Sunday, May 30, 2021

Trust research or, um, Tucker Carlson?

            Syndicated cartoonist Jeff Stahler nailed it:

            "If Fox News was around in the '50s, we'd still be fighting polio."

            As sure as Sean Hannity is smarmy, we'd be into our fourth generation of children in leg braces.

            Experts still would be trying to convince certain segments of society that Jonas Salk is not a stalking horse for the Red Chinese.

            To be certain, broad swaths of society would be fully protected as they are today, fully vaccinated and living in an age where medical advancements are venerated.

            Then there would be people who trust Tucker Carlson over those who know what they're talking about.

            For them, it's 1954 all over, and over.

            That's when children like me started lining up to receive the life-saving, non-politicized serum that spared arms, legs and lungs from catastrophe.

            If Fox News were around then, we'd have seen Carlson, Hannity and company throw shade on it, causing too many to roll the dice with children's welfare.

            Sure, lots of factors are at play, but Fox News is a key player in how respective rates of vaccination appear to match up with the partisan divide and electoral results of the 2020 election.

            We can't even blame Donald Trump, who recommends getting the shot. Too bad it's not with the gusto that he brought for hydroxychloroquine.

            Carlson has led the innuendo brigade in the pandemic, whether the issue be masking or state restrictions or vaccination.

            Like Trump himself, Carlson is the classic know-it-all who knows squat but keeps squawking.

            His shtick is to raise questions that sound like assertions – the "what if . . . ?; the "what about . . . ?" Carlson rarely has anything substantive around which to build an argument.

            Like so many physicians, CNN's Sanjay Gupta is a hero of the pandemic. He does an amazing dual service of informing the public about public health needs and calmly conveying urgency.

            Generally he remains dispassionate when passions fly. Hard to do so on this subject.

            Of loud voices like Carlson's, he said, "Instead of continuing to build a knowledge tree (about COVID-19), we've had to continuously fact-check and correct misinformation.

            Dating back to the origins of the pandemic, lives have been lost because politicians encouraged by talking heads took the virus so much more lightly than reality demanded.

            So, yes, the level of seriousness related to this public health crisis looks a national portrait in red and blue, at the moment reflected in high levels of vaccine hesitancy in dependably red states.

            One cannot discount the role of a predictably propagandistic political arm in the events it "reports."

            One commentator observed, and I must agree, that if Fox News were around during Watergate, Richard Nixon would have served out his second term.

            If Donald Trump could get away with inciting a bloody riot at the Capitol building and broadcasting his love to poor, misunderstood terrorists, Nixon could have gotten away with a lot more than he did.

            Back to science: What crucial developments could Fox News' talking heads have undermined in bygone days were they around to mock, minimize and influence viewers? The development of penicillin? The incandescent light bulb? The moon shot?

            Yes they could, and yes they would, as Fox News and its right-wing cousins, NewsMax and One America News Network, are fashioned today not to seek truth and probe evidence but to please an audience that's not interested in truth or evidence.

            It's very fortunate that back in the '50s we venerated scientists – you know, smart people who study evidence -- far more than charlatans with a lot of hair.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Truth remains enemy of Trump sect

            Cults in the news:

            In dusty little Moffat, Colo., seven people are charged with the strange crime of corpse abuse.

            The Love Has Won commune couldn't let go -- months after its leader expired -- committing her decaying remains to a corner bedroom.

            Not to be too judgmental toward these poor people.

            They're not at all unlike another group in the headlines with difficulties letting go.

            The stench of decay has caused a few to flee, but committed members of the Trump Is Lord cult aren't budging.

            Observe Republicans in Congress who oppose a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection.

            Why in the world would they oppose it? Because Trump has criticized it.

            Republicans are aware that the more we know about the events the more we'll know of the insidious role of the cult leader who remains the head of the Republican Party.

            One Republican who doesn't consider Trump the lord and supports the bipartisan commission, Sen. Mitt Romney, has said, simply, "I'm going to worry about the party. I'm going to worry about what's the right thing for the country."

            But what about what's right for the cult?

            Trump is Lord wants us to just "move on" from events in which people died and a cherished symbol of self-rule was wrecked by terrorists.

            The GOP obstructionists really don't want us pondering how one loud voice and one Big Lie could cause so much destruction.

            Understand that closed societies based on religious fanaticism take many forms. Trump's genius was to tap into more than one.

            For one, he managed to convince the hangers-on of a bygone culture that he could raise coal from the dead.

            Woe to Rep. Liz Cheney for not realizing the depths of the mind control that has taken root in the Trump cult in her home state of Wyoming.

            The New York Times sent a reporter to find out what Wyoming residents think about Cheney and her refusal to abide by Trump and his Big Lie.

            The account featured this revealing exchange at a Cheyenne bar:

             "Trump lied, and she had the guts to call it out. I respect her for sticking to her guns."

            "She messed up. She went against the whole team. Of course everyone's mad at her."

            "Yeah, but she told the truth."

            "Hey, I'm in oil. I'm always going to be for Trump."

            The fact is, as the Times pointed out, Cheney is one of the most conservative members of Congress.

            When the issue was oil development or just about any political posture supported by the Trump administration, Cheney was all in. She just wouldn't support his lies.

            As prosecutors signal that they have shifted their investigation of the Trump Organization from civil matters to criminal matters, be ready to hear cultists equivocate. Should this criminal probe bear fruit, be ready to hear this con man compared to the man on the cross.

            Whether the cult is Heaven's Gate, the People's Temple, the Branch Davidians, the Order of the Solar Temple, or more, we've seen many fall for charlatans who demanded utter fealty. Never before have we seen a major political party under similar sway.

            On pure political terms, Republicans owe the man nothing. He lost the White House. His party lost the House. It lost the Senate. He launched an insurrection. He faces more legal problems than a Mafia chieftain.

            But Republican Party leaders will be in the Mar-a-Lago pipeline any day for words from the cult leader about what to tell the followers.

            The directive will be simple: "Just keep feeding 'em lies." 

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:



Sunday, May 16, 2021

Gun lobby's divide-conquer strategy

          Before discussing the state of minority rule regarding the health crisis of gun proliferation, a moment of silence for the National Rifle Association.

          Thank you.

          No, the NRA isn't dead. It is, however, in a life-threatening pickle. It is frantically trying to skirt justice, Donald Trump-style, as New York prosecutors probe fraudulent uses of charitable dollars.

          It sought bankruptcy to blunt the investigation. Denied, said a federal judge.

          In another Trump-style ploy, it seeks to reincorporate in Texas (Florida losing the coin flip), viewed as more hospitable to fanatical gun groups, the Texas Legislature being one.

          In a host of ways, an organization that touts the "good guy with a gun" looks like a garden-variety con with a gun.

          Part of the reason why the NRA is on the ropes is that increasingly Americans see behind the con.

          Sixty-five percent support tougher laws in the wake of the Atlanta and Boulder massacres, according to USA Today/Ipsos.

          So why don't things change? One reason is that the dwindling minority still has the means of blunting national action. It has the filibuster in the Senate, and it has the advantage of a patchwork of reasoned gun laws in states and communities side-by-side with Wild West militarized zones.

          Most destructively, the gun lobby and its operatives in lawmaking have blunted even the notion of treating gun violence as a public health matter.

          Hands now: Who's heard of the Dickey Amendment?

          Named after the late U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas, and more appropriately called the Dickey Gag Rule, the 1996 rider to an omnibus budget bill effectively prohibits the Centers for Disease Control from taking a position on the role of firearms in wave after wave of death and destruction.

          In other words, like the Republicans who purged Liz Cheney from her leadership post so as to promote the Big Lie, the "enemy of the people" remains anything approximating truth.

          In Colorado, lawmakers have decided to start ascertaining and disseminating the truth.

          A measure advancing in the Democratic-led Legislature would create a Gun Violence Prevention Office to inform citizens about issues related to gun safety and compile data from a public health perspective. 

          Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers are also addressing bigger issues toward gun laws that mean something.

          A week before a gunman killed 10 in Boulder, a judge overturned a Boulder law that banned the very types of assault-style weapons the killer used.

          The ruling held that state law preempts local ordinances.

          In direct response, and in keeping with the majority of Americans who want reasonable steps taken by their communities, Democrats in the Colorado Capitol are advancing a bill to give local communities greater freedom to adopt their own gun laws.

          The Democrats also are proposing expanding background checks, blocking those convicted of violent misdemeanors from purchasing guns for five years.  

          The same bill would close the "Charleston loophole," which absurdly allows a person to acquire a gun if a background check isn't completed in three days.

          President Biden has cited the loophole which in one year alone – 2016 -- allowed gun sales to over 4,000 people with criminal records, mental illnesses and other conditions that would have prevented it under federal laws.

          We need federal laws with teeth in them. We need a return of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. We need limits on high-capacity magazines.

          As with the NRA's search for a favorable venue, the majority continues to lose out to the minority because the gun lobby has just enough clout to seek and find pockets of resistance to what most Americans want.

            As for the ridiculous Dickey Amendment, its namesake apparently listened to his conscience after he left office, because he decided that the research his bill prohibited could have been conducted without harm to gun owners. It's never too late to listen to the voices of reason.

          We need to hear what the majority says about guns and stop listening to cons.

          Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Culture war's ghost hunters

            If this is "woke," bring it.

            Add my voice to those calling on the NCAA to stick it to states that marginalize transgender individuals.

            That could mean pulling tournaments based on the NCAA Board of Governor's April 12 statement that "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender athletes to compete in college sports."

            The action of taking business away from those states requires newfound spinal fortitude from the NCAA and would allow it to show its expressed policy of being committed to sites "free of discrimination."

            Like mastodons ahead of a thunderstorm, red-state legislatures have stampeded to make life even more miserable for those who don't identify with their birth genders.

            This includes "bathroom bills" based on wild claims about the ridiculous threat when someone who is transgender meets nature's call.

            Their miserable actions create horrific and unconscionable restrictions against gender-affirming medical care, and require schoolchildren to compete in high school sports based on the gender of their birth.

            That's the one that has the NCAA's attention.

            With all this action – bills in 20 states -- you'd think that transgender athletes are coming in like waves of sword-bearing Cossacks.

            Actually, an Associated Press analysis found this to be a ghost pursuit -- almost no examples of transgender students stepping into the fields of prep athletic pursuit, citing but two – one in Hawaii and one in Alaska.

            That leaves 48 states to be plundered.

            This is in keeping with Republicans' forever efforts to do anything but meet the needs of the commonwealth – instead to posture and engage in the culture war maneuver of the moment.

            This is what has made Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz what he is – a man in search of a new offensive. Hear him huff against "wokeness."

            Let highways crumble. Let schools gasp for resources. Let the working poor despair for the lack of health coverage. Let's create a menace and alarm the troops. Down, Ted. Down.

            Years ago in Texas, then-Gov. Rick Perry, another Republican culture warrior, put a lot of miles on state vehicles campaigning for a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, which – ahem -- was already illegal there. In other words, it was posturing and nothing more.

            A raft of court rulings on behalf of gay rights have cut off avenues of discrimination against people based solely on their sexual orientation. With the religious right clamoring for something to discriminate against, the Republican Party has chosen transgender individuals.

            The most phantasmagoric of all threats remains the so-called specter of voter fraud. No matter how hard Republicans search, they can't seem to find it.

            That hasn't stopped waves of "ballot security" measures.

            Of course, as several federal judges have observed, the one and only reason for these measures is to boost Republicans' advantages at the ballot box. More pertinently, it is to make voting more difficult for the aged, the poor, the people who need help voting and their helpers, and people of color.

            Now these bills are papered around the newfound imperative to do anything to posture one's self before the Golden Calf, the con of Mar-a-Lago.

            What do Republicans stand for anymore? Observe the national debate over leadership. By and large, they stand for the Big Lie and a big liar. Only a few of those Republicans who know the Big Truth have spoken up.

            The rest have found an issue in "woke" initiatives aimed at making states and people in power pay for policies that harm those with the least power, seeming to ignore the fact that some voters who are Republican actually like easier voting.

            Understand that "woke" has its roots in black slang, a statement about not submitting to injustice.

            That should tell you everything about today's Republican Party. It was once the Party of Lincoln. Now it is the party of pettiness, motivated by phantoms and fallen idols.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, May 3, 2021

Where's America's apology for lie after lie?

          I'm waiting for my apology from Newsmax.

          Last week it apologized to Eric Coomer, director of security for Dominion Voting Systems, for spreading Republican lies about the 2020 election.

          It apologized for "any harm that our reporting" caused to Coomer and his family. They had received death threats generated by the Trump lie machine.

          Newsmax is trying to save its tail feathers ahead of a lawsuit for which, in the case of Fox News and its own Big Lie claims, Dominion seeks $1.8 million.

          Dominion also is suing Rudy Giuliani and One America News Network, among others.

          It dropped Newsmax from its lawsuit after the apology and a retraction of its false reporting.

          What I want to know is why Newsmax is not apologizing to me, and to all Americans who value democracy and dread oligarchy.

          I want an apology from agents who triggered an insurrection -- blood flowing in our Capitol – my Capitol.

          I want an apology from those who continue to live by the Big Lie. I won't get that apology, because they live for lies.

          Lies – like the claim that Joe Biden is out to take the hamburger right out of your hands, and cut beef production by 90 percent. Based solely on a British tabloid's squirrely "analysis" of Biden's climate proposals, Fox News went to town on that Whopper with cheese.

          Fox News' John Roberts later acknowledged the speciousness of that. Though among his on-air comrades, he was the only one with the guts to admit it.

          They felt no such obligation, as truth is not what they do.

          Further evidence comes from the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, where a reporter resigned after being ordered to write that a children's book by Kamala Harris had been imposed upon unattended minors at the border. 

          Lies, lies, lies. But none supersedes the Big Lie about the dethroning of our previous president.

          A recent survey found that 60 percent of Republicans think the election was stolen -- a harrowing premise if derived from actual evidence.

          Clearly 60 percent of Republicans need none.

          Donald Trump will go down as a most inconsequential president for his lack of accomplishments, but as pertains to lasting radioactivity, the Big Lie looks to have the half-life of plutonium.

          As the Republicans populate their leadership ahead of 2022, quite clearly the only thing that matters is allegiance to the Big Lie.

          That means that Congresswoman Liz Cheney is toast.

          To be nominated by the GOP, truth need not apply.

          The folly of the Arizona recount now ongoing, and claims that the results in Georgia and Pennsylvania were rigged, is that several Republicans won in precincts where voters could not hack voting for Trump. Were their ballots tainted as well?

          The interesting thing about the posturing to win Trump's favor in advance of what's to come in Republican primaries is that he is more reviled today by Americans than ever before – and that's a lot, because he's Gallup's least popular president ever polled.

          As low as Trump's approval ratings are – 38.6 percent in leaving office, it's still stunning that even that many Americans support him. But they have been conditioned to accept lie after lie, and so they were quite ready to accept the Big Lie.

          Back to the matter of Joe Biden supposedly wanting to take beef off your table:

          "Crazy narratives are tough to dispel," writes Molly Roberts in the Washington Post. "They're designed to inflame by warping a matter of policy into a matter of identity."

          With the lie about Biden taking our beef, Roberts writes, Trumpians find a way to deflect any serious discussion of climate change, just as Trump did in dismissing wind power: "And they say the noise causes cancer."

          The Big Lie lives on not because of anything factual that supports it but because angry people don't want to think about serious responses to serious national challenges. They desire that a clown shall lead them.

          America deserves an apology and a retraction.

          Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: