest office.

            That explains Ron DeSantis.

            Recently in a foul-tempered photo op, the Florida governor was in full oaf.

            He impatiently told high-schoolers who had been lined up to be part of his photo backdrop to take off their masks.

        "It's not doing anything," he said. It's time to stop "this COVID theater."

         Then he sighed like he was surrounded by toddlers. What I saw was a governor embarrassing teen-agers to make a point. On some of them, it worked. But a few kept their masks on. 

            Geeze, Mr. Governor. Those who have worn face coverings amid a deadly pandemic didn't do it for kicks.

            DeSantis has made petulance in a pandemic one of his defining qualities.

            He's decided that fighting Anthony Fauci is more important than fighting the disease. Talk about theater.

            He's mocked the CDC. He's fined school districts that required masks. He hired a surgeon general whom one can infer is unvaccinated. He won't say. What the man says, as pediatricians everywhere cringe, is young children shouldn't be.

            While most of the country was taking the pandemic seriously and limiting gatherings, DeSantis made Florida the world's largest super-spreader.

            Not surprisingly, it ranks No. 7 in the nation per capita for COVID deaths, according the Beckers Hospital Review.

            One would think Florida would be extra-cautious with its immense senior population.

            But this is all about Ron.

            And it's about a strain of humanity less concerned about the greater good than about fun, profit and self-interest.

            We're seeing the same type of behavior in the so-called Freedom Convoy – valiant truckers who have gummed up North American highways to protest life-saving measures: vaccines, masks.

            This co-opting of "freedom" reminds one of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' statement, "Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins."

            Your nose: pathway of pathogens.

            If COVID-19 were plainly symptomatic in all instances, the case for masks would be easier to understand. It isn't.

            But of course, this isn't just about masks. It's about self-interest vs. community interest, whatever the need might be.

            The interesting thing is that those most possessed of self-interest state most loudly they worship a savior who said selflessness should guide every action.

            Not for a second are these principles guiding Ron DeSantis or his role model at Mar-a-Lago.

            Sometime during this fraught period, with people's annoyance thresholds no higher than their kneecaps, a term was birthed to describe a certain kind of person -- a "Karen."

            She's ever-aggrieved, pathologically privileged, besieged by inconvenience. She has a smartphone and isn't afraid to use it.

            One problem with this – aside from broad-brushing all Karens – is that we have no male equivalent.

            Since I haven't heard any nominations for this, let me enter "Ron" as the man who has all of "Karen's" characteristics.

            Rons are full of grievances, but a few really grate at the moment.

            Rons will vote in the next school board election based on one issue alone: their irritation with face coverings.

            Rons think the whole pandemic thing was overblown and/or likely a Chinese plot. And if it wasn't a Chinese plot, the Chinese and Dr. Fauci are up to something.

            Rons think Fauci has "politicized the pandemic," as opposed to, say, politicians who know as much about epidemiology as the average first-grader.

            By the way, to their great credit, some of the students DeSantis upbraided kept their masks on. The better to not contract whatever he has.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, March 6, 2022

Trump and Putin: more than mutual admiration

            Forever logged in video history:

            Walter Cronkite sitting a nation down to report the death of a president.

            Edward R. Murrow standing up a Red Scare demagogue.

            And now:

            Tucker Carlson checking off reasons not to hate a warring madman.

            You might not have seen that, but your grandchildren will. Rest assured, a whole lot of Russians already have.

            Well, ahem -- apparently there was a course correction at Fox News after "Rootin' for Putin" by all appearances was atop the talking heads' white board.  But Tucker Carlson can never take back what he said.

            Someday he will shake his wavy head at what possessed him. Of course, it's no mystery.

            His guy – Donald Trump, the man for whom Fox News' propaganda brigade has cast its lot for five devoted years – owns Tucker. He is, in the words of George Will, one of Trump's "poodles."

            And so his cue for this frightening moment in human history was from the con man who from his Mar-A-Lago hideout called Putin's invasion "genius."

            Trump's assessment is fully explainable as well. In Putin, Trump has always had a friend in need.

            The day after the invasion began, based on blatantly concocted pretenses, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations unblinkingly stated that in the United States, the "legitimately elected president of the country was overthrown."

            Wait. Is that the Russian Federation speaking or the Republican National Committee?

            Right now, rest assured, Russia's Internet Research Agency is calculating how Trump's newborn Truth Social web site can help get its message, through pure propaganda or fake news, to the American masses.

            At the same time Putin's internet army is configuring the next offensive by which it seeks to return Trump to power.

            Putin, being one to take the long view, knows that "Trump Jr.: 2028," looks like a worthy investment as well.

            Speaking of long views, a basic misconception about Trump's attempt to overthrow the 2020 election is that it was all impulse, not planning.

            Much like Putin assembling his forces, Trump telegraphed his intentions long before voters had their say.

            Then, like Putin, Trump relied on pliant partisans to do the unthinkable, to rationalize tactics they knew they couldn't.

            Illegally, Trump demanded that whole states he didn't win be delivered to him via fake electors. He told Georgia's secretary of state that following the law was a crime.

            Disgraced and disgraceful, people Trump twirled around his little finger -- Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley – did his bidding as they attempted to stop the awarding of electors.

            And then came the mob -- Trump's armed forces, taking their bile and the brutality into the halls of our Capitol.

            We are aghast at the assault on Ukraine's capital. Recall, however, that Jan. 6 the same thing on a smaller scale happened in ours, except without missiles.

             It wasn't munitions-free, by the way. For some reason, pipe bombs placed at the headquarters of the major parties have gotten almost no attention.

            Today Ukraine's president fears for his life. On Jan. 6 our vice president shared that very problem. And if any lawmaker who dared affirm the people's choice encountered the mob, he or she would have been torn limb from limb.

            In the refusal of either Putin or Trump to listen to what the people say about their respectively dangerous gambits, we see the danger of one person having too much power.

            For those Republicans (That would include Lindsey Graham) who view Putin as a madman, know that a man you respect, Attorney General Bill Barr, came to believe he was dealing with the same specimen when a screaming, red-faced Donald Trump refused to concede to reality about his rejection by the voters. Trump still does.

            Now Putin refuses to acknowledge the will of the Ukrainians who created their own democracy.

            What a pair – so close: two autocrats living their separate lies.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: