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Dave Perry: Preoccupations

NOTES ON EVERYTHING FROM THE EDITOR OF THE AURORA SENTINEL  — dperry@AuroraSentinel.com @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook


Five years after what was then America’s worst massacre, we’re just as vulnerable to terrorists among us as we were the night James Eagan Holmes opened fire during the Aurora theater shooting.

Time hasn’t dulled the panicky feeling I get when I recall the look on Tom Sullivan’s face outside Gateway High School as he desperately flailed a photo of his son, Alex Sullivan. Just hours after the shooting, when it was still unclear how many were dead or injured and who they were, a panicked Tom Sullivan begged other victims and rescuers for information about where his son was.

The memory is as visceral today as it was watching Tom five years ago. For that instant, I lost my child, too. That was just the beginning of a ghastly river of horror as details of the attack unfolded, all the while rescuers dealt with booby traps set by Holmes in his north-Aurora apartment.

That we could grow that kind of horror from within and so easily allow it to overwhelm us at a movie theater was baffling. As it turns out, we had stood by while a smart, awkward nerd from California, who was hopelessly sick, did this to us.

Five years hasn’t diminished that gripping shock when I recall those days of staggering death and terror. It’s just as astounding.  So I don’t like or really understand these annual commemorations. It’s still too soon.

 It’s still so fresh and sharp that it stuns me even more now as even deadlier attacks from within beset America.

How, after hundreds of children and dads and pals and lovers have been brutally gunned down in public can we, as a nation, shrug it off as just the price we pay for being a free country?

This isn’t freedom. Freedom isn’t a predictable panic every time a school or college shooting alert comes across your phone, petrified that it might be at your own kid’s school. I can’t justify terror and murder as the fair price to be paid for anything.

Rather than allow for adult conversations about what we can do to stem the growing herd of sick and warped Americans willing to murder strangers in public, we politicize it.

Mass murder is not a partisan affair. Ignoring it is.

And that’s exactly what Americans are doing here. In a country where no challenge has ever, ever been too great, the battle to keep our sickest friends, family members and neighbors from shooting us dead at malls, theaters, schools and night clubs isn’t beyond us, it’s just beyond discussing.

Held hostage by demented bullies at the National Rifle Association and their subservient puppets in Congress and state legislatures across the nation, politicians won’t even allow experts at agencies like the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence. We can’t even do the science because of politics. And as most Americans well know, science has saved Americans’ asses many times over. It can’t when it’s bound and gagged.

Like most Americans, I get it that we’re not going to gun-control ourselves to Nirvana. But there is a long list of common-sense gun limitations that deserve fair discussion and won’t because the NRA, their mindless gun-nutter minions and the politicians who suck up to them will not have it.

They are ready and willing to let you or someone you know be the next Tom Sullivan, drowning in terror and panic, begging gods and strangers that it wasn’t their son or daughter this time.

We have to have the discussion about gun controls because we don’t care about mentally ill people in this country. We know damned well that every one of these demented mass murderers was desperately sick. But for whatever reason, we pass off mental illness as weakness. I can’t imagine anyone telling a cancer victim to suck it up like we do someone having their sanity destroyed by their own brain.

Recently the country has panicked over what to about opioid addicts and lethal overdoses. Yet for endless decades, the death and misery toll from mental illness has dwarfed the opioid problem.

And now, even mental illness is off the table for discussion by the NRA regime. Imagine what a psychological competency test might look like, and imagine how many gun-extremists would fail such a test if it were required for gun ownership.

So I don’t like these anniversaries of tragedies. I do lament the wonderful lives lost or horribly changed by what Holmes did, but I can’t get beyond all the horror from that day and the days that followed. And I can’t get past the fact that five years after the Aurora Theater Shooting, more than 20 years after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Pulse, after hundreds of shooting victims, we haven’t done a damn thing. Surely we can do something to make next year’s anniversary mean something different.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter or Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com

President Donald Trump yesterday applauded his son’s “transparency.”

That sole statement issued by the president sums up the noxious situation Trump, his son and the nation find themselves in: The Trump Administration is sinking into a quagmire of lies, treason, malfeasance and obfuscation — and they’re dragging the country down with them.

After learning that his son, his son-in-law and his former campaign manager gleefully sought out a Russian lawyer last summer in hopes of scoring Kremlin intelligence they hoped would be damaging to Hillary Clinton, Trump said only that his son is a “high quality” person, and he should be lauded for being so forthright.

“High quality person.” Who talks like that? Who says something like that about their child, especially one who now faces serious allegations like treason, conspiracy and collusion?

Like so much of what Trump and his administration say, the specious remarks are at best delusional, and more likely just more lies and deceit.

In reality — and despite what this administration and its supporters say, there is still reality and it is indisputable — a months-long investigation by the New York Times revealed that Trump campaign officials had been lying about never having met with Russians about Clinton intelligence, nor even knowing anything about it. For the past few days, as the Times investigation closed in on Trump Junior and the story of how he pursued a Russian lawyer after being given a tip, the president’s son kept revising his story. Finally, on Tuesday, he suddenly released damning emails on Twitter, just before the Times was about to publish them.

The whole world knows this was not an act of transparency, but one of desperation. Clearly, Trump Junior and his father hope that Americans will think that there is nothing to hide nor be ashamed of in the emails, and that the move to release them was one of righteousness.

The stunt was subterfuge. The emails are wholly damning.

Republican defenders of Trump — who are thinning in ranks every day — have said this and the entire investigation are overblown.

This is the quote that belies that hogwash. Trump Junior, in his own emails, where he anxiously anticipates getting a load of dirt on Clinton from the Russian government, says to his sources: “If it’s what you say, I love it especially later in the summer.”

He loved the idea that an enemy government had collected intelligence on a former U.S. secretary of state. He loved that American adversaries would offer to hand the secrets over in hopes of throwing the election in favor of Donald Trump. And for months now, Trump Junior, son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort, have sat on all of this while continuing to lie and say they never did what they’re accused of doing.
Trump Junior is transparent alright. He tried, and possibly later succeeded, in conspiring with the Russians to get damning intelligence on Clinton in hopes of helping his father win the presidency.

Such a high quality person.

In the meantime, Trump inexplicably and relentlessly denies that the Russians meddled in the last election. Just days ago, after the G-20 summit, Trump suggested that the U.S. and Russia collaborate on preventing the very cyber security theft the Russians committed against the United States and used against Trump’s political opponent.

The truth here is shocking. Whether all this is a manifestation of the Trumps’ stunning malfeasance or whether it’s just part of the unfolding drama of treachery, it’s just as breathtaking that some Congressional leaders are so cavalier about it.

Anxious to move their agenda at any and all costs, they, too, should be lauded for their transparency.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com

Not even two months in, the world has already run out of metaphors to describe the Donald Trump presidency.

On the bright side, the death toll appears to be 0 — so far. As with everything with Trump, however, there’s a caveat. The tragic death of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens was the result of a mission engineered before Trump stormed the White House. That he exploited the horrific loss for political gain speaks only to his brief legacy as Washington’s most outrageous carnival barker, a feat not to be dismissed.

True, human casualties haven’t begun to rack up yet, but the collateral damage Trump & Co. has foisted on honesty, America’s righteous reputation, tolerance, justice, virtue, the environment, the poor, morality, the wretched, the Office of the U.S. Presidency, human dignity, the sick, foreign policy, truth and, above all, American camaraderie, is breathtaking.

We have become the Divided States of America. And within every state, battles flare daily between “Us” and “Them.”

In just the past few days, the Trump administration:

• privately made a bid for war with nuclear nut-cases in North Korea, allowing only a right-wing blog writer to witness the shocking development.

• released a budget blueprint that would cut deeply into programs protecting the working poor, the environment and ailing rural communities to beef up military spending, already larger than what the world’s other top 13 countries spend combined.

• persisted in forcing his staff to perpetuate discredited lies that President Obama spied on Trump before the election and coerced the British to help him. It’s now become a multi-international incident that not only has brought a great deal of shame and ridicule upon the United States, Trump may have finally delivered the deathblow to his credibility.

• vociferously backed an ill-conceived plan to modify Obamacare that does nothing he promised as a candidate for president, It’s under siege from conservatives, liberals, doctors, insurers, providers, hospitals, researchers, Republican governors and powerful groups that represent older and poorer Americans.

• fell deeper into a quagmire of ties between Trump’s political associates and Russia and its interference in the last election.

• blasted one of the most critical aspects of American constitutional government when new courts overturned Trump’s latest attempt to ban Muslim immigrants and visitors.

Those were the week’s highlights.

Despite the gravity of each and every one of these calamities and the tirades and tweets each outrage prompts, he continues unhampered. Congressional Republican leaders let him. Starved for the power to finally run the show and seeing Trump as just the stooge they needed, GOP leaders coyly look away from Trump’s bamboozling. It seems a small price to pay for the Capitol’s political gold diggers.

They’re unnerved by protests and sinking polls but unmoved knowing that history will not be kind to their folly. They’re clamoring unafraid to get on board Icarus Airlines with Trump for a quick trip to disaster. Most Americans feel sad that poor people have to go back to being sick as well as poor under the proposed changes to Obamacare. But God help the congressman who votes on a health-care bill that raises the insurance rates of a 63-year-old unemployed steel worker or coal miner five times what they’re paying now.

As a country, we’re already exhausted by all this.

It’s depressing to think that for years to come we all must hope that whatever crazy or stupid thing Trump does or says today, something or someone will prevent him from bringing a world of hurt into our own lives.

Our luck is running out, and it’s amazing that the heavy smoke in the cabin has only got a few key Republicans worried.

The rest of us are left to watching out the window for parachutes from the cockpit, and digging for new metaphors and similes to get through another week.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com.

Are there any adults left in the right wing of the Colorado Republican Party?

The whiny political toddlers of the state tea party are having a full blown Trumper Tantrum over a bi-partisan attempt to fix Colorado’s crumbling roads.

The timing couldn’t be worse. After years of ugly political kick-boxing in the Colorado Legislature, Democrats and Republicans have miraculously offered a bi-partisan solution to raise $3.5 billion to keep state highways and byways from sliding into third-world status. It calls for raising the state sales tax 1 penny on every dollar’s purchase. It seriously lowers license-plate fees and raises  only about half of what’s needed for overdue road construction and repair.

One damn penny when you spend one damn dollar. And the whiny tea party brats aren’t having it.

Led by the apparently tanked thinkers at Golden’s Independence Institute, the state’s pied pipers of parsimony, the tin-foil hat brigade has begun their own statewide campaign. They want to ask voters to force the Legislature to spend billions on state roads — without raising any taxes. They demand lawmakers steal the money from other parts of the budget.

It’s titled, “Fix Our Damn Roads.”

It’s damn dangerous nonsense, is what it is. If you’ve overlooked a few things, let me point them out:

• This is not a grass-roots effort to take back state government being driven over the edge by drunken liberals under the gold dome. Colorado’s state government has long been a bunch of notorious tightwads. They spend state money like it’s their own, because it is. Colorado has never, ever risen past average for state taxing and spending.

• The Independence Institute is a affable confederacy of crackpots who consider their brand of esoteric anarchy a breath of fresh political air. In reality, the likes of crazy-ass Tom “Nuke ‘em” Tancredo and crazier-ass John “Ten-Commandments” Andrews are the engines of political flatulence stinking up Colorado’s venerable Republican Party. It’s the party of  John Love and  Ralph Carr.

• The Independence Institute is the bent think tank that has thunk up previous gems like essentially ending any and all gun control. Their mission is to crush any politician who even thinks about wild gun regulations like, oh, universal background checks. They spotlight their cause with an occasional confab called, “Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Party.” There, the frat pack peels off a few rounds, throws back a few shots and smokes a few cigars in jovial Ayn Rand fellowship.

• They never met a charter school they didn’t like, no matter how miserably they fail.  They’ve twisted school board elections to promote charter madness. Obamacare? The only thing that makes them crazier than laws trying to keep guns out of the hands of mass murderers is legislation that keeps poor people out of pricey emergency rooms by getting them in to see doctors before it happens.

• Their brand of government goes way beyond what Colorado has long known as conservatism. With a charming chuckle and a clever quip, they endlessly try to convince anyone that things like mass transit is a communistic cancer, eating away at Colorado’s last chance to have a 20-lane autobahn right through the center of Denver. Bike paths? The work of  ISIS.

• They honestly believe that the state’s public schools are awash in wasted money, thrown away on lavish things like teachers salaries than bump into the $50k range after decades of service and expensive college-degrees.

That’s who wants Colorado to fix the damn roads with a budget hamstrung by the TABOR constitution conundrum they helped inflict on the state. It’s an idea so damn good that no other state has gone there in the 20 years it’s destroyed Colorado’s infrastructure.

Here’s what they won’t tell you: Real Colorado Republican conservatives have been in the thick of the state budget with Democrats for decades. They’re hardly a tax-and-spend bunch. Most come from rural roots planted in Colorado farms, ranches and small businesses. They don’t spend their days in front of spreadsheets at some delusional stink tank in Golden. They run real businesses and have real lives in a real world. They know that if you don’t fix a leaky barn roof now, you’ll spend way more in the future — and then lose your hay.

Unlike these damn fools who think they shouldn’t have to fix the damn roof because they had to pay for the damn groceries, the adults at the Capitol know you have to do both. Being a grown-up is damn hard.

So state lawmakers have chiseled the budget to bare bones. In a state where asking voters to raise sales taxes a damn penny on a damn dollar is seen as suffering from acute political incontinence, Colorado Republicans and Democrats went there this week by offering the bi-partisan House Bill 1242.

And they got petulant pout. These people actually think that the relative paltry sum that Colorado spends on film-industry incentives and bus service to ski areas will pay to add lanes for cars-only on every road in the state.

They want to turn Colorado into one of the states that it seems like everyone in the country is escaping from to move here. If you think their brand of living in a cave and sleeping all night in your recliner with a cocked gun in your lap is a good time, move to Montana.

I don’t want to give up my state to libertarian extremists.

I don’t know yet if I’ll support the tax for roads measure. I want to see where the money will go, and I want assurances it’ll go there.

But I know I will happily give my Colorado government, that is made up of my neighbors from all over the state, my damn penny to fix my damn roads so I can damn well get to where I’m going.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com

Dear CIA/NSA spook in my iPhone,

I feel like I need to explain a few things that I’m worried might be taken out of context in your office in Washington, or Punjab, if the CIA has — like everyone else — outsourced your stuff. If you’re in Punjab, I’ll type louder.

I feel kind of silly doing this, but after the news yesterday from Wikileaks that y’all are snooping on everyone through our TVs and cell phones, I started thinking about what you might have seen and heard.

Unlike so many politicians and celebrities, most of us don’t want the world to know our little eccentricities.

I don’t know if I have a smart TV. I know it outsmarts me. That’s why I had a kid. I wonder if you’ve had to stare at me gaping at the TV and snorting uncontrollably at the same three Melissa McCarthy movies I watch repeatedly. If you have seen me, I want you to know I don’t dress like that when I leave the house. By the way, I wasn’t hiding the last Reese’s peanut butter cup behind the couch cushion last fall after Halloween, I was just keeping it there so it didn’t melt. I’d appreciate it if we could keep that just between us.

All that stuff I said about President Trump while watching the debates, I was only kidding. I know there’s no way he can lodge things that large in his lower intestinal tract. It was a joke. Heh, heh.

As to my phone, I’m sure some of those texts sounded pretty odd. Let me explain. My pal, Reed, and I joke around a lot. Neither of us ever had any intention of actually waterboarding Trump with his own wine and a can of night-glow spray paint. Hell, we don’t even have that waterboard table any more.

About that Slap Ted Cruz ‘Til He Cries app on my phone. My daughter put that on there. I only played with it a few dozen times. The rest were people who just picked up my phone in the newsroom, I think.

All those Google searches about “What is today?” and “What time is it?” I just couldn’t read the date on my phone.

Regarding all those videos of dogs pooping? Evidence for when I turn my neighborhood scofflaws into police.

The numerous queries about itching? I was asking for a friend. Same with those searches for how to get un-high when you’ve smoked too much pot. And, no, I did not actually try drinking cayenne coffee. I was just curious about what the side effects of that would have been had I actually tried it.

Also, I know there are no exercises to make all those body parts bigger, I was just wondering what some people believed.

You should probably know that, as to all those pictures of run-over animals, I have a friend who studies road kill as kind of a personal project. Somebody else put all those props on the little squirrel corpses. Honest. Except the one with the Snickers bar wrapper.

And, Mr. or Ms. Spook, you gotta believe be that the Daddy Digs It Yeah, Yeah Yeah playlist was a joke planted there by my kid. I know who Nickelback is, but I’ve never listened to him. Same with all those Abba and Justin Bieber tracks.

Most important, if you’ve been listening to my conversations, I’d appreciate some advance warning if that stuff is going to be made public or end up on Wikileaks. Sometimes, when I’m in a hurry and I say somebody is an absolute raging “stitch” it sounds like something else. I’d like you to correct that.

But the selfies of me in with the Scotch tape and giant, green, stuffed Spanish olives? I got nothing.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Facebook and Twitter or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com

Sorry, Virginia. I never swallowed the Santa Claus hoax, and Trump is still Trump.

I’ll grant that President Donald Trump’s address to Congress last night was decidedly different in tone and delivery than his usual shoot-from-the-lip word salad that he tosses all over the intertubes. And behind a somewhat more polished delivery last night was Trump’s same, divisive, lying and delusional rhetoric that he’s mesmerized his fans with for months now.

I had hoped for details and logic. All I got was bullshit — albeit delivered without the president singing completely off key.

Right after he finished reading his teleprompter address with all the flourish of first-day telemarketer, the GOP crowd went wild, lauding Trump for being so “presidential.”  Presidential? Are you kidding me? More like that relief you feel when your dog only quietly growls and doesn’t hump your neighbors’ legs when they stop by. Set the bar low enough and even Trump can be presidential.

I don’t want it to be the usual malarkey. When Trump was talking about all the country rallying together for the good of everyone, I desperately want to believe that he believes that. And more importantly, that he is willing and able to make it happen. I’m thinking compromise. Trump is thinking capitulation.

But as is the case with almost everything Trump says, it’s meaningless. He does something that belies what he says. He talks in obscure, circular, vagaries about draining “the swamp,” and then he appoints a cabinet filled with crony billionaires and bankers and people who just don’t have a clue. He talks about moving away from the country’s polarizing culture of blame and hate, and then he says that illegal immigrants are to reason for the bulk of the country’s woes. Because 11 million people have ruined it for 320 million of the rest of us.

Besides the allusions to a history of American incompetence that’s he come to save us from, he delivered truckloads of crap that are dangerous outright lies and propaganda. Despite what he says, there has been no flood of refugees to this country who go from their ISIS indoctrination camps straight to the airport and then to an unsuspecting American community near you. The country is not plagued by crime-ridden chaos. Crime rates have fallen dramatically since the 1990s. The economy is not in shambles. The last eight years saw a stunning turnaround, moving America away from the brink of economic Armageddon. The United States has seen the largest, sustained period of job growth ever. Interest rates have remained rock bottom. Inflation has been non-existent. The stock market has made unprecedented gains. The economy has slogged through one of the worst financial episodes in U.S. history. The facts don’t back up what he says.

But setting aside what turned out to be a better delivered script, there was the usual mean and hateful push to demonize illegal immigrants. In the evening’s most stunning move, Trump announced that he would create a special agency to offer support to American victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. It was an astounding moment that took the breath away from much of Congress and me. Never mind that such a move diminishes the victims of crimes not committed by non-citizens. What it does is push Americans into believing that “real” Americans are being beaten or murdered by illegal immigrants at such a rate that the federal government needs to move in and help out.

It’s total propaganda that’s meant to either condition the country for the Great American Roundup of illegal aliens, or simply make a false case for a ludicrously expensive and ineffective wall. It’s meant to turn scared and ignorant white Americans against minority immigrants, and it’s working.

Trump said he wants to make life easier for small businesses, but then he said he wants to ensure Americans get paid family leave and higher wages for menial jobs when illegal immigrants are chased out of the country. He spelled out an answer to repealing Obamacare that sounded almost exactly like Obamacare, except that insurance companies would never go for a plan that forces them to take care of sick people as health care prices soar after providers hand out free care to an explosion of medically indigent and uninsured Americans.

I’ll stipulate that it was a relief to see Trump behave less erratically and refrain from spending time calling out the growing list of people and things he hates and fears. But the bulk of the speech was filled with the usual exaggerations, erroneous conclusions and outright fabrications and lies just like all the others.

And most likely, none of it even matters.

Tomorrow, he’ll start unravelling his campaign promises in deeds to match his words. Like so many of Trump’s critics, I’m hoping that I’m going to be proven dead wrong about what Trump is about the do, and how dangerous it will be for the economy, the poor, the middle class, minorities, immigrants, women, gays, refugees and just about everyone but the rich.

So, President Trump. Surprise us. Surprise the whole country. Surprise the whole world.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@AuroraSentinel.com

QUID HAS HEARD that Aurora may yet get the A-Line moniker for its oh-so-cool segment of RTD light-rail. Seems that your faithful hack endlessly takes pleasure in pointing out that A-Town was the perfect place for RTD to launch the A-Line name a couple of years ago. Instead, a group of Denverphiles handed that handy metro-line moniker to Denver’s train from Union Station to Denver International Airport, because “A” stands for “Denver” or Union” or “Station” or “DIA” or “International” or “Oh, I get it.” So A-town, AKA, A-urora, was stiffed once again and saddled with the catchy R-Line tag. They did that because everybody knows “R” stands for “Really?” The deal was not only done, but well done when the University of Colorado decided it was a good idea to pay millions to fill out the train-line’s name with University of Colorado A-Line Denver Airport Train and Kranken Traffic Impediment, or something along that line. Like that first cup of coffee and that last potato chip dipped in peanut butter and jelly at the end of the day, Quid finds few things sweeter than pointing out the University of Colorado A-Line goes nowhere near anything that also bears its pricey name. “Curses,” Quid has screamed while looking at the R-Line schedule. And it seems to have worked, clearly because the A-Line doesn’t. The thing has been side-tracked since Day One with all sorts of technical and logistical problems. Almost daily, and usually a few times each day, RTD faithfully posts the excuse d’jour why they University of Colorado A-Line train is, A: Not Running, B: Running Behind or C: Railing for Dollars. It simply begs the question of the University of Colorado Million Dollar Branding Department, “How’s that working for ya?” Your’s truly sees only two ways forward. 1: CU abandons the side of the jinxed airport train and, instead, graces Aurora’s R-Line, which actually goes through at stops at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine — which is actually in Aurora — and associated Anschutz-a-lopolis. Or, RTD could move the A-Line name to A-town, about the same time they pay Quid to remove the curse off of the Denver operation, renaming it, “The Air Train.” Quid offers a heart-felt A-men to that.

AND QUID HAS HEARD that these times can get weirder. Whodda thunk just a year ago that patriotic Dems would be thumping patriotic Republicans for snuggling up to the Russians and that those flagging Dems would be delirious over the possibility of treasons charges against their captors — for the good of the country?

AND THAT’S ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS

I don’t blame Congressman Mike Coffman and dozens of Republicans just like him for wanting to avoid an unflattering spectacle by subjecting themselves to town meetings focusing on the fate of Obamacare.

Coffman was unceremoniously sandbagged at just such a meeting in January at an Aurora Public Library. At what was supposed to be just another town hall confab, dozens of “constituents” showed up ready to roar in protest about repealing Obamacare and a host of other issues Republicans are making hay with since Trump and fellow Republicans won it all in November.

Rather than face a made-for-TV onslaught of protesters as he left the meeting, he sneaked out the back and got caught doing it by 9News cameras.

Totally awkward.

I totally understand that Coffman wouldn’t want to subject himself to a similar made-for-TV public thrashing again, but instead he subjects himself to deserved criticism for offering audiences only to the few and chosen, rather than everyone and anyone he represents in Congress.

With a great deal of flourish, Team Coffman issued releases late Monday that made it seem he was ready to get out and find out from the people affected by Obamacare repeal just what’s what. It’s hard to see how it could happen when you look at the details of Coffman’s  “listening tour.” Coffman said he was going to take the time to meet with Aurora-area patient “advocates” and other health-care professionals. That’s not a bad thing, and Coffman should be commended for seeking out their counsel. But he’ll be doing it at planned, private meetings, not on a dais at a public meeting where everyone can hear what they’re telling Coffman and, more importantly, hear what Coffman tells them.

Coffman will be listening to actual constituents on this defining and critical issue — on the phone. He’s planning virtual town hall meetings via phone conferences. Ever had a phoner? They suck.  Now getting on the horn to listen to people per se is by no means a bad thing, but phone conferences are not unlike contacting your virtual congressional representative, who will offer up a virtual vote on virtual health-care bills.

In kissing and giving someone a piece of one’s mind, virtual is disappointing.

Coffman virtually pulled this public-relations ploy off. A slick and carefully worded campaign missive made it seem the congressman was fearlessly setting out to get the facts and bring Aurora to the promised land of cheap health care for (almost) everybody. It was so slick that a few news outlets around town rewarded the effort with glowing accounts of Coffman’s Listening Tour, failing to point out that Coffman would not be listening to his constituents in the same room.

The whole thing is pretty disappointing and hugely unnecessary. Taking the high-fives as a congressman is every bit as much a part of the job as taking the hell-no’s. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I’m not saying that Coffman or any other Republican or Democratic elected official has to attend partisan ambushes or risk being labeled a sissy. And unruly obstruction at public meetings is nothing short of bullying. If you want to protest, take it outside. But if partisan opponents try and use these valuable town meetings to create political theater then create events that make it hard or impossible. Limit the size of the crowd and allow in only those who win seats from a lottery, handled by an independent agency like the League of Women Voters or a chamber of commerce. Ban protest materials. Set rules for civility, and if someone violates the rules, escort them out. As long as it works both ways for both parties. Tea party protesters have played the disrupter game for years against Democrats and even some Republicans.

Confused? That’s not by accident. With so much contradictory news spun by all kinds of political agencies, entities and personalities, it’s important to make sure the public knows what’s what.

Here it is: Coffman has shown interest in gleaning information about the future of Obamacare. That’s good. He’ll talk to local major players in the industry and have some kind of communal phone conversation with some of us little guys. That’s OK. But he’s not meeting with constituents face to face on this issue, and he’s not directly telling you that. That’s bad.

There are plenty of people who don’t want to write their congressman a letter that they have no idea if he ever reads. There are plenty of people who don’t want to have a virtual conversation that’s as informative and satisfying as trying to get cable TV box instructions from a call center in a country where everyone is mysteriously named “Jeff” or “Veronica.”

We’ve all been sucking it up as we’ve suffered through the very real abuse inflicted by Republican health care legislation, Democratic health care legislation and entities that have wagged both those dogs for decades. Coffman and other congressmen can suck it up and show up at town meetings to get an earful, first-hand about how serious the health-care issue is, and how wrong they might be about how to change it.

It’s not virtually mandatory, it really is.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com

In a country that has produced an ocean of shams and scams, the energized, so-called right-to-life movement is dragging us all down with its dense flotsam and jetsam.

Here we are again, paddling against yet a new current of anti-abortion-rights rhetoric, extortion and hypocrisy that serves no good purpose other than to foster ill-gotten political gain.

In all my days of dealing with abortion-rights foes and fans, I have never, ever met anyone who thinks abortion is a good thing or that there should be more of them. What I have confronted endless times are people who do not understand the science of human life, the U.S. Constitution, the laws surrounding abortion, and the court cases that finally resolved this issue decades ago.

It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are, science doesn’t care. Those who have or are pushing again in state and federal venues to enact so-called personhood bills — like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and a host of other science-shy legislators — do not understand why the government and courts cannot and should not declare human sperm, eggs, or a collection of cells from their union, a legal person. They do not understand that bestowing such a distinction on a zygote would do what so many have tried for so long: officially require female Americans to become subject to the will of the United States government.

What so many so-called pro-life activists and enthusiasts don’t understand or refuse to admit is that the argument is not, and has never been, about the merits or pitfalls of abortion. Like I said, I’ve never met anyone who thinks the procedure is cool or enviable. The argument has always been whether morally or constitutionally the government can lay claim to the body of every woman in the country. If people were like chickens and laid fertilized eggs in laundry baskets or milk boxes, this would not be an issue. But fertilized human eggs exist inside human females. Numerous courts, the Supreme Court, has found repeatedly that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to privacy when it comes to human bodies, whether you are a man, or a woman. The government cannot compel a man to undergo sterilization, hip replacement or prevent them from seeking out Viagra. As a society, and as a system of government, we have affirmed that nothing is more sacred than the right of self-determination, and it lives in the right to privacy.

Courts and the government have gone to great lengths over the decades to balance that critical right to privacy against the reality of human viability, and arguments over those aspects of abortion are needed and relevant.

But as a new Washington regime is ushered in, chock-full of the mindless push for outlawing abortion-rights, it’s critical that cooler heads insist the bull-crap surrounding this issue be called for what it is right now. This anti-women’s-rights mentality immediately rolled downhill to Colorado, where the small but vocal minority of anti-abortion-rights enthusiasts have lit up like phosphorus algae in a sea of glee over the alt-right taking over in Washington.

These are the people who claim a fearsome defense of human life. They are pro-life except for in the cases of the lives of children abused by parents protected by the law, the lives of refugee children and pregnant women banned from immigrating to the United States, the lives of people wrongfully convicted of crimes and wrongfully executed, and the lives of poor children who will die because they don’t have access to healthcare or food like wealthy ones. For most of these activists, right-to-life is a capricious and contradictory concept.

And for those who now praise Denver judge Neil Gorsuch’s ascension to the Supreme Court, he will almost certainly join a long list of conservative “textualist” jurists that agree that the Constitution protects citizens from the government in controlling their bodies, even the bodies of women, minorities or anti-abortion activists.

The issue isn’t that the Constitution guarantees women to have a right to abortion, it’s that the Constitution prevents the government from controlling the reproductive rights and functions of women.

If you want to see fewer abortions, push for more, not less, funding for Planned Parenthood and Colorado’s program of providing cheap and accessible IUDs to poor, sexually active teenagers. Endless studies have shown time and again that those programs reduce abortions drastically because they drastically reduce unwanted pregnancies. It’s simple.

And just as simple is voting for and supporting state and federal candidates who get this, who don’t pander to the anti-abortion-rights lobby for political expediency. Or call those who fail in that area and tell them support legislation and candidates that keep the government out of the examining room, and out of women’s bodies, violating Americans’ most fundamental right.

It’s about privacy, self-determination and common sense, and nothing else.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com

I don’t have to pause for a moment to know the worst part of journalism is the death of children.

Beyond grim, imposing our cameras, our questions and our deadlines into the tragedy of a dead child is viscerally traumatic.

You never forget the stories of children felled by cars, murdered by parents or struck down by cancer. They leave tender scars. That all-too familiar painful knot in the throat struck Tuesday as Aurora Sentinel photographer Gabriel Christus began filing photos of the body of 6-year-old David Puckett being retrieved from the frozen pond in Aurora’s Olympic Park. Puckett went missing New Year’s Eve and was the subject of a massive search. That search ended in the worst way Tuesday morning.

Like any parent, the pain I feel for the little boy is halting. My sympathy for the terror suffered by the boy’s parents is crushing.

And once again, we began the unnerving process of deciding which photos and details to include in the story.

The shots depicted yellow-clad divers on the frozen lake, working to get into and out of the water. One photo showed the rescuers carrying the body of a boy inside a body bag. A small foot was clearly visible. The image made me draw a breath. It brought back waves of revulsion connected to the Chuck E. Cheese’s murder decades ago. It brought back the same feeling as did the story about two Aurora toddlers who died in a house fire while their mom was out partying. Columbine High School. Children killed in car wrecks. Children shot by other children. A baby boy killed when he was flung against a wall by his father.

“Not that one,” I said to another editor as we went through the photos. I felt that uncomfortable flush that I know can become overwhelming and come without warning. When it comes, you have to stop what you’re doing and leave.

Another photo told the story of the end of Puckett’s brief life. The rescuers were carrying a black body bag across the frozen pond. Two rescuers were still in the water, where ice had been cut open so they could descend to a place I can’t imagine ever having to go. Police and rescuers around the perimeter watched the gruesome task.

“That one.”

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Rescue crews carry what was believed to be the body of 6-year-old David Puckett out of the water Jan. 3 at Olympic Park. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

I knew the phone would soon ring with complaints about how insensitive it was to run such a ghastly picture. And it did.

So I want to tell you that we are far from insensitive to such things, just like journalists across town, and across the globe. I’ve seen far more sickening photos and been forced to stoically ask more revolting questions to get revolting answers than I can let myself recall. And each time I decide which photo to publish or which detail to include, I put myself in the place of the victim’s family and friends. And then I put myself in the place of our readers.

Our job is convey to you in the most cogent way, the good and the bad in our world. It’s one thing to tell someone about how horrible it was that a little boy apparently wandered onto dangerous pond ice, and to show you a picture of how that ended. It’s one thing to describe to you what it’s like to watch a park full of cops and rescuers, most of whom have children of their own, stare as a young boy is pulled from his icy death — and instead let you see for yourself as they follow the body bag being carried to shore.

You need to see the scene to truly understand the story. And everyone on the planet needed to see the shocking photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body lying dead on a Turkish beach in 2015. The Syrian toddler had drowned as his family tried to flee the terror of their war-torn country. You’ve seen the photo, and having only heard about it would not bring justice to the story of the boy’s death and the horror in Syria.

Here, and at newspapers across the globe, we make the unwanted and unconvincing decisions about which parts of tragedy to share with the public. These decisions have been fodder for criticism and introspection since the beginning of newspapers.

There is only one thing I’m certain of, that there are no right answers. Balancing the feelings of those dragged into the horror of losing a child with the very real need to tell the community what they want and need to know is an imperfect philosophy.

Am I sure we did the right thing in prominently running that provocative and telling photo? No. Would I make the same decision now? Yes.

And when my tour of newsroom duty finally comes to an end, I will be glad and relieved that I never have to hear such tragedies nor make such revolting decisions again. And I hope those who do it after me feel exactly the same way and make sure they tell us what we need to know.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com.