When the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is your Speaker*

Yeah, Mike Johnson looks mild-mannered now, but wait until he steps into a phone booth.

When the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is your Speaker*
"I know. Look up average guy and this picture of me pops up."
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (novel) - Wikipedia

I write this missive on Sunday, almost at the end of October, as I like most Astros fans, look forward to February just like we used to in the old days when the team seemingly was full of teenagers who didn't make the semis in the Little League World Series. A whole team full of Luis Pujols (lifetime batting average of .197).

Longtime fans remember those dark days when you could have thrown a Nolan Ryan fastball into any part of the old Astrodome and only hit an empty seat. There were some plusses to the low attendance though. The ump could actually hear your insults, you had your own personal beer guy, and in the men's room, there was that little extra privacy as you turned slightly away at the trough.

But the Rangers were on a roll, well except for today, and I wish them well...through gritted teeth admittedly.

If only they'd called on this feisty young (?) lefty. Uh, me.

But enough of that. Let's talk a bit about Mike Johnson. No, not the old pitcher for the Expos but the new Speaker of the House. Although the retired pitcher might have been an interesting choice. But after 3 rollicking weeks of trying to elect one screwball (ironically, Mike Johnson's go-to pitch) after another, they settled on the other Mike Johnson. He is a perfectly normal-looking guy with a nice suit and neat lawyerly haircut, who speaks in low tones and presents a wonderfully reasonable demeanor. He has a very attractive family and probably seemed a great choice to the PTSD veterans of the Battle of Gym Jordan.

Who is Mike Johnson? House Speaker is Louisiana Rep. with four children who  is backed by Trump | Daily Mail Online
I know. Right out of the Sears catalog, if it was still around.

He like me, was born in Louisiana, and represents them in Congress. I don't, by the way, since my Dad wisely got out while the getting was good, and before his infant son looked around and asked, "Why the hell are we here!?".

Now, Mike and his wife Kelly are very religious and very conservative, which is perfectly fine by me. But Mike has put his legal training and Clark Kent visage to work for the cause. He even fought for government tax breaks for a creationist theme park called "Ark Encounter" in Kentucky, which proclaims the "young earth" theory that this whole shebang is only 6000 years old, and tax dollars should be used to support that. He won, by the way, and you'll pay another $50 to get in as well.

Bounce Between the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter | Creation Museum
Careful, watch where you step inside. It's a little messy. (BTW, what's a cubit?)

That happened when he was the senior legal counsel for a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom. They provide legal muscle for the anti-abortion and anti-gay rights folks out there, along with promoting more Christian religious influence in public schools and fighting the coverage of contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act.

As an aside, I've never understood opposing both abortion and contraception. That's like supporting the Astros but opposing letting Jose Altuve play.

We Houstonians are lighting these for the 2024 season.

Although ADF describes itself as a champion of First Amendment freedom of speech, in 2014, lawyers from the organization represented parents who wanted public schools to remove pages from a biology textbook that mentioned abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. It was, again, a biology textbook.

in the name of the Donald, the Putin, and the Holy MAGA.

ADF has opposed government measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the United States and in other countries. In the US, ADF partnered with The Daily Wire in a legal challenge against the Biden administration's OSHA vaccine mandate. In Uganda, ADF joined a Texas libertarian organization in backing a campaign to end restrictions on large gatherings that the government had implemented to reduce COVID-19 spread. ADF brought legal challenges against the Ugandan government's regulations on large gatherings.  In Scotland, ADF fought against COVID-19 regulations on large gatherings, claiming that the measures were unfair to religious groups.  The ADF-backed lawsuit won in Scotland's high court. A poll commissioned by the Humanist Society showed that more than three-quarters of Scots were opposed to the church's reopening and the Church of Scotland distanced itself from the legal action, saying that they accepted measures to prevent COVID-19 spread. To repeat, the Church of Scotland itself had no problem with the cautionary measures.

Scotts Lawn Care
Use social distancing, and of course, feed your lawn.

I know, Uganda? Scotland? And now they are in court suing the Food and Drug Administration, which has been researching and protecting Americans from bad food and dangerous or ineffective drugs since 1906 when the Pure Food and Drug Act was signed by a great Republican, Theodore Roosevelt. Why are they suing? Because the FDA advised against doctors prescribing Ivermectin for patients with Covid 19.

To remind you, it is essentially intended for livestock but can be used for some human parasites as well. Covid is a virus, not a parasite, but no matter. The ADF figures, what the hell (I'm sorry, make that what the heck, gosh darn it), your doctor ought to be able to prescribe it anyway, along with eye of newt, one supposes. From the Quorum Report political newsletter...

State Sen. Bob Hall compared COVID treatments to medical experimentation done by Nazis during the Holocaust at a Texas Senate committee meeting last week. Hall, a Republican from Edgewood, has repeatedly advocated against COVID vaccines and clinically proven treatments in recent legislative sessions. During a committee hearing Oct. 10, Hall repeated incorrect information about COVID treatments, calling them experimental and saying that the American people were treated like guinea pigs. “And what we did to the American people starting in 2020, tell me how that would be different than what the Nazis did in the ‘40s? The Nazis that performed medical experiments on people. Didn’t we hold a trial somewhere for that? I think it was called Nuremberg,” Hall said.
"Hello, Door Dash? Bob Hall here. Need a batch of ivermectin delivered to the Capitol, stat!"

And now the ADF is suing the FDA over its right to even approve medicines in the first place. The abortifacient Mifepristone, the morning-after pill approved decades ago, is being challenged even though research from government agencies and outside experts say it is safer than Tylenol and Viagra.

Speaking of which, there was even a nutty proposal that Viagra might help with Covid, but as the most ironic chyron ever says...

Fox News Tucker Carlson
See if it stands up to scrutiny.

At this point, let me stipulate that opposing abortion or gay marriage is anyone's right. I have written pieces for this questionable newsletter outlining my own very mixed feelings on the subject as an adoptive father. But in most issues involving human rights in this country, my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.

What I find troubling about this group and the influence they have had on the country, is making issues of public health and safety into some kind of fight for freedom. And now, inoculations of all types are viewed with suspicion by conservative parents. The very shots that helped us eliminate smallpox, polio, the ravages of measles, mumps chicken pox and others are now getting the side-eye from the MAGA crowd.

A study in the medical journal Vaccine surveyed 2200 people on their opinions on routine vaccinations for dogs, for crying out loud, particularly for rabies.

37% feel it's unsafe, 22% think it's ineffective and 30% find it unnecessary. Overall, a whopping 53% hold at least one of these beliefs. Vets will tell you that rabies among domestic pets is now very rare and the only real danger left is wild animals. So, why do these people think that is? Therefore, it isn't just the kid vaccines these people suspect, it's keeping Snoopy healthy.

black framed eyeglasses
Come on, man! Do your own research!

So when did we become so suspicious of doctors, scientists, and health officials? And why? In most school districts we still have a history book or two. The Spanish Flu, diphtheria, and smallpox epidemics? Or how about the bubonic plague? Gee, why don't we see that anymore?

These people are playing doctor in dangerous territory and as a bunch of self-proclaimed legal scholars, they should be aware of the way the law has treated these things. From the New York Times in 1996...

David and Ginger Twitchell, a Christian Science couple from Massachusetts who relied on prayer rather than on doctors as their young son lay dying from an obstructed bowel, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter last month. It was a stunning verdict, coming as it did in the very shadow of the Mother Church in Boston.
But the death of 2-year-old Robyn Twitchell and the conviction that followed was only the latest of a number of successful prosecutions of Christian Scientists whose children died agonizing deaths after spiritual healing failed.
The prosecutions, like many historic constitutional cases, represent a clash of apparent absolutes: of religious liberty and parental autonomy on the one hand and the right of the states to protect children - and the rights of the children themselves - on the other.
While the tenets of the church, particularly its reliance on prayer in lieu of standard medical treatment, remain fundamentally unchanged since Mary Baker Eddy founded it in Boston in 1879, they have come under intense attack in courtrooms and state legislatures.
In the last 15 months Christian Scientist parents have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter, felony child abuse or child endangerment in two California cities, as well as in Arizona and Florida. Other prosecutions, in Santa Monica, Calif., and Minneapolis, have been dismissed, although prosecutors in Minnesota have appealed.
''The message has been sent,'' said John Kiernan, the prosecutor in the Twitchell case. ''Every parent of whatever religious belief or persuasion is obligated to include medical care in taking care of his or her child.''

And you can add, protecting your child, and the children he comes into contact with, from easily preventable diseases. Have there been mistakes? Of course, as in any human endeavor. The easiest to point out is thalidomide. That was a European drug for the treatment of morning sickness in pregnant women that was found to cause birth abnormalities. But remember...

In the U.S., the FDA refused approval to market thalidomide, saying further studies were needed. This reduced the impact of thalidomide in U.S. patients. The refusal was largely due to pharmacologist Frances Oldham Kelsey who withstood pressure from the Richardson-Merrell Pharmaceuticals Co. Although thalidomide was not approved for sale in the United States at the time, over 2.5 million tablets had been distributed to over 1,000 physicians during a clinical testing program. It is estimated that nearly 20,000 patients, several hundred of whom were pregnant women, were given the drug to help alleviate morning sickness or as a sedative, and at least 17 children were consequently born in the United States with thalidomide-associated deformities. 
For denying the application despite the pressure from Richardson-Merrell Pharmaceuticals Co., Kelsey eventually received the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service at a 1962 ceremony with President John F. Kennedy.

I hope you noticed that the FDA never approved it here. But now we are seeing what is labeled "vaccine hesitancy" fed by BS on the internet and irresponsible actors like the Alliance for Defending Freedom, who are, for some obscure religious or more likely, political reason, turning people away from science. To be sure, science and facts don't really care what you believe, but your kid and your schnauzer might.

So, welcome aboard Mike Johnson. As to science, you can thank gravity for your not floating to the top of the capitol dome, by the way.

My lord, I pray we all remember there is another election next year.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.