Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Black Tuesday for Fox News

  By all rights it will rank as one of TV news' singular moments — along with Edward R. Murrow tongue-whipping Joe McCarthy, and with Walter Cronkite turning against the Vietnam war.

  It was the night a Fox News anchor told Karl Rove to get over himself — in so many words.

  Election Night 2012: Rove who holds perpetual squatter's rights on the Fox News set, refused to believe the network's projection that Barack Obama had won Ohio.

  For a few odd moments it appeared Rove would not allow the evening to proceed — grabbing and dangling from the hands of the clock, as it were. It was like having the Jerry Jones in the broadcast booth to overrule a ref's review because it went against America's Team.

  Cameras followed anchor Megyn Kelley into the bowels of Fox Election Central. There, a mole-eyed numbers guy timidly explained to her that Ohio was toast, GOP-wise.

  Back on the set, Rove remained in code-red denial. From Kelly came five words no Fox anchor or Republican mouth-for-hire imagined saying again about Barack Obama: "He won, Karl. He won."

   Now, the question arises: What about Christmas bonuses from Rupert Murdoch this year? We assume them to be performance-based, and Obama's re-election is the ultimate "system fail" at Fox News. Bonuses? Heck, shouldn't heads roll?

  The prime-time soap opera involving Rove and arithmetic is the capper to a four-year campaign the likes of which American television has never seen.

  Sum it up with a rhetorical question: Does the Republican Party control Fox News, or vice versa? Roughly from his first breath as president-elect in 2008, Fox News sought to make Obama a one-term president, and congressional Republicans got the memo. (Or the network got the memo from the Republican Party. Doesn't matter.)

  Many have tried to paint the tea party movement as your basic salt-of-the-earth grassroots development. That would be true, except that no grassroots effort before had a 24-hour TV spin machine selling tickets on its behalf.

   Any detached viewer who wanted to give Fox News a chance to act out its "fair and balanced" credo would have dropped any such notion to see how the network promoted the tea party rallies in 2009 — dispatching its "news" personalities across the country to pump up numbers. Said a promo for Glenn Beck's appearance in Texas: "Taking a stand at the Alamo: Citizens revolt against more taxes . . . plus Ted Nugent fires back at the government . . . Glenn is live at the Tea Party . . ."

  Blocking passage of the Affordable Care Act was an all-hands-on-deck effort at Fox News, and not just the work of the Sean Hannities and Bill O'Reillys, whom Fox apologists would have us believe are different from Fox's allegedly top-notch reporters. Whatever actual journalism Fox reporters might have done, it constantly is discredited by exquisitely foxy presentation, such as whatever information Fox deems fit to print in the crawl at the bottom of its screen and on its Web site.

  "Fox Nation victory! Congress delays health care rationing bill" announced when Obama's bill stalled for a moment. From the cheerleading tone of this "bulletin" all the way to the exclamation point, this wasn't something to which any actual journalist would admit. This was propaganda at its finest.

   In related news, nearly 1 million Americans this week have petitioned to secede from the United States following Obama's victory. Working title for new country? Fox Nation (?)

  As David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt describe in their book, The Fox Effect, Fox News was the key player behind wholly inexcusable myths being perpetrated about the health-care bill.

   The network jumped on a single, baseless tweet from Sarah Palin about "death panels" and rode what called "the lie of the year" for weeks. It didn't matter what actual experts said about the legislation, or its authors.

   Oh, and shortly thereafter, Fox employed Palin's eminent baselessness for regular stints as a "news" analyst.

   All is in keeping with the designs of former Nixon operative Roger Ailes, who founded Fox News and runs it today with the expressed intent of appealing to a certain demographic with a finely honed bias. 

   He's certainly got the ratings. The only thing not in keeping with Ailes' grand design today is the man now preparing for four more years in the White House.

   Meanwhile, Ailes paces the floor sweating arrival of that letter containing no year-end bonus but instead membership in the Jelly of the Month Club.

   Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet potato chili? Nooooooooo

  It's lonely, my friends.

  Lonely, once again, to arise in this chamber of information ad infinitum to speak the truth, about sweet potatoes. And speak I will.

    This time of year, when the topic is most current and the marshmallow cream most lavish, I send my message to the masses. It concerns this orange mass alleged to be food. We know it not to be that.

    How do I know? From research. I ate sweet potatoes once. Once.

    I have had to point out often that my message is not anti-sweet potato. I am pro-sweet potato — if  it used for something other than human consumption of the internal kind.

    Make makeup with sweet potatoes. Make ethanol. Make ink and plastic, as George Washington Carver demonstrated. Smart guy.

    A few years ago in said venue I explained how a Colorado mine had pioneered the use of starch —  potato peels — to leech cyanide out of mill tailings. What better use for sweet potato peelings? And why limit it to the peelings? 

    When last we discussed this (steaming, orange) matter, I told of how my wife and I had fed raw sweet potato to our dogs. See? They liked it. The only problem was noxious vapors that welled up inside the dogs and were released around the dining table.

   How many ways can I demonstrate my good-faith intent to work with the other side of the aisle on this? And yet, what do I get?

   — Deliveries of "pumpkin" pie to sample. Oh, yeah. We all know what evil lies.

   —  Entreaties to go to a neighborhood drive-through restaurant for its new sweet potato fries. "They're delicious," is the claim. But that is not possible. Why? Because of the "sweet potato" part of them.

    More sinister, I continue to receive pro-sweet potato newspaper clippings and recipes, sometime anonymously. If I occupied a higher rung on the national security ladder, the Secret Service would investigate these.

     Not long ago one of these threats came by email and carried a most explosive and threatening attachment: a recipe for "sweet potato chili."

     I realize the Internet has more stuff than Donald Trump has hair (another troubling orange mass) — but surely, no one would seek to contaminate the World Wide Web by combining the only perfect food, chili, with something we know not to be edible. (Again, I have confirmed this by research.)

    Chili is the food of the gods. If the Southland gave birth to the blues, chili gave birth to the spoon. If I were on Death Row, chili would be my last meal. Green, red, white bean, black bean, chicken, venison, vegetarian, it's all good. And now? Talk about spoiling the pot.

    Incredulous though I was, I decided to spin the Google wheel and see if this monstrosity — sweet potato chili — was an aberration or a trend.

    Go ahead. Google it yourself. You will find "about 7,750,000 matches" for those terms. I decided to hold my nose and click on Page 7 of these to see if this ruse could be sustained. There I found the recipe for "chipotle chicken sweet potato pumpkin ale chili."


    This just tells me I have roughly 7,750,000 new reasons to continue my lonely quest on yet another Thanksgiving Day.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

‘Red Dawn’ remake for today

    It's so rare to see a movie, a true box-office smash, so relevant, so timely, that we can literally see life mimicking art outside the multiplex.

    Such is the timeliness of "Lincoln."

    How could Steven Spielberg have known that when his Civil War biopic came out, talk of secession would be following the Election Day victory of a once-embattled president?

    Or is this secession stuff just one more publicity stunt for Twentieth Century Fox?

    The parallels? Oh, my. Abe Lincoln risks his presidency freeing the slaves. Barack Obama does the same for working-poor Americans by addressing an accepted byproduct of economic slavery: life without health insurance. And what happens? To hear scattered red-state barkers who wish for it: civil war.

    Well, that's not going to happen, in part because even the reddest states aren't that deranged. Their governors,  lawmakers and attorneys general will hold their breaths (careful not to turn blue, guys) in protest of the Affordable Care Act. But like a certain rebel army that ultimately swapped swords for plowshares, they are on history's losing side.

     Thinking of the spooky timeliness of Spielberg's masterpiece causes me to think this as well:

     What in Beelzebub's name possessed anyone to bring to theaters this week a 21st Century remake of 1984's iconic Commie-baiting "Red Dawn"?

      This economy couldn't be too horrific if a studio will throw good money after such a bad idea.

      I have to point out that the name of the studio is Contrafilm. If you were cognizant of U.S. affairs in 1984, you appreciate the irony.

      You see, it was the Soviet-suckled Commies in Nicaragua we were supposed to fear back then, just an economy flight from our southern reaches, they were. The freedom-loving Contra rebels we were supposed to support, even illegally, under Team Reagan.

    Today? The Soviet empire is deader than Gen. Augusto Pinochet. So — the just-released "Red Dawn" conjures an invasion by North Korea.

    I don't know about you, but the mere thought sends me up into the attic to fish out that '80s model Stinger missile I thought I'd never need again. I'll also have to take my camo jump suit to the tailor to let the waistline out a few inches.

     If the makers of this movie were really attentive to today's headlines they could come up with something that, like "Lincoln," rings true to what's happening across the land. Contrafilm blew it. But I have a screen concept. All I need is a similarly hard-up-for-a-holiday-hit studio to produce the remake of the 1984 hyper-Republican farce (I know they meant it as a drama).

      And so, drum roll, trumpets . . .

      "Flotsam Films (in cooperation with Fox News) presents:

      "'Blue Dawn.'

      "The year: 2013 — morning in New Real America. The people, having headed to the fields after state-sponsored group devotionals, scan the skies. Having seceded from the United States after an oppressive regime refused to relinquish the presidency, they have struck out on their own to reconstruct paradise.

       "Suddenly the skies are filled with airplanes, parachutes, and men in suits.

       " 'Actuaries incoming,' echoes the battle cry, 'Get your handguns.' 

       "New Real Americans' worst nightmare unfolds right before their eyes. Washington has sent in insurance experts to set up a means of chaining God-fearing freedom lovers to what they want least: affordable health coverage that allows them to choose their own providers.

       "Word has circulated for weeks that the feds will invade to set up health insurance exchanges and begin brainwashing uninsured New Real Americans with crazy ideas about preventive health care, well-child checkups, inoculations, and more.

     "But, well-armed, and with God on their side, the New Real Americans have just begun to fight . . ."

     Like I said, I've scanned the movie listings and today's headlines, and this can't miss. If not direct to DVD, at least it will make it big in regional distribution.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:      

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In 2012, these rights are winners

   The new speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives is gay. So are five of his colleagues, all Democrats. 

    Once closeted, marginalized and demonized, all are "in" by virtue of a progressive wave that now has the whole of Colorado governance in Democrats' hands.

    Out? Former House Speaker Frank McNulty. In May, though the House had enough votes, to pass a bill authorizing same-sex civil unions,  including a couple of Republican defections, McNulty refused to allow the bill to come up for a vote.

    It was the last official thing he did in said capacity. The first act of business in that body likely will be to enforce the public will and enact civil unions. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign it.

     Bulletin: Oppression based on sexual orientation is a loser. Gay rights are a winner.

     With voters assenting Nov. 6 in Washington state, Maryland and Maine, nine states now allow same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Minnesota voters refused to write a ban into their constitution. And days earlier a federal court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act — you know, because it treats people unequally.

    The right speaks with righteous fury about our blessed Constitution being ignored. The last thing it really wants, though, is the 14th Amendment and "equal protection of the law" taken literally.

     The people of Wisconsin are fine with that interpretation, though. They looked at Tammy Baldwin's sexual orientation (she's a lesbian) and her qualifications (not necessarily in that order) and elected her to the U.S. Senate. She defeated the state's most well-known politician, former governor and Bush Cabinet member Tommy Thompson.

     Gay rights is a winner, and not just because of the Constitution, though that should be sufficient. Another reason: Discrimination against gays and lesbians is a loser among young Americans. They don't understand it. People are people. (Whether the issue was slavery, women's suffrage, Jim Crow or school desegregation, this concept has been a hard sell in America for most of its storied, exceptional past.)

     Speaking of women, here's another bulletin from Election Central: As a campaign issue, reproductive rights are a winner.

     Planned Parenthood? Mitt Romney wishes he never brought it up. Abortion? Republicans made it a central issue while "speaking to the base" in the primaries, but ran frantically away from it in November. Comments about rape and pregnancy by Indiana's Richard Mourdock ("God's will") and Missouri's Todd Akin ("legitimate rape") ruined campaigns blessed and consecrated by the tea party.

    In Colorado, the "Bennet strategy" is being hailed as one for winners. In 2010, when so many in his party lost, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet went after tea party/religious right darling Ken Buck for being extreme, prinicipally being dead set against a woman's right to choose. Bennet's victory showed that the campaign appeal resonated with centrist voters, and not just women.

     In 2012, President Obama's commercials in battleground states came out strongly and repeatedly on these matters. These appeals wouldn't let women forget which dance partners Romney had chosen.

     Remember when it appeared that the president's disagreement with Catholic bishops over health coverage and contraception would hurt him among Catholics? No, it didn't. Obama won the Catholic vote by roughly the same margin by which he won the national vote.

    Some will seek to diminish these things as insignificant side issues. When the economy is under such strains, maybe that's so. But such matters still matter.

    Like the demographic tide that is trending Democrats' way, these issues are indicators of winners who will change with the times and losers who, like the hangers on to ol' Jim Crow, liked it much better in the 1950s.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Peckings on a post-election morning

   Here's a saying to savor in the silence of a post-election morn, when the robins sing, doves coo, and commercial breaks once again are back to glorious things like erectile deficits:

   The early bird (voter) gets the worm. Make that the White House.

   Another aphorism from 2012: A robocall gathers no votes.

   And another: What do you get when you combine the propaganda/spending power of Fox News, the Koch brothers and Karl Rove's Death Star Super PAC? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    But, first: early voting.

    How many Republican office holders devoted how many man hours to figuring out ways to limit voter turnout this year? From voter I.D. bills to limits on early voting, they put more effort into this matter than putting forth a presidential candidate worth his spot on the ballot.

     Guess what? The undeniable march of early voting, inspired by the corruption and collusion of the 2000 debacle, paid off most handsomely for Democrats.

     As The Nation's George Zornick reported on election eve, early voting was an Obama rout in just about every swing state. It meant, for instance, that Mitt Romney needed 59 percent of the walk-in and absentee vote on Election Day to win Nevada, and close to the same in, yes, Florida. These are powerful numbers. In Colorado, for instance, some 70 percent of the voters had already done the deed by mail or early voting. They faced no lines, no voting machines. It is time for all states to emulate this. Voters should insist on it.

    As for those who voted this time, MSNBC's Chris Hays had a brilliant analysis: How could successive national elections have delivered first a rebuke to the Democrats (2010) and then a rebuke to the Republicans? His answer: two different electorates. In the off-year election, angry tea partiers were the key players in the Republican takeover of the House. This time, in a higher-turnout general election, a broader, younger, blacker, browner, more progressive sample arose to re-elect the president and deliver victory after victory to Democrats.

   If Tuesday it was "up with people (and down with Super PACs)," it was "up yours" to robots. If 2012 showed the power of early voting, it demonstrated the fecklessness of robocalls, surely one of the most mystifying and counterproductive inventions of modern times.

    Residing in one of the key swing states, I got an average of five Republican robocalls a day. It was amazing, and galling — possibly the most pestilent intrusion in the history of telecommunications. Captured on our exhausted answering machine, each robo call was like having Sean Hannity commandeer the sofa, nosing his way into the candy corn dish, then talking politics with his mouth full.

     We cannot let this election pass without observing a few campaign moments:

     Most compelling appeal: Colin Powell endorsing Obama.

     Least compelling appeal: John Sununu explaining Powell's words as, you know, those negroid types gotta stick together.

     Most effective yard signs: "Dope." "Nope." "Fire Obama." What do I mean by effective, you ask? They were the most effective means of getting undecideds to vote FOR Obama.

     Add ceaseless, buzzer-to-buzzer jeremiads calling Obama a socialist, a communist, a Nazi, a nation destroyer. The president owes these critics gratitude for making him seem all the more reasonable, rational and re-electable. Obama owes a particular shout-out in this category to Donald Trump.

    What will they say now? How insistent will they be for his papers, his college grades, and for us to know that "Hussein" is his middle name?

    Not so insistent this morning, now that the early bird has spoken.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: