Sunday, September 26, 2021

We've stomped summer flat

            Waves of guilt crash over me.

            Summer is over, and I'm giddy. Giddy and feeling guilty.

            No one should celebrate the end of summer – its sights, its smells, its adventures.

            But this summer and the last were horrible. I wonder if it will be that way forever.

            This was the hottest summer on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with attendant dimensions to match.

            Where I live along the foothills of the Rockies, the summer of '21 made one gag. Every day the Front Range was obscured by gunky haze from fires a time zone away to the west. Majestic, towering Longs Peak – all 14,259 feet of it, was mostly missing.

            Since July California has endured its largest and longest wildfire. It's safe to say a majority of Americans -- certainly all in the West through the Midwest, breathed the byproducts.

            This is nothing new. Indeed, it's starting to seem like the new normal. Last year, starting in mid-July, Colorado endured its largest forest fire ever, ashes and soot raining down upon us well into November.

            This summer, up the canyon of the Cache la Poudre River, a forest floor blackened by that fire failed to do its absorbent job in torrential rains. A flash flood obliterated a large stretch of the highway and took a family of four to a gruesome end.

            Added to the West's smoke and flames is a drought almost without modern precedent.

            Lake Mead, the lifeline for whole cities and so many farms, faces its most acute shortage since its construction, fitting for near-Dust Bowl conditions throughout the West.

            And now the problem of toxic algae. Headline: "Lake Mead at risk of becoming a dead pool."

            None suffer more greatly than America's farmers in this unfolding catastrophe.

            They have my sympathy, but it is tempered for those who supported a presidential candidate who called climate change a Chinese hoax.

            One would think that America's farmers could and would bear testimony to this reality and urge action on conditions that literally are crushing them. Where is that testimony?

            If you are a denier, you have a lot of denying to do. Explain away what climate scientists called "mind-boggling" temperatures in the Arctic Circle. The words "heat wave" and "Siberia" should not be used in the same sentence. They were this summer.

            It is routine to hear Republicans who don't use "hoax" to still pooh-pooh the threat and say that those who urge action are "hysterical" and "alarmist."

            Nothing that can be said about the summer of 2021 can be categorized as hysterical. It is all on the record.

            The International Panel on Climate Change, asserts that since 1850, all of the long-term warming – 100 percent -- can be blamed on human activity.

            It is interesting, for instance, for deniers to point out the role of cows in all of this, and that role is significant. However, it's as if the cows sprung from the ground like lichen. Raising cattle is a human activity, as are deforestation and overgrazing.

            Right now the only debate should be over what should be done, not that a problem exists directly related to what we do.

            Write Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in "Merchants of Doubt":

            "Nobody can publish an article in a scientific journal claiming the sun orbits the Earth." Similarly, they write, "You can't publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal claiming there's no global warming." Why? Because that's a lie.

            The question is, what do we do about it? A clear majority of Americans wants action. Check any poll you want.

            Because of the pull of vested interests in the fossil fuel industries, however, it looks like hyper-ambitious proposals by President Biden are not going to make the cut.

            Until further notice, weak-kneed leaders would consign us and future generations to the desecration of the planet to which they owe their lives.

            The first thing they are willing to sacrifice, it appears, is summer.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, September 20, 2021

Requiem for an anti-vax evangelist

          What kind of science did Bob Enyart peddle?

          Whatever the strain, it killed him.

          It wasn't cross-over equine science – the wonders of horse dewormer. It wasn't Clorox tonic or one dose too many hydroxychloroquine.

          It was just anti-vax, anti-fact quackery.

          On weekly broadcasts of his "Real Science Radio" program, initially contrived to promote biblical "creation science" – you know, dinosaurs coexisting with man -- Enyart went in all directions that didn't intersect with actual scientific inquiry. That included his takes on vaccination, mask-wearing, evolution, climate change and sexual orientation.

          Along the way, the Colorado-based evangelist even mocked AIDS victims, pronouncing their fates just desserts.

          On-air during that epidemic, Enyart, whose day job was to be pastor of Denver Bible Church, yucked it up like Rush Limbaugh in reading the obituaries of AIDS victims and playing a sliver of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust."

          Fast-forward to now. Enyart joins a startling list of five conservative talk-radio hosts – tally courtesy of the Washington Post -- who inveighed against vaccines and masking, and have died from COVID-19.

          No better testimony to what medical professionals tell us.

          With Donald Trump setting the tone, we have entered a period where people who know nothing about science lead others into harm's dark corridor.

          All they have to do is search online and find their predispositions or suspicions, affirmed by fellow agents of speciousness. Agents who, like Trump, have contributed to many deaths.

          One can see why, after putting a search on for "COVID vaccinations" and "fertility," many women forgo shots. They can find an "expert" like former Pfizer executive Michael Yeadon, who says vaccination causes infertility.

          It's a dangerous situation when virology must compete with Google-ology.

          Yeadon also disputes the science affirming asymptomatic carrying of the virus, while asserting that people who've had the virus are not vulnerable to its variants. Let's just say that dozens of studies have shown otherwise.

          Claims like this have led almost one-third of all unvaccinated people to believe that the shots cause infertility.

          This despite maternal medical organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine jointly urging that pregnant women get vaccinated.

          Obviously we have two populations regarding what epidemiologists now call the "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

          The first is people who have long resisted vaccines, possibly because they had a bad reaction from one. The second is people who've never given the matter much thought. Now, with their very lives on the line, they are letting someone else do their thinking for them.

          These are the kinds of people susceptible to Nicki Minaj's ridiculously irresponsible tweet about a man in Trinidad getting swollen testicles from the shot. It was debunked at the speed of sound.

          A survey by a consortium of research institutions including Harvard University found that 20 percent of Americans believe at least one false claim about the COVID-19 vaccine.

          And so we have players like Tucker Carlson and others in the Fox News clown car constantly raising doubts about the vaccines, even while Fox News requires employees to reveal their vaccination status.

          We have Ron "What Me Worry?" DeSantis standing by silently as a speaker at one of his events states that the vaccines alter our DNA.

          And we have Bob Enyart, dead because he took his own advice.

          Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Minority rule wrecks us

            Only in the Supreme Court does the majority consistently make policy in Washington.

            And most of that majority was nominated by presidents who got fewer votes than their rivals.

            A solid majority of Americans – 58 percent today (Gallup) -- consistently opposes a ban on abortion. Yet a majority on the highest court appears poised to end that constitutional protection.

            In the Senate, the minority rules unless the matter involves the budget. Senators from that minority don't even have to read Dr. Seuss or the D.C. phone book to stop legislation. They just have to put a marker on it. Shy of 60 votes, it's the end of discussion.

            Climate change. The Electoral College. Gun sanity. Voting rights. The Affordable Care Act. LGBTQ rights. Based on national polls, it's difficult to find a single controversial debate in which the majority of Americans supports the Republican obstructionist position.

            Now we have the ridiculous situation involving vaccinations and masks.

            Infections among an unvaccinated minority, much of its vigor ideologically motivated and clustered in red states, swamps hospitals and causes harrowing choices reminiscent of the darkest days of the pandemic.

            Meanwhile, a vocal anti-mask minority, swooning to panderers like Florida's Ron DeSantis and Texas' Greg Abbott, is all too happy to put school children at risk. This is what passes for "pro-life" in 2021.

            It's a continuation of the criminally irresponsible behavior of the previous president with his super-spreader events, his mocking of medical experts.

            Hey, hey, MAGA freak; how many kids did you infect this week?

            OK. Put the pandemic aside.

            What about other vital needs? What about protecting voting rights from scheming partisans?

            What about treating gun violence as the public health issue it is?

            What about getting serious about the overheating of our planet – the wildfires, the super storms, the death rattle of our waterways, western reservoirs and aquifers?

            Minority rule means we will do little about protecting ourselves from natural disasters while letting the minority protest that fixes are too expensive, as the wealthy and the poor maintain their positions.

            And so we must end it.

            -- The filibuster must die. We must put a stake through its heart. As it is, the Senate has become a statue in a ratty park.

            As Adam Jentleson writes in his anti-filibuster manifesto Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of Democracy, Republicans in the Senate are "are out of step with the direction of the country," yet are "consistently able to impose their will on the majority."

            If we can't kill the filibuster, the representatives of the bill-killing minority should be required to march to the front of the Senate chambers and attempt to talk a bill to death, to literally gum up the works of our democracy as the nation watches.

            The filibuster should not be a push-button convenience. It should force a bill's opponents to stand before the nation and state their case for blockading government "by the people."

            They should have to talk and talk until they collapse or expire on the Senate floor. No food or water. Stand. Don't sleep. No cots allowed. No restroom breaks.

            -- We should neuter the Electoral College. I know it can't be ended via constitutional amendment due to the supermajority requirement. That's why more states should join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to award their electoral votes to the popular-vote winner. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have done so.

            -- Should we expand the Supreme Court? Biden has authorized a commission to study it. Nothing is sacrosanct about nine justices. The Republicans chose to ignore the traditional process when President Obama had a nominee. Why should Democrats honor tradition now?

            We must break the minority party's grip on a nation that should be governed by the assent of the people.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Road to Kabul via Saigon

            Like Afghanistan, Vietnam was a bipartisan debacle.

            From Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon to Ford. Wait. Ford?

            Gerald – yeah. The "accidental president" was the one who, like Joe Biden, made the call to end a futile and interminable war, then presided over the chaos that followed.

            As a presidential candidate, Richard Nixon illegally used back channels to subvert the Paris Peace Talks so that once elected he, not Lyndon Johnson, could claim to have delivered peace.

            Instead Watergate delivered us from Richard Nixon. So the job fell to Ford.

            Is Vietnam relevant as we consider where we've been and what sent our troops home on a one-airstrip airport in Kabul?

            Absolutely. In both wars, policy makers turned the civilian business of war-making over to the war machine.

            Just one more surge. One more offensive. One more infusion of troops. One more set of talks. One more hill. One more valley.

            In both Vietnam and Afghanistan our troops and tax dollars propped up feckless leaders.

            Mainly, however, in both we thought that we could forcibly import our essence to a social system allergic to it.

            We were misled and hoodwinked by the war machine, by embedded contractors for whom war wasn't hell but one helluva investment.

            Oh, by the way, guess who wasn't? Joe Biden.

            As Barack Obama points out in his new memoir, Biden wasn't a latecomer to the ranks of those who thought we should cut our losses in Afghanistan. He was a resolute contrarian when Obama begrudgingly let generals win debate after debate.

            In the wake of what has transpired, a parade of the rock-ribbed and ribboned commanders have blasted the decision to end this war. That sounds familiar to those of us whose very lives hung in the balance as successive administrations tried to devise an honorable end to a quagmire.

            Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran of Afghanistan who is running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate in Missouri denounced "a parade of officials who basically were spending the last 20 years selling people on this idea that the 20 years, the $2 trillion and the 2,500 lives were worth it. The only so-called 'experts' are people who were part of that effort."

            The events of recent weeks – the Taliban's stunning swelling to the fore – is reminiscent of the Tet Offensive of 1968.

            That's when the forces of North Vietnam demonstrated with cunning and courage that whatever force the U.S. supplied, they were going nowhere.

            If one based everything on body counts, the bottom line for our generals in Vietnam, U.S. troops kicked butt in Tet.

            So why a turning point in our ultimate defeat? Simple. Tet demonstrated that while our government sought to negotiate a way out and save some sons, these fighters weren't going anywhere.

            Just like the Taliban.

            Fifty years ago this summer I was awaiting the fruits of the Selective Service lottery. I was spared conscription by a blessedly high draft number. Before that lucky roll of the drum, my peers and I read about the government's policy of "Vietnamization" – trying to get the South Vietnamese to fight their own war while young American fought as their proxies.

            Didn't work. Sound familiar?

            It was sobering, back in 1971, to think any of us might be sent with the expressed mission of being the last to die in that war.

            The final days of the Afghan engagement were also an American-crafted disaster. The disaster is far from over.

            Biden and his advisers completely underestimated the extent to which Afghan soldiers would stand up for their country. Now we know: Whenever we left, they would fold.

            How about ten more years to find that out? Twenty?

            If the generals and congressional hawks had their way, we'd still be there – and in Vietnam.

            Fifty years on.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: