Snapping Turtle
The personal blog of David W. Guth
Copyright 2016
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Blogging my way from Tornado Alley to your computer screen, these are the personal observations of David W. Guth.  There are a lot of people online with nothing much to say.  I am not one of those folks.  I hope that you find my comments insightful, provocative and occasionally amusing.  I am a college professorJayhawk Journalist and writer.  I am not software engineer.  I am a content guy. Whatever this blog may lack in flash will be more than made up for in substance.  From the photo (left) you may also assume that I have East Coast roots -- I grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and am a proud Terrapin. The purpose of this blog is simple: I want to practice what I teach.  How can a guy talk to students about social media if he doesn't participate in the online discussion?  So here is my foray into Web 2.0.  I also want to demonstrate that writing doesn't take a lot of words: My blog entries will be brief. If you wish to comment on anything you read, please feel free to do so at dguth@ku.edu.  I'll answer you directly or in this space as the demands of my real life permit. And now, the legal stuff: Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of his employer, his publisher, the Internet service provider or that of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.  Unless otherwise noted, the contents of this blog are the intellectual property of David W. Guth - which means they are copyrighted.  So there!

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Testudo's Tales

Vol. 10 No. 32 -- Cowardly Lyin'
August 17,
2016

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Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's administration wants to hear citizen concerns about his 4 percent budget cuts to some organizations providing Medicaid services -- but only at a distance. The state has canceled a series of five public hearings designed to gather federally mandated feedback that were set to run August 22-26. Governor Sunhine's administration called off the hearings after recently getting roughed up by Republicans and Democrats in a legislative oversight committee hearing. Of course, that's not the reason cited for the cancellations. A state spokesperson said the hearings were canceled to make it easier for citizens to email their complaints to the state. That is a lie. Coming off of a primary election in which several conservative ideologues lost their legislative seats to more moderate candidates, Governor Sunshine wants to avoid the highly publicize tongue lashing it deserves for mismanaging state finances.  KanCare, the Brownback administration's privatized response to Obamacare, has been a miserable failure. According to Tim Carpenter, writing in the Topeka Capitol-Journal, critics have complained that the three managed-care insurance companies that administer the program have been too slow in processing claims and have had an inordinate amount of claim denials. At the heart of this controversy has been Governor Sunshine's implementation of a 21st century form of "Voodoo Economics." The administration's tax cuts have not generated the booming economy the governor predicted. Instead, quite the opposite has happened. State tax revenues are spiraling downward, causing Brownback to make cuts in health care, education and road maintenance funding. Of course, he will deny there have been cuts and will use creative bookkeeping to support his claim. However, in a nod to the Wizard of Oz - another Kansas legend not based in truth - the governor's explanation amounts a case of cowardly lyin'. Governor Sunshine is the most unpopular governor in the nation. He is also faced with the prospects of continued voter backlash during legislative elections in November. The last thing he needs is five days of negative news coverage emanating from the now-canceled public hearings. So, just like money in the state treasury, Governor Sunshine has wished them away. In another nod to L. Frank Baum, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. When it comes to Governor Sunshine, it's all smoke and mirrors.
ponseXrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 31 -- Republican Death Spiral
August 10,
2016

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The Republican Party - the party of Abraham Lincoln - is in a death spiral and there's little anyone can do about it. Even if yesterday's Second Amendment comment by Donald Trump was, as Speaker Paul Ryan suggested, "a joke gone bad," it is still a part of a continuing habit of reckless, unscripted utterances by a man seeking the presidency. Time after time, Donald Trump says his words are being misinterpreted. You know what? That sort of thing happens all the time.  Sometimes people use poor word choices that skew or muddle their intended meaning. The problem is that Trump is hardly a first-time offender. I've lost count of the number of times the Republican nominee has had to walk back a racist, sexist or just plain stupid comment. What's different now is that, for the first time, the polls are suggesting that the American people have had enough of Trump's behavior. The gap between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton is widening - especially in important battleground states that Trump has to win if he is going to be president. It is not even Labor Day and pundits are projecting a historic Clinton landslide. This is all the more amazing when one considers that Clinton is the weakest and most disliked front-runner in American history. Richard Nixon was viewed more favorably. Even today, when most of the focus is on Trump's nod toward violence against his opponent, Clinton is on the defensive for e-mails that suggest she mixed Clinton Foundation business with State Department business. If any other Republican were on the ballot, she would be in deep trouble. But her guardian angel is one Donald J. (for Jackass) Trump. If the Republican establishment could replace him on the ticket, it would. But doing so would discount the votes Trump received in winning the nomination and would rip the party to shreds. Party leaders like Paul Ryan are forced to wear the thin veil of party unity by publicly supporting Trump. Its much like the situation Dwight Eisenhower faced with the demagogue Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Ike publicly gave lukewarm support to his "fellow" Republican while furiously working behind the scenes to derail him. But make no mistake: No matter what you think of his politics, Paul Ryan is a serious man who loves his country and its institutions. He dislikes Donald Trump and what he has done by co-opting the Republican Party. Ryan may yet find reason to divorce himself the loose cannon from Manhattan. However, Ryan's biggest challenge comes November 9, the day after the election. The damage that Donald Trump has done to the Republican Party could result in a conservative-moderate schism much like the ones that destroyed the Federalists and Whigs in the 19th century. Right now, the only person who can save the Republican Party is Hillary Clinton. As history has shown us, the woman who would be president has an uncanny ability to shoot herself in the foot. And, as noted, we are still weeks away from Labor Day. But even if - God forbid - Trump wins the presidency, the political home that the Republican party has been for fiscal conservatives and libertarians will be in shambles. And all of the Kings horses and all of the King's men may not be able to put it back together again.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 30 -- The Business Plot
August 7,
2016

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There has been a lot of teeth gnashing - not totally unjustified - about the state of American democracy.  Congress is perpetually deadlocked and voters have been been given a choice of the two-least trusted and most unpopular presidential nominees in our history. Some wonder if the very institutions of government will collapse under this mountain of apathetic hostility. Before you retreat to your bunker, it is important to remember that this isn't the first time we've faced these challenges. I just recently learned from a friend of an alleged plot to seize the U.S. Government during the height of the Great Depression. This plot - which some historians consider a hoax - centered around U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most decorated soldiers in American history. By the end of his career, Butler received 19 medals - five for heroism and two Congressional Medals of Honor. After World War I, Butler became an outspoken critic of wars. In many ways, his concerns about the unholy alliance between the military and industry mirrored those later expressed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his 1960 Farewell Address. Nevertheless, Butler was a loyal American. That's why he was shocked in 1933 when a group of American businessmen suggested he become the leader an army of disgruntled army veterans in an effort to overthrow the government led by newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These business leaders feared FDR's expanded use of government as an implement for social change. They thought their new president was, at best, a socialist and, at worst, a communist. They figured that Butler, himself a critic of FDR, could galvanize the more than 43,000 WWI veterans who had been violently turned back during the Bonus March protests of 1932. The business leaders allegedly wanted to install Butler as a dictator, in much the same fashion of Hitler and Mussolini. Butler wanted no part of a coup and spilled the beans in secret testimony before a congressional committee. Everyone Butler identified with the plot denied its existence. As with everything in Washington, the secret discussions soon became public knowledge. The New York Times said that it was a hoax and that Butler was just trying to burnish his own reputation. However, many people still believe Butler told the truth. The consensus among historians is that while there probably was no so-called Business Plot to overthrow Roosevelt, it is likely that there had been some preliminary conversations about installing a fascist regime in the White House before the idea was abandoned. The United States has survived the Revolution, the Civil War, two world wars and misadventures in Vietnam and Iraq. We even survived the Cola Wars. And now you know that we also survived the Business Plot of 1933. If we've done all that, I am confident that we can survive Hillary and Donald.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 29 -- The Democratic Convention
July 28,
2016

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The Democrats at convention this week had an opportunity to contrast Donald Trump's angry vision of America with one that is more aspirational. For the most part, they succeeded. The week got off to a bumpy start when internal Democratic National Committee memos were leaked to the media. Those memos showed that Bernie Sanders was right - that the DNC's leadership was biased in favor of Hillary Clinton. At first, the DNC tried to deflect the matter by saying it was most likely the Russians who hacked their computers. That may be so, but it didn't change the fact that the memos substantiated Sanders' case. However, the Clinton forces moved quickly to appease Sanders supporters by setting adrift DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and by going out of the way to praise the grumpy old man from Vermont. Ironically, Trump, himself, helped these Clinton misdirection efforts by stupidly suggesting that the Russians should hack into Hillary's computers to find the so-called missing e-mails. (The man who had advocated for Americans to commit war crimes now lent his support to foreign espionage.) The whole episode left everyone wondering who needed an effective firewall the most, the DNC or Trump's mouth. By the second day of the convention, the Democrats effectively eliminated the leaked e-mail distraction and focused on the rebranding of Hillary as a passionate change agent. This is in contrast to the Republicans, who took three days to sloppily dispose of the controversy surrounding Melania Trump's plagiarized keynote speech. And while there are still divisions within both parties, the Democrats did a much better job of presenting a united front than did the Republicans. Clinton's chief antagonist, Bernie Sanders, spoke on her behalf and urged his followers to support her. Trump's chief opponent, Ted Cruz, used his moment in the spotlight to widen the schism within the GOP. Trump's most effective champions on the podium were his children. But their advocacy for their father paled in comparison to the support given Hillary Clinton by Michele and Barrack Obama. They painted a much more personal and hopeful vision of the future. To his credit, vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine was extremely effective in mocking Trump's "believe me" mantra in a disarming way. As for the lady at the top of the ticket, Clinton effectively played to her strengths and exposed Donald Trump's considerable weaknesses. Her acceptance speech artfully straddled her need to show toughness while showing compassion. (Ironically, that is the same divide George W. Bush tried to bridge in his 2000 acceptance speech.) Truth be told, nothing said over the past two weeks will change the minds of the core supporters of either candidate. It's likely that they listened to their candidate and ignored the other. For people like me who have serious doubts about both candidates, it's going take more convincing before we determine how -- and if -- we will vote. And it is still July, with 102 days remaining until the general election. That's an eternity in presidential politics. In this crazy year, we have come to expect the unexpected. And if Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson can get his poll numbers high enough to forge a spot in the upcoming debates, all bets are off. However, one thing is clear: This week's Democratic message of hope and American exceptionalism played much better among undecideds and neutrals than did last week's negative and fear-filled visions of the Republicans.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 28 -- The Republican Convention
July 21,
2016

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As I write this, confetti and balloons are floating down from the ceiling of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump tonight delivered a stem winder of an acceptance speech. He told the delegates and a national television audience "I am your voice." There's no doubt that for many Americans, that statement rang true. And for even the skeptical, some of the nominee's points may have had merit. However,  Trump's voice does not sound to me like the American voices I hear. Yes, Americans are frustrated by the nation's partisan gridlock. However, I heard nothing tonight to suggest that Trump is guy to close that divide. Yes, Americans want a stable economy. But all we were served tonight is a banquet-full of proposals to fix roads, schools, infrastructure and our manufacturing base. There was no mention of how we will pay for it after President Trump cuts taxes. (You can ask almost any Kansan how Governor Brownback's reckless tax cuts have ravaged this state's economy.) Mr. Tump says he is "this year's law and order candidate." However, Americans want more than law and order. They also want justice - real justice where rich, corrupt bankers go to jail and where persons of color can have faith in a criminal justice system that often fails to protect them. This is not to dismiss Trump as a formidable force in this campaign. He clearly has tapped into a well of frustration among Americans fearful of an uncertain future. The United States in the 21st century is being transformed by an interconnected global economy and evolving into an increasingly diverse nation. Trump represents a reaction to these forces of change similar to the nativist movements of late 19th and early 20th centuries. When Trump says he wants to "make America great again," that is coded language for clinging to an idealize past that is more myth than reality. America not only survived those nativist movements, but actually advanced the quality of life for all her citizens. That's a more positive vision of America - one lacking tonight in Cleveland. Next week, we will hear from the Democrats in Philadelphia. I am certainly not ready to drink their Kool-Aid. My skepticism of Hillary Clinton justifiably runs deep. Tonight, Donald Trump presented the Democrats with a real opportunity to contrast his angry message with a more hopeful view of America's future. But I won't hold my breathe. That certainly hasn't been the tone of the campaign so far. We will see. I'll get back to you on that next Thursday night.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 27 -- Something is Rotten in Kansas
July 13,
2016

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With apologies to William Shakespeare, something is rotten in Kansas. Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the state board that oversees elections yesterday took an action that, in effect, purged 17,000 qualified people from the state's voter registration rolls. According to the Lawrence-Journal World, "The action by the Kansas Rules and Regulations Board — which one opponent called “appalling” — affects people who attempted to register at a local motor vehicle office but did not provide proof of U.S. citizenship." This was in response to a federal court ruling in May that said the state cannot enforce its proof of citizenship law on people who registered under provisions of the National Voter Registration Act - the so-called “motor voter” law. The 17,000 voters affected by the board's ruling can vote in federal elections, but will remain barred from voting in state and local elections. At the heart of this issue is the requirement that individuals present a birth certificate at the time they register to vote. The state law was enacted to end voter fraud -- a problem of which no evidence exists. It's real purpose is voter suppression. The birth certificate requirement will most likely affect young and poor voters, people most likely to vote Democratic. This requirement adds a costly and time-consuming step to the voter registration process, the acquisition of a birth certificate. Do you have a copy of your birth certificate? I have a driver's license, a U.S. passport and other documentation that I am a red-blooded American. But I am not certain I have a birth certificate. I suspect that is commonplace among many Kansans. What is next for Kobach? Is he going to demand proof that all voters be certified as having a pure Aryan bloodline? The timing of the board's actions are suspicious, coming with little advanced notice and in time to deny people their inalienable right to cast ballots at the start of the advanced voting period for next month's primary. If justice is to be done in this matter, the federal court should overturn this ridiculous and un-American ruling, appoint a court-master to oversee state elections, hold Kobach in contempt of court and slap his sorry self into a prison cell. Kansas has a dillusional governor who refuses to acknowledge the damaging effects his tax cuts are having on the state's well-being, a legislature content with making war on elementary, secondary and higher education, and state elections officials content in denying the most basic of democratic freedoms to thousands of citizens. Indeed, something is rotten in Kansas. And those responsible for the current sorry state of affairs are working overtime to fix the voting process before the voters have a chance to replace them with new, common-sense leadership.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 26 -- Step Back America
July 10,
2016

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If the Kennedy assassination occurred in 2016 instead of 1963, it is very likely that there would be significantly less speculation as to who shot the president. Back in 1963, Abraham Zapruder was the only person with a camera at the right place and time to document the shooting, itself. But his camera wasn't focused on the Texas School Book Depository or the infamous grassy knoll. Today, practically everyone on the motorcade route would have been in possession of a phone/camera, significantly increasing the odds that someone would have provided definitive proof of what actually happened in Dealy Plaza. Omnipresent cameras have dramatically altered our perceptions of reality. The Rodney King incident in 1992 was one of the first times that millions of people got to see an unfiltered view of police work - and they didn't like what they saw. But that was just a taste of today, where practically everyone has a phone that doubles as camera. The Michael Brown shooting in St. Louis in 2014 was just one of a wave of citizen-documented confrontations that ended in the death of someone at the hands of police. Most police use-of-force situations are justified and dictated by well-established policies. Clearly, some of them are not. Two questionable and camera-documented police shootings this week resulted in nationwide protests against police violence. They also were used as an excuse by a deranged sniper to killed five Dallas police officers and wound seven other officers and two civilians. Ironically, the Dallas police were in the process of protecting the rights of citizens to protest against the police when ambush occurred. Thanks to technology, we are all able to bear witness to events as they unfold. This is known as citizen-journalism, where the citizens, themselves, provide content. However, it is the lack of context that often differentiates the citizen-journalist from the professional journalist. Journalism is about more than providing raw, unedited images taken from one perspective. It is about gathering facts and images from a wide range of perspectives and placing them into a meaningful context. That is why journalists are unpopular to so many - people do not like it when that meaningful context conflicts with that they believe - or want to believe - is the truth. There is no way any video of a police officer shooting another human being is going to look good. Nor should it, less it becomes commonplace. However, appropriate context should always be sought before a rush to judgment. Make no mistake, the last thing the America people want are hair-trigger cops. But that works both ways. The police deserve and should expect time to assemble and disseminate all pertinent facts before people take to the streets and ratchet-up tensions through ill-conceived civil disobedience designed to place the people and the police in direct confrontation. I don't like what I have seen. It is clear that police need to be proactive in bridging the widening gap between themselves and the people they are sworn to protect. But it has to work both ways if it is to work at all. Ironically, Dallas police had become a model of community outreach, only to become the victims of a maniac in the night. Dallas is a cautionary example of what can happen when people forget that true communication does not take place without a willingness to listen to what the other person says. This is true regardless of whether one wears blue or does not. Step back America and take a deep breath.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 25 -- Verbal Gymnastics
July 6,
2016

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Is it possible that Hillary Clinton is a little bit pregnant? No, it is not. Pregnancy is a binary condition - either you are or you are not. So is violating the Espionage Act - either you have or you haven't. FBI Director - and America's foremost linguistic gymnast - James Comey yesterday said - and this is an exact quote - that "there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes involving the handling of classified information." In the same sentence, Comey completed a Mary Lou Rettonesque verbal somersault by concluding "our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case." That must come as news to the Martha Stewart, who was sent to prison for less in her insider trading case. Clinton apologists can't say the difference between the two is that Stewart lied to authorities and Clinton did not. The first half of Comer's statement dealt with the technical wizardry FBI forensic specialists engaged in to recover e-mails that Clinton's cronies thought they had - in violation of government records laws - deleted. And even if she didn't lie to the FBI - and that's a big "if" - there is absolutely positively no doubt that she has been lying to the American people for the past 18 months. If she wasn't lying, then why did her story constantly change? Comer went to great pains to explain that even unintentional release of classified information is a crime. "There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation," he said. Comer said there is no clear precedent for prosecuting someone under these circumstances. How could there be? When was the last time a presumptive presidential nominee of either major party was under criminal investigation during his or her campaign? However, there are volumes of precedents for indicting individuals for even less evidence. I think James Comey is the basketball referee who is unwilling to blow the whistle at the end of the game out of fear that he will decide the outcome. This announcement came just days after former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch conducted  - in their own words - an improper meeting on a airport tarmac. It also came just hours - yes, hours - after the former Secretary of State was interrogated by FBI agents. Talk about a rush to judgment. Even Yellow Dog Democrats admit that the optics in this case stink. However, there is still time to restore public faith in the FBI and the Justice Department - both of which have history of political expediency under both Republican and Democrat administrations. Secretary Clinton should be judged by a panel of her peers. At the very least, let a grand jury of her fellow Americans sit in judgment of what Comer called "extremely careless... handling of very sensitive, highly classified information." And let's not forget that Comer also said, "To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions." But then, in another semantic back flip, the FBI director said, "But that is not what we are deciding now." Excuse me. By taking no action - not even recommending the functional equivalent of a slap on the wrist for Clinton's criminal and dangerous disregard of her duties - that is exactly what he is doing. By narrowly defining his responsibility to uphold the law, James Comer has given aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States - including one Donald J. Trump.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 24 -- The Lost Spirit of '76
July 3,
2016

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Independence Day 2016 marks the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It is also the 40th anniversary of the nation's bicentennial celebration. Gerald Ford was president at the time, facing an electoral challenge from former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. In 1976, not only did the nation want to celebrate, it needed to celebrate. The country had been through more than a decade of trauma, including the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam war and Watergate. The nation's 200th birthday offered an opportunity for Americans to forget their recent miseries and focus on the history and values that made our nation the envy of the world. Much of the day was spent watching celebrations around the country live on television. There were tall ships in New York harbor, a concert featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra orchestra with Arthur Fielder, and, of course, fireworks. Everyone has his or her own memories of that day. My bicentennial memory centers on pickles. Yes, pickles. Jan and I had been married for less than a year and were living in a small garage-top apartment in Milledgeville, Georgia. The temperature on July 4, 1976, in middle Georgia was near 100 - somehow making it a perfect day to pickle cucumbers. Did I mention that the apartment wasn't air conditioned? The pickling and canning process - involving boiling water which, in turn makes steam - turned our little apartment into a sauna. I had never been so hot in my life - neither before or after. However, they were the best pickles I had ever tasted and the sweet memory of our first Fourth as a married couple has long outlasted any discomfort of the day. I'd like to think that America's 240th birthday would be a joyous as our 200th. However, that is not the case. The nation is bitterly divided and has been for at least two decades. Unlike 1976, when two basically good men vied for the presidency, this year's general election will feature what the polls have documented as the two most distrusted and disliked major party nominees in history. Perhaps I am waxing nostalgic, remembering the good and conveniently forgetting the bad. But we seemed more united in purpose and spirit then than now. We have lost the spirit of '76 and neither path we choose this November appears likely to reclaim it, either.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 23 -- Brownback's Ponzi Scheme
June 23,
2016

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According to Investopedia, which describes itself as "the largest financial education website in the world," a Ponzi scheme is defined as "a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors. The Ponzi scheme generates returns for older investors by acquiring new investors. This scam actually yields the promised returns to earlier investors, as long as there are more new investors. These schemes usually collapse on themselves when the new investments stop." Do you know what that sounds like? Try Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's approach to budgeting. With the end of the fiscal year just eight days away and the state's bank accounts depleted, Sam the Sham yesterday convinced the State Finance Council to "temporarily" borrow $900 million dollars from future state spending to fill the budget gap. He also moved to delay payments to schools, prisons, and the state highway transportation fund to shore up the state's faltering budget. In a rare act of candor, Senate President Susan Wagel (R-Wichita) said the Governor's move was like "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic." But just in case you are wondering if the Senate president had finally discovered that Brownback is really the Wizard of Oz and that we should pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, think again. The Wicked Witch of the West quickly destroyed that notion by saying the answer was to make further cuts in an already butchered state budget. One can understand why she feels the way she does. Wagel is 63, meaning she likely will no longer be in the legislature in 20 years when the state's failure to take care of its children's education, the public's health and the state's economic infrastructure makes this state the Mississippi of the Midwest. (I have nothing against Mississippi, per se. However, that state's short-sighted leadership has placed the state at or near the bottom of most quality of life indicators.) As I write this, Kansas legislators are returning to Topeka for a special session to solve a self-inflicted financial crisis involving the schools. The state Supreme Court, having run out of patience with lawmakers, has given them until July 1 to come up with the constitutionally defensible plan for funding public schools. Not surprisingly, the answer for some of these so-called leaders is to fix the Supreme Court by limiting its powers rather than fix the real problem, the state's failing schools. At a time the world sees the dysfunction of Congress of the United States in full flower - as I write this, House Democrats are staging a sit-in to force a vote on gun control legislation - a look at state government in Kansas evokes a even greater level of disgust. A great nation and a great state should not conduct business through the use of blue smoke and mirrors. And why do magicians use blue smoke and mirrors? They do it to create a diversion to cover what's really going on. One hopes that the voters see through these diversions in November and return sanity to this state's governance.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 22 -- We've Seen This Before
June 14,
2016

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A lone gunman with an agenda known only to himself guns down 49 innocent and unsuspecting victims. The American people are stunned and left to wonder why such horror had been visited upon them. Sounds familiar? Most people will immediately think about last weekend's massacre at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. However, people of a certain age will remember that it was 50 summers ago - August 1, 1966 - that we first experienced the unsettling and mind-numbing shock that follows a mass murder. On that day, we learned that the new face of evil was an otherwise clean-cut engineering student named Charles Whitman. For reasons known only to himself, Whitman killed his wife and mother in his home and climbed to the observation deck on what is known as the Texas Tower on the University of Texas campus. Armed with several weapons, including a high-powered rife and 700 rounds of ammunition, Whitman started shooting unsuspecting people from his perch 27 stories above Austin. By the time police at great risk ended the carnage by killing Whitman, the deranged gunman had shot 49 people, killing 16 of them. At the time, the Texas Tower Massacre did not generate a public debate over gun control. That is probably because the weapons Whitman possessed were rather ordinary, much like guns a hunter or someone at target practice on a gun range might use. Another reason a gun debate did not follow was because everyone thought that Charles Whitman was an aberration. Surely, this sort of thing couldn't happen again. But it has - over and over and over and over again. In a sickening cycle of rage and carnage, the same horrific headlines about senseless slaughter keep landing on our doorsteps. But unlike 50 summers ago, the weapons of mass murder are more sophisticated and deadly. No one uses a semi-automatic assault rifle to hunt deer. That weapon is used to hunt people. Yet efforts to curtail the use of assault rifles and high volume ammunition magazines are repeatedly crushed by so-called Second Amendment advocates. No one argues a citizen's right to bear arms. But should they have the right to have weapons of mass destruction - something the Founders could not have imagined two centuries ago? It is both sad and shocking that after the slaughter of small children in Newtown, Connecticut, that we, as a people, could not come to a solution that would protect Second Amendment rights and help us preserve the most basic of human rights - the right to live. Instead, our response was to make it easier to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. Hello?  Remember Charles Whitman? Until we as a people - including our brothers and sisters who see any reasonable restriction on gun sales as an assault on the Second Amendment - come to a compromise that will, at the very least, make it difficult to obtain these weapons of mass destruction, we will continue to relive the horror we first witnessed in 1966. For those who believe in American exceptionalism - including a certain loudmouth candidate for President of the United States - how can we make such a claim when we permit this kind of senseless slaughter to continue?
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 21 -- Pick Your Poison
June 11,
2016

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Is this really the best America can do? Hillary Rotweiler Clinton versus Donald "J for Jackass" Trump in 2016 has as much appeal as picking sides in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. We have never seen a general election match-up between two candidates with such a low level of public approval and such a high level of conceit. The selection of the next President of the United States has been reduced to picking the lesser of two evils. The Democrats are going to nominate Ms. Clinton, who first rode into the public office on the coat tails of her husband's infidelity. She had a particularly undistinguished run as Secretary of State. If I were running against her, the first thing I'd do is resurrect her famous 2008 attack against then-Senator Obama. "It's three o'clock in the morning," the spot would start. "The telephone rings. It's Benghazi on the line. But Secretary Clinton is too busy deleting e-mails from her illegal server to take the call." (OK - Even I know that's a bit over the top.) And what can you say about Donald Trump? It is as if we are watching the filming of "Death Wish VI," with Trump playing the role of architect-vigilante Paul Kersey on a mission to kill the Republican Party.  This election is so screwed up that a poll released today shows Clinton leading Trump in decidedly Red State Kansas.  The real danger is that a low voter turnout might swing the election. At first blush, that would seem to favor Trump because he has been attracting voters to the polls who, in the past, have sat out elections.  However, the real wild cards are the Libertarian and Green Party candidates. I suspect that many people are thinking of casting their vote for these marginal candidates as an alternative to voting for two mainstream party nominees they detest. While it is unlikely that Gary Johnson (L) or Jill Stein (G) will carry any states, they may play the same spoiler role as Ross Perot and Ralph Nader did in past elections. We are five months from voting and America is already sick of this campaign.  And who wouldn't be, when the election of the next president comes down to three words: Pick your poison?
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 20 -- Don't Ask, Please Flush
May 27,
2016

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Donald Shaw, my former academic adviser at the University of North Carolina, is a co-author of what is known as the Agenda-Setting Hypothesis. Simply put, the media do not tell us what to think, but they tell us what to think about. In other words, the media sets the agenda. That is why politicians, corporations and your local fund-raising charity spend so much time courting the attention of journalists. We are seeing this process at work in the current debate over transsexuals' access to the bathrooms of their choice. The issue first got a lot of attention when the North Carolina legislature felt compelled to raise an issue that very few people neither thought nor cared about. In compelling transgenders to use the potty indicated on their birth certificates, the Tarheel Toilet Brigade raised a national stink. Next thing you know, the Obama administration doubled down and said local school systems will have to respect transgender choices or face a cutoff of federal funding. That, in turn, brought out the indignation of conservative politicians across the land, including the dim-witted speaker of the Kansas house and the original Wicked Witch of the West, the president of the Kansas Senate. Now they want to join in the potty patrol, as well.  That is why transgender politics are at the top of the American agenda. Much more important issues, such a congressional funding of Zika virus prevention, have been shoved to the back burner. Why you may ask? The answer is politics. The republicans and democrats have the same problem, the most unpopular presidential nominees in American history. For Hillary and Donald, each other's best chance of election is the electorate's hate for the other. Transgender bathroom access is what is known as a "wedge issue" - not to be confused with a "wedgie issue." By placing such a polarizing issue at the head of the American agenda, each party is hoping to invigorate an otherwise apathetic base. Success in November's election will be determined by each party's ability to get its base voters out to the polls. George W. Bush in 2004 and Barrack Obama in 2012 played this game very well and won elections they might otherwise have lost. So that is why American politics have gone in the toilet. Bill Clinton tried to skirt the gays in the military issue with his infamous "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Perhaps the resolution to the current contrived crisis is a new policy: "Don't ask, please flush." Let's move on to more substantive and less crappy issues.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 19 -- Regrets? Yes. Apology? No.
May 23,
2016

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President Obama will travel to Hiroshima, Japan, this week. His visit to the first city to suffer the consequences of a nuclear attack is part of an effort to stress the strong ties that exist today between the United States and its World War II adversary. The President will talk about the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with what has become one of this nation's strongest allies.  This is especially important in light of an increasing Chinese military build-up. Obama may even express regret about the carnage that came out of the war - especially to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  However, he will not apologize for America's use of atomic bombs in 1945. Nor should he. There have been countless attempts at revising history - especially among the Japanese. That narrative claims that the Japanese had already been beaten and were near surrender when President Truman ordered the use of the weapon. They say that the atomic bombings were more about impressing the Russians than beating the enemy. The preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise. The Japanese military was running the show and its leaders were showing no sign of giving up.  They believed that the carnage from an invasion of the home islands would be more than the Americans could stomach. Perhaps they were correct - but that's not the point. The United States had created a swift and certain means to put an end to a brutal regime that had waged a war of aggression, first against China and then against the United States. The Japanese conduct during the war - rape, torture, beheadings and forced starvation - is well documented. We were engaged in total war. Any action to bring it to a swift conclusion was ethically justified. An invasion of Japan would have resulted in a million American causalities and many times more among the Japanese. Any conclusion short of a complete capitulation by the Japanese would, in an of itself, have been immoral. After all, this was a racially motivated war of aggression that Japan launched against China and the rest of southeast Asia. Japan had allied itself with Hitler and Mussolini. Nothing less than the future of western civilization was a stake. America's current adversaries, particularly Iran and Russia, are quick to note that the United States is the only nation to use nuclear weapons during war. While that's true, they neglect to mention that it helped to bring a swift and just end to a conflict that claimed 73 million lives. That's a legacy one should embrace. It does not require an apology.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 18 -- Robin Hoods In Reverse
May 19,
2016

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What is the job of government? It is to protect its citizens, to see that they are properly educated, to build and maintain the public infrastructure and to provide for the general welfare of the people.  Except in Kansas, where the primary purpose of the government has been redefined.  Here in Kansas, we take from the poor and give to the rich - Robin Hood in reverse.  The conservative zealots who run this state try to deny citizens their most basic democratic right to vote in the name of ballot security. They place the most vulnerable under humiliating conditions for receiving public assistance. And they claim to be Christians. Yesterday, Governor Sam Brownback, hypocrite in chief, signed onto to $97 million in budget cuts to fill a gap he and his fellow zealots created. Were the cuts evenly spread throughout state government? Of course not. He targeted higher education, Medicaid and the state highway fund. I'm sure he would have taken money from widows and orphans if he could have found a line item associated with them. And here's the rub: Brownback took funds from colleges, universities and community colleges - institutions that are absolutely essential to economic growth. He took money from the highway fund, another key element in economic growth. Face it, Brownie: Economic growth occurs when you have a well-educated workforce and a well-maintained infrastructure. Sam the Sham had a chance to soften the blow through a line item veto of a measure that specifically targeted the University of Kansas and Kansas State University for higher cuts than other educational institutions. Instead, he bought into the ludicrous assumption that the state's two largest universities should be punished for raising research funds that smaller schools can't. This logic ignores the fact that research universities actually contribute to the state's economic growth. Let's not forget that Brownback is refusing to accept federal dollars for Medicare because of his opposition to Obamacare. Nor should we forget that Brownback had to make these cuts because our spineless legislators for a second straight year failed to comply with their constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget. They were neither willing to make politically damaging cuts to state services or to admit they had gone too far in 2012 in cutting state taxes. That act of cowardice, alone, should disqualify state lawmakers from standing for office this November.  They are also the ones who passed Brownback's tax cuts for the wealthy in a sad and sick adherence to the disproved theory of supply-side economics. However, these same lawmakers will be back on the ballot this fall, singing empty phrases of how they champion the "little guy." If you are an alumnus of KU or KSU;  if your employment/business relies on an educated workforce and a sound state infrastructure; if you believe in equal opportunity and democracy; or if you are a compassionate human being who understands that helping the less fortunate is consistent with leading a moral and religious life; you know what you need to do. Come November, send these Robin Hoods in Reverse packing and return sanity to the governing of Brownbackistan. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 17 -- The "R" Word
May 15,
2016

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When does one know when to retire? Does the fact one even raises the prospect of stepping away from the day-to-day workday grind suggest that time is at hand? It has certainly been a subject on my mind. Several colleagues have either retired or have indicated that they have a timetable for retirement. The fact that I am ending my 25th year at the University of Kansas serves as a reminder that I have been here a long time. I arrived in Lawrence in my late 30's. While getting a 30-year service pin is not out of the question, a 40-year pin is highly unlikely. When people ask me about retirement - and they do, you know - I have told them I want to continue working as long as I am in good health and still have the motivation to do the job well. When it comes to my health, I am trying to take better care of myself these days. Whether its enough to make up for decades of bad habits is anyone's guess. Fortunately, the only drug I abused was Coke - Diet Coke, to be exact. It turns out that just because a product has the word "Diet" attached to its name doesn't necessarily make it good for you. The greatest challenge I face involves the second part of the retirement equation, my drive. I've always been one to set career goals. Many times I have achieved them. Sometimes I have not. But on those occasions where I have fallen short, I have been able to keep the spark inside me alive by setting off after new challenges. However, as I get older, it is harder to keep that old pilot light lit. I can't help but wonder if I haven't already passed into the realm of diminishing returns. Self-doubt, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It has been my experience that people set themselves up for a fall when they get too cocky and start believing their own hyperbole. There's nothing like a little humility and insecurity to keep folks in bounds. However, when you reach your 60's, it is also natural to question whether you have enough left in the tank to set and achieve new goals. Will the effort be worth it? You wonder if you can still make a difference. And in those few dark moments that may creep into one's consciousness just before falling to sleep, you may even wonder if you have made any different at all.  I suspect that millions of Baby Boomers share these same thoughts as they transition into a new -- and final -- phase of their lives. I think I will have what it takes when the curtain rises on another school year in August.  But I don't know how many more years that will hold true. I hope that I have enough self-awareness to not linger on the stage too long. When my career ends, as it inevitably must, I want to be able to say that I left on my own terms.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 16 -- The Lure of Lawrence
May 6,
2016

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This week marks the end of my 25th year on the faculty of the University of Kansas. I received a service pin on Wednesday to prove it. Naturally, I've spent some time thinking about August 1991 when my family and I moved to Lawrence from North Carolina. I liked my 13 years in Carolina, but this place snack-dab in the middle of America has become my true home. It's really the first place where I've really felt at home since I left my native Maryland in 1974. I like the university, my colleagues, the students and my fellow Lawrencians. Not everyone "gets" Lawrence. It is not unusual for a town home to any leading university to be a bit off-kilter with the rest of the state. Certainly, the high concentration of well-educated individuals has something to do with it. But that, alone, doesn't explain the lure of Lawrence. Because of the nature of academia, a large percentage of the faculty and students living in Lawrence came here from somewhere else, bringing new ideas and different perspectives with them. That, in turn, results in a perpetual revival of the community. The fact that Lawrence was settled as an anti-slavery outpost in what became known as Bleeding Kansas has imprinted a sense of moral superiority in the community's DNA. And before one scoffs at the notion of this community's sense of social justice, one must remember that Lawrence's convictions were forged by the fires of atrocities committed by pro-slavery forces in 1856 and again in 1863. Sure, there are times that this town takes itself far too seriously. And sometimes the local political climate can be downright chilly if you are not a liberal Democrat. Still, there is some solace in knowing that Lawrence is one place in Kansas where the people are not willing to rubber-stamp the increasingly oppressive, regressive and bigoted policies emanating from Topeka. Many in the state call KU - situated on high ground known locally as Mount Oread - "Snob Hill." Sometimes, the inability to understand the Lawrence psychographic leads to jealousy and hostility. That includes state lawmakers, who recently approved budget provisions designed to punish the university for creatively working with the private sector to fund construction in the school's new Central District. (See Vol. 10, No. 6). The creation of a public-private partnership to fund construction - the very thing those same legislators claim to favor - was blocked in a mindless act of spite. Despite the hostility/jealousy coming from outside of  Douglas County, the facts are undeniable. Lawrence is frequently cited in lists of the nation's best small cities, best college towns, best local music scenes and best places for retirees. The city's new downtown library has received national recognition from librarians and architects alike. Among the notables who have called Lawrence home are Phog Allen, Erin Brockovich, William S. Burroughs, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Dole, Ralph Houk, Langston Hughes, Bill James, Alf Landon, James Naismith, Sara Paretsky, Jim Ryun and Jim Thorpe.  In short, Lawrence is a really cool town to call home. And that I do. Twenty-five years after my family and I pulled up our roots to come to this special place, I know that doing so was one of the best decisions of my life.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 15 -- Living in a Bizzaro World
April 29,
2016

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When I was just a lad, I like to read what today are known as graphic novels. Heck, they were comic books. And the best of the lot was Superman. How could you not be a fan of the Man of Steel? After all, he was faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive and -- well, you know the rest.  And when you are the toughest dude this side of Krypton, one can just imagine how tough it was for the writers to come up with a new challenge every issue. Perhaps the most unusual - dare it say bizarre? - villain that Superman faced was Bizzaro, a sort of anti-Superman.  He had all the powers that our hero had and even wore the same blue tights and red cape. However, he was backwards, evil and butt-ugly. And his world was a lot like ours, except it was, well, backwards, evil and butt-ugly. I mention Bizzaro because it has occurred to me that we have somehow slipped into his dimension. How else can you explain the 2016 presidential campaign? How else can you explain how someone who is Don Rickle's evil twin could be the nominee of the Republican Party?  How is it that one of the Koch brothers may actually vote for Hillary Clinton? Does it make any sense that the two candidates most likely to face each other in the fall election are disliked and distrusted by a majority of voters? In fact, 40 percent of the voters in Trump's and Clinton's parties told the Gallup Poll that they would consider voting for the nominee of the other party. About a year ago, it was assumed that Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker would be battling it out for the nomination. Now, the only place you will find them is on the side of milk cartons. And how is it that Bernie Sanders, an aging wack-job socialist with hair almost as bad as Trump's, has become the darling of American youth?  I tell you, there must have been a disturbance in The Force. Perhaps there was a rip in the space-time continuum. Whatever it is, we have surely slipped into a Bizzaro Universe. Need more proof? The Chicago Cubs are favored to win this year's World Series. I rest my case.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 14 -- What Would Jesus Do?
April 14,
2016

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"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  That 36-word sentence taken from the Declaration of Independence is the moral justification for the creation of the United States of America. I invite every self-professed Christian conservative to read that document. After a thorough search of its text, nowhere did I find the phrase that said "except in North Carolina." I also invite those people to read the Constitution of the United States. It may surprise them to learn that the words Christian and Christ are nowhere to be found within that document. The United States of America is not a Christian nation. Nor is it Jewish, Muslim, Mormon nor, for that matter, atheist. However, it is an nation that guarantees religious freedom - and not just one particular view of it. There are so-called "religious freedom" bills propagating around the country in the same manner of a malignant cancer. This kind of legislation is not intended to preserve anyone's religious freedom. It is  designed to legalize discrimination and bigotry. As I have said in this space before, I do not understand nor to I desire to be either homosexual, bisexual or transsexual. Those lifestyles conflict with my own moral code. However, that same moral code recognizes that one, I do not have all the answers; two, that we live in a free society where people are allowed to make their own life choices; and three, that as long as someone's behavior does not create tangible harm to me or for the exercise of my own rights, that I don't really care what they do. I do care when others choose to systematically discriminate against people who are doing no harm and do so in my name. As a former resident of North Carolina, I am shocked and sickened by the recent behavior of its governor and legislature. (Frankly, I feel the same way about the governor and lawmakers here in Kansas.) Let me ask all champions of this 21st century bigotry one question: What would Jesus do? I'm certain that he would be saddened by your actions, as am I. However, he would forgive you for your sins. I will not.
Xrs
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 13 -- We Get What We Deserve
April 8,
2016

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I have a friend and colleague who often reminds people that "democracy is messy." It is the consequence of giving people a voice in deciding whom they trust to lead. We'd like to think that we get to choose between a Lincoln and a Douglas, a Kennedy or a Nixon, and even a Carter or a Reagan. Unfortunately, our choices this election year are between a Trump or a Cruz and a Clinton or a Sanders. That's the equivalent of once having the pick from a fleet of luxury cars and now having to settle for the last used car on the lot. How is it possible that out of a nation a of 323 million people, we have come up with this sorry cast of characters as our final four candidates for the presidency? I suspect we have to look in a mirror to find the real culprits. We get what we deserve. When we ignore long-term implications in favor of short-term gains, we get a Sam Brownback as governor. Sam the Sham gave us tax cuts. To be more accurate, he gave those among us in the best position to pay taxes - and the ones who benefit the most from the services provided by those taxes - the biggest tax break. And what did we really get? How about one of the worst state economies in the country? And what about a system of elementary, secondary and higher education in decline? What's going to happen to the state's transportation infrastructure if the legislature keeps raiding highway funds to plug holes in a leaky budget? This is what happens when we elect people with pockets full of empty promises and no real vision for the future. We say that we are disappointed in our elected officials. But that can't be possible, considering that we had such low expectations for them in the first place. The exception to that rule is Barrack Obama, for whom too many people had unrealistic expectations when he was first elected in 2008. We vote for people who say they will "stick to their guns" and are unwilling to compromise. We do so forgetting the lessons we learned in grade school; that democracy is a process of bargaining, negotiation and compromise. That's why we keep voting for a Huey Long and wind up disappointed that we didn't elect an Abe Lincoln. Do you really want change? Do you really want to end the gridlock that is undermining America's moral leadership? Then start changing your vote. Ninety percent of House members and 91 percent of senators who sought re-election in 2012 were successful, exceeding the incumbent re-election rates of 2010, when 85 percent of House members and 84 percent of senators seeking re-election were successful. Keep in mind that these results came at a time when the public approval rating of these same officials barely hovered above single digits. That is and of itself the classic definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and hoping to get a different result. Before you next go to the polls, look and yourself in the mirror, promise to do better and then reelect no one.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 12 -- Coming Up Short
March 28,
2016

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When the college basketball season opened last November, there were 351 teams competing in NCAA Division I men's basketball. Three weeks ago, only 68 of those teams were selected for the national championship tournament. Today, there are only four teams left alive in the hunt for the title. One of those teams is Syracuse, a team many observers said should not have received a bid to the tournament. One of the teams eliminated during the competition was Kansas, considered by many as a lock for the Final Four. It is this unpredictability that has earned the tournament the popular moniker "March Madness." It is also a reminder of how rare and fleeting success can be. It was a bit gloomy today in Lawrence, Kansas. Today was the first day of classes following Saturday's heartbreaking loss in the regional final to Villanova. Many students, staff and faculty were consumed by the thought of what might have been. A sense of euphoria that had been building for weeks - no, for months - came crashing down in the face of a cold, heartless reality: Our team was good, but this year, not good enough. Does one loss make an entire season a failure? In the immediate aftermath of a BIG LOSS, it may seem so. However, if we adopt the philosophy that only one of 351 teams - the one that wins the title - can consider the season a success, then we set ourselves up for a near-constant state of failure. It is on days like today that I remember the advice of a friend of mine.  Mike Swenson, president of the Kansas City public relations firm Crossroads. He has been a guest lecturer in dozens of my classes over the past 25 years. One of the recurring themes Mike has stressed through the years is the importance of celebrating success. To paraphrase, him, life can't be just about the quest. There also has to be times when we pause to reflect on the sweet victories we enjoy -- even when they seem fleeting. Otherwise, we choose to define ourselves by our failures. And should coming up short of one's ultimate goal automatically be classified as failure? How "horrible" can a team like Kansas be when it has won 12 consecutive conference titles? I am reminded of what the late University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith once said: "If you treat every game as if it were a life and death situation, you will be dead lot." Smith's and Swenson's advice is sound - and not just for basketball. I fear that too many of us - your author included - may forget that it is not just about the destination. The journey, itself, also matters. This does not mean that we should be satisfied with failures. We should learn from them. But it also means that we should accept our successes with the same measure of emotion with which we embrace failure. There should be joy in living - win or lose.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 11 -- Precious Glory
March 19,
2016

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I have recently returned from a trip to Maryland, the state in which I was born and reared. The purpose for my visit was to make two presentations that focused on my book about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The first presentation came at an engineering colloquium at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. The second was a luncheon brown bag session with employees of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It was a tremendous honor to have been invited to speak at both gatherings. However, the most memorable moment of the trip came as a result of social media. I posted images and comments on my Facebook site when I arrived at my nephew's home on the Eastern Shore. It was on Facebook that I received a post from a childhood friend, Klaus Liebig. Klaus and his family emigrated to the United States from Germany in the late 1950s. He had been part of a core group of friends I had associated with in elementary school. We had been in school together from the first through eighth grades. I had not seen him in 50 years. In his Facebook message, he invited me to come by his business, which was no more than two minutes away from where I was staying. When I walked into the store, it was almost as if we were resuming a conversation begun only a day earlier. Reuniting with Klaus was thrill. However, another surprise awaited. I posted a picture of the two of us on Facebook - and it drew a social media response from Gilbert Caldwell. For regular readers of this blog, he was the subject of a February 16, 2013, post (Volume 7, Number 10). He was the first black person I met at the recently integrated St. Michaels Junior High School in 1964. Although I knew him for only a couple of years before I transferred to another school, he had a great impact on my views concerning persons of color. In that post, I had wondered what happened to him and whether I had done right by a young man at the epicenter of social change. We exchanged Facebook greetings and many of my questions were answered. For me, that was another special moment that made the trip memorable. My connections with Klaus and Gilbert were joyful moments - even if for no other reason than the three of us had successfully navigated our own paths through the trials and tribulations of an often-tumultuous half-century. In a way, we are survivors; not in a heroic sense, but in a spiritual manner. As I get older, it is heartening to greet longtime friends and acquaintances and to know that after a lifetime's journey, we are still here. While I am still focused on my future, the weekend journey to Eastern Shore also served as a reminder of the precious glory found in everyone's past. We have survived. We are still here.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 10 -- Apple versus DOJ
March 4,
2016

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The challenge - and the beauty - of the U.S. Constitution is that a document written in the 18th century remains relevant in responding to the challenges of the 21st century. The battle between computer giant Apple and the U.S. Justice Department is all about constitutional rights - specifically our First Amendment rights to free speech and our Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches. The DOJ wants Apple to unlock the I-Phone used by one of the San Bernadino gunman. The evidence clearly shows this was an ISIS-inspired attack and the federal government wants to know if others were engaged in and are planning another act of terrorism. Apple's CEO is challenging a court order to assist the FBI out of an expressed fear that helping the government would make it easier for the government to invade the privacy of its customers. I respect Tim Cook's position. And my bono fides on the subject of the First Amendment are well known. However, after weeks of careful deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that Tim Cook is fighting the wrong battle for the wrong reasons. One can't claim a Fourth Amendment violation. Wanting to know who a terrorist had talked to prior to his killing spree is not unreasonable. There is probable cause for the FBI's search warrant. And the Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that criminal communications are not protected speech. Cook's assertion that complying with the court order will open a Pandora's box is not totally unjustified. I certainly don't want the government reading my e-mails and listening in on my conversations. However, I also understand that democracy cannot work unless we give some level of trust to its institutions. By definition, the courts are the designated arbiters of constitutional disputes. Judges exist to handle disputes such as this and address them on a case-by-case basis. Yes, Cook has the right to appeal the lower court's ruling. However, I am confident that the government position in this case will prevail. All Cook and Apple have done is to delay the inevitable and allow the trail of the terrorist to grow cold. I am of the opinion that Apple's stance is less about defending free expression than it is an attempt by Cook to step out of the shadow of his legendary predecessor Steve Jobs. As noted earlier, I am a staunch defender of the First Amendment. I have also made it known in this space my belief that the Second Amendment doesn't give gun owners and manufacturers free reign over the rights of others. Here's the point: How can one vigorously argue that there are limits to the Second Amendment without acknowledging limits to other sections of the Bill of Rights, including the First and Fourth Amendments? I believe that Tim Cook's actions have been unnecessary, insincere and have given aid and comfort to terrorists who want to harm the very people Cook says he is trying to protect.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 9-- Kansas Caucus Ruckus
March 1,
2016

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Today is unofficially Super Tuesday - the day many pundits say the race for the Democrat and Republican presidential nomination may be decided. Of lesser national prominence are the Kansas caucuses this coming Saturday. Yet the political discussion in the Sunflower State seems to be less about the race for the White House than it is about the timing the Democrat caucus, which it set to begin at the same hour the Kansas Jayhawks play their final home game of the season. Some Democrats are protesting ESPN's decision to move the game to a 3:00 p.m. starting time. The rich irony is that this seems to be the only issue that has spurred Democrat passions this entire election season. One needs only to compare voter turnout in other primaries and caucuses to see that Republicans are more engaged in the 2016 campaign than their Democrat counterparts. As for me, I don't really care. First, I am a registered independent - I don't have a dog in this fight. And as I explained in my most recent post, there's not a snowball chance in hades that I am going to change that registration just to seen Hillary Clinton steamroll past Bernie Sanders. Actually, I am fundamentally against caucuses. We used to have presidential primaries in this state. But under the excuses of low-voter turnout and high costs, the legislature opted to go the caucus route. Frankly, that decision ticks me off. What is more important to the maintenance of democratic values than the manner in which we choose our leaders? Yet, primary elections have been lumped in with other social priorities the legislature has under-funded, such as education, infrastructure, the environment, public safety and the judicial system. The caucus system is also a clever means to discourage voter turnout, thus giving the advantage to candidates who are well-funded and organized. Our so-called leaders have been more interested in protecting their privileged status and giving tax breaks to those who neither need or deserve them. So, am I upset that the Democrat caucus is in direct competition with the Jayhawks (and, as it turns out, with Kansas State's Saturday game as well)? No. Like most Kansans, my attention will be focused on basketball - a place where there is true passion and the outcome isn't predetermined.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 8 -- A Call From Bernie
February 25,
2016

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I dread every time my land-line connected house phone rings. Nine times out of 10, the caller is a telemarketer intent on selling me something I don't need. However, the nature of the intrusive callers changes during election season. Then the calls are either recorded messages from someone's campaign or a pollster intent on learning what I am thinking. (If the latter was so interested in my opinions, then read this blog and leave me the heck alone!) Yet, I still answer the phone. There are some family members and friends who may not know my cell phone number and, for that reason, I am unwilling to cut the chord. I received an unusual telephone call last night from the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. The caller was a real person, a 60+ professor from another Kansas university. She obviously got my name from the county's roll of independent (unaffiliated) voters. In an calm, rational way seldom heard on the campaign trail, she explained why going to the upcoming Kansas Democratic caucus on March 5 and casting my ballot for Bernie Sanders was the only choice any level-headed voter such as myself has during this train wreck of an election campaign. I politely told her that I am a registered as an independent and, therefore, ineligible to vote in the caucuses. She said I could register as a Democrat at the caucus - a sharp contrast to the Kansas GOP that requires a party registration well in advance of its caucus. I politely explained to the Sanders representative that there are reasons I left the Republican party and chose not to become a Democrat. Amazingly, she respected my decision and didn't try to press the matter. It is the only time I have ever answered a political call and actually enjoyed the conversation. If only more of our political dialectic could be as civil as this telephone call. But, alas, I must leave you now. The phone is ringing. It is probably Carmen from Credit Card Services telling me it is positively my last chance to improve my credit rating - or at least my last chance until she calls back again tomorrow.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 7 -- The Swing Vote
February 14
, 2016

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Just when you think that Campaign 2016 couldn't get any more surreal than it already is comes news of the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the cornerstone of the conservative majority. Because he was 79 years old, one can't say that his passing was totally unexpected. But the manner in which he died in his sleep in seemingly good health caught most people unprepared. The announcement of Justice Scalia's death had hardly been absorbed by a shocked nation when the battle over who should replace him began. Scalia was the difference between a conservative and a liberal court. His replacement will be determine whether the court stays to the right or swings left. In his statement memorializing the late jurist, President Obama said he will, at a time of his choosing, nominate Scalia's successor. And of course he should. That is his constitutional responsibility. Republicans believe that Obama should not nominate anyone and leave that decision to whomever the American people choose as their next President. More importantly, they have the power to block a vote on an  Obama nominee. Like it or not, they have the right to do so. That's the system the Founders establish when they wrote the Constitution - a system of checks and balances. The major impact of Scalia's death in a presidential election year is that both Democrats and Republicans will have to negotiate a minefield. The person President Obama nominates could prove to be a plus or minus for Democrats. He or she will certainly become a personification of the kind of court Democrats want and Republicans abhor. And while Republicans will most likely win the battle to block the nomination, they do so at the risk of further cementing their reputation as obstructionists who put politics ahead of people. No one is going to come out of this battle unscathed. President Obama faces a defining moment at a time that most presidents are thinking about legacy. He can try to find someone who ideologically straddles the fence in a serious attempt to win confirmation. Or he can nominate a wedge-issue candidate who will become a lightning rod to the right and martyr to the left - and the central issue on the campaign trail. One thing is for certain, the presidential campaign has been rachetted to a higher level. Not only will the race determine the direction of the country for the next four years, it may determine the direction of the Supreme Court for many years after Obama's successor leaves office.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 6 -- The Know Nothings
February 9
, 2016

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There was a political movement in the United States in the 1850s known as the Know Nothings. It was a movement that wanted to purify the nation's political system by ridding it of immigrants and non-Protestants. They also  believed in a host of conspiracy theories about secret attempts by foreign religious leaders to undermine the American way of life. Sound familiar? Yesterday's Know Nothings are today's Kansas Republican Party. Under the leadership - and I use that term loosely - of Governor Sam Brownback, these latter-day Know Nothings have made war on immigrants, education and an imaginary rash of welfare and voter-fraud cases that exist only with in their often-disengaged minds. Another example of the Know-Nothings at work was a decision made by a state senate panel yesterday to push legislation that would block the University of Kansas from issuing $350 million in bonds to develop what is called the KU Central District. These pseudo-fiscally responsible legislators say they are concerned that the state would be on the hook should the something go wrong with KU's plan. Never mind that there are no taxpayer funds involved because the bonds will be issued by a private, non-profit organization, the KU Campus Development Corporation. And forget that the very notion of a creative privatized approach to funding a needed project is based on the very model that these nimrods have supported when it comes to meeting the responsibilities of state government. All the Know Nothings know is that it involves spending money and KU - two things that these silly salons absolutely abhor. These folks are wired to oppose almost anything KU does because the university represents something they hate - education that encourages people to act with an open mind and a social conscience. To the Know Nothings, that is the functional equivalent of sharia (or Islamic) law. Where many others would describe KU's plans as an investment in the future, these Know Nothings see wasteful government spending that could be use to better purpose - such as lining the pockets of the Koch brothers. Their desire to show fiscal responsibility would be commendable if their record didn't demonstrate otherwise. These are the folks who slashed taxes for the rich, creating a gaping budget deficit. Then they tried to make up the difference by raiding the highway fund and funding the state's public schools at levels the state Supreme Court has twice said was constitutionally unacceptable. If the people of Kansas - especially those in western Kansas - were really paying attention to what is going on, they would oust these laggards on their petards in the next election. But that's not going to happen. Unfortunately, these unengaged voters are drinking in the swill served by the so-called Tea Party. And they will continue to do so until they realize that they are tactically underminding their own self-interests. (Of course, they may see their interests as having bad roads, a poorly trained workforce and underfunded state services on which they depend.) As long as Sam the Sham the the Zeros say the sun is shining in Kansas, that's OK with them. It seems that for now, they would much rather know nothing.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 5 -- Iowa
February 1
, 2016

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I have been reminded why I follow politics and believe they can be a force for good. The people of Iowa have spoken. Once again, the pundits and the pollsters are scratching their heads at the results of tonight's caucuses. On the Republican side, Senator Ted Cruz won a comfortable victory - or at least as comfortable as it can get in a crowded field. He beat Donald Trump, anointed by pundits as the presumptive nominee. However, he wasn't the only winner. Florida Senator Mario Rubio took a respectable third place, securing his place as the so-called "establishment" candidate. That's important because the coming primary contests will be in states less dominated by the evangelical movement. After his strong showing, Rubio is likely to win the support -- and campaign dollars -- from the followers of the "governors" - Huckabee, Bush, Christie and Kasich - whose campaigns are barely registering a pulse. (Huckabee's has officially flat lined - he has pulled out of the race.) The clear loser is Trump. The vote in Iowa exposed the folly that the power of his charisma and the depth of of his pockets would rule the day. Among the Democrats, there is a clear winner and and a clear loser. As I write this, Hillary Clinton has a narrow lead and the race is too close to call. She appears likely to win a majority of Iowa's delegates - even though under the draconian Iowa caucus rules, she may actually lose the popular vote. However she chooses to spin it, Hillary is the loser. Bernie Sanders' message has struck a chord among a large number of democratic voters who have told pollsters that they just don't trust Clinton. Just like eight years ago, Clinton underestimated her opponent. And while she is still favored to win the Democratic nomination, her path to victory seems less certain and her supporters seem less enthusiastic. How else can you explain polling that shows she trails Sanders among young women, a demographic group one assumes should be thrilled at the prospect of electing a female president? And what will happen if she is indicted for her mishandling of top secret documents on her private (unauthorized and unsecured) e-mail server? That threat will remain until the FBI clears her of wrongdoing. And even then, a large number of Americans, including a large number of swing independent voters, will still not believe her. Hillary and Ted can claim they won the Iowa caucuses. But tonight's real winners are Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders, who defied expectations and have sent a loud and clear message that their fight for their respective nominations have only just begun. Next stop: New Hampshire.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 4 -- Poison
January 27
, 2016

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Sometimes government workers get a bum rap. The expectations of the public are often unrealistic. For example, there has been a lot of whining coming from District of Columbia residents about the pace of snow removal following this past weekend's blizzard. It is as if the residents expect all of the streets to be cleared within a single day. The fact is that government employees are working around the clock to accomplish that task, but Mother Nature still holds the upper hand. In a freeze-dried, fast-food, instant gratification world, there are times when the electorate is just too impatient to recognize reality. Sometimes, we need to give government employees some slack.  However, there is a good reason that the people are increasingly disenchanted with job performance in the public sector. Its track record isn't very good and seems to be getting worse. Take a look at what has happened in Flint, Michigan. Government officials anxious to appease voters, looked for ways to cut taxes and reduce costs. In the case of Flint, officials there decided to stop purchasing water from the city of Detroit and to replace it with water pumped from the Flint River, a place that had served as the automobile manufacturing industry's sewer for decades. When this toxic liquid was pumped through the city's ancient water lines, the pipes corroded and leached lead into the city's drinking water. There are few substances that can create as many long-term health effects to humans than lead. And even when the problem was first discovered, the reaction of local and state officials was painfully slow and tragically inadequate. It took more than a year after the first signs of trouble emerged for officials to act. And people can't help but wonder if the slow response is tied to Flint's demographics as a poor, mostly African-American community. Whatever the reason, the delay was unconscionable. Whether benign neglect or criminal stupidity, problems such as those suffered in Flint are why the people tend to give governments little benefit of doubt. It serves as a justification for nut-jobs like Cliven and Ammon Bundy to call themselves patriots when they are, in reality, anarchists. It is also why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two men uniquely unqualified to serve as President of the United States, are threatening to topple the establishment of both major political parties. The sad fact is that all of this is rooted in an electorate that sometimes can't see past its next paycheck to understand that government - and the taxes that come with it - can be forces for good. But good can happen only if we provide government with the necessary resources to carry out its mission to serve and protect all of the people. One wonders if the people of Michigan still feel good about all of the money local and state governments have saved by sacrificing a generation of children in Flint. It wasn't just government that failed. It was the government of, by and for the people that failed. In a twisted sort of way, we have poisoned our own way of life - literally and metaphorically.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 3 -- The State of the Union 2016
January 1
3, 2016

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President Obama last night delivered his seventh and last State of the Union to a joint session of Congress.  I felt it was one of the better speeches he has given. It is amazing how liberating it must be for the President to know that he has no more campaigns to run. Obama is doing what all of his term-limited predecessors have done - trying to shape his own legacy.  What he attempted to project was same sort of presidency he envisioned when he first ran for office in 2008. He spoke of positive change and about a vision of an America that leads instead of reacts. Of course, there was no way of ignoring the one-thousand-pound elephant in the room, Donald Trump. The current GOP presidential front runner's campaign has been the antithesis of Obama's rhetoric. Obama campaigned for the presidency with a message of hope. Trump's campaign has been been about fear. Much of the President's rhetoric last night was specifically targeted at allaying those fears. While Trump says he wants to make America great again, President Obama reminded us that we are still a great nation. According to the early polls, Americans were very receptive to the President's appeal. It is true, the nation is undergoing fundamental demographic and economic changes. These forces of change were in place long before anyone had ever heard of Barack Obama and they will be in play long after his term ends next year. The difference is that President Obama is urging Americans to embrace change while Donald Trump seeks political advantage by fear-mongering. Interestingly, even Republicans are trying to distance themselves from The Donald's demagoguery. Even South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who gave the Republican response to the State of the Union, tried to distance her party from Trump's hateful rhetoric. And what was Trump's response? Like an impetuous child, he tweeted from his private jet that Obama's speech was "boring." While Obama's and Haley's visions of America certainly have their differences, at least their visions are grounded with basic American values of freedom and justice. That is a sharp contrast to the myopic view of Donald Trump, which often appears to be grounded in the Third Reich.
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 2 -- Empowering Cartels
January 1
1, 2016

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This past weekend's arrest of Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, which coincided with the publication of his Rolling Stone interview, got me to thinking about the nature of his business. Actor Sean Penn secured an interview with the world's most-wanted fugitive and asked El Chapo a series of insightful questions. One, in particular, stuck with me. When asked who was to blame for the drug trafficing and the associated violence that has claimed thousands of lives in Mexico, Guzman said, "If there was no consumption, there would be no sales. It is true that consumption, day after day, becomes bigger and bigger. So it sells and sells." It's hard to argue with that logic. I am reminded of the very definition of cartel: An association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition. To put it another way, cartels wouldn't exist but for the implicit public support of them. OPEC wouldn't exist without our dependence upon fossil fuels. The same is true for the drug cartel. There's another cartel that is even closer to home to which we have given our tacit approval. It is headed by a highly paid leader who appears to be bullet-proof no matter how ineptly he stumbles in public. His product is in such high demand that the media and community leaders do not dare to challenge him for fear of retribution. This cartel has been known to blackmail entire cities and states by saying if it doesn't get what it wants, it will take its business elsewhere. And these elected officials will cave in to the cartel's demands because the people of the community are addicted to the product and blindly demand it without caring about its consequences. Nor do they seem to care about the consequences that face the people who produce the product we so blindly crave. Many lives are destroyed for short-term pleasure. We, as a society, may say we are concerned about this cartel's power and influence. But we are willing to look the other way because of the pleasure it gives us. The addictive product I am referencing is professional football. And the heartless cartel is the National Football League. Calling the NFL a cartel may seem harsh. However, if the shoe fits... Commissioner Roger Goodell and his merry band of oligarchical owners will continue to demand huge tax breaks and publicly funded facilities as long as the public remains blindly addicted to their product. And young men will continue to suffer life-shortening brain injuries in pursuit of the financial reward that comes with the sport. While the public may be shocked by the consequences of players injured in a collission sport such as football, they are no less cupable for this carnage than they are for thousands of shattered lives coming out of the Mexican drug wars. As El Chapo said, "If there was no consumption, there would be no sales."
XXwners
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 10 No. 1 -- My New Year's Prayers
January 1
, 2016

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Writing this blog during 2015 wasn't as much fun as it had been in the past. While the year just past had some redeeming qualities, much of the year was dominated by bad news. On the international front, Vladimir Putin resparked the embers of the Cold War in an effort to distract the Russian people from the miserable realities of his leadership. On the domestic side, Donald Trump started the year as a laughable sideshow and ended it as a cancer on the body politic. In state news, the Kansas governor and legislature officially lost their minds. The ultra rightists in the state capitol declared war on common sense and, for a while at least, appeared to be winning. However, there is a glimmer of hope as the state's judiciary seems ready to drop the hammer on Sam the Sham and the Zeros. At the University of Kansas, several key administrators, including the Provost, are bailing from a ship taking on water. And, oh yes, the football team took imperfection to a new level by finishing the season 0-12. On a personal note, 2015 was also the year in which my brother Tom lost his heroic struggle against a debilitating stroke. He deserved a much better life than he had. However, there were some bright spots. My daughter got engaged to bright young fella that I really like. (I wonder how he feels about being called a "bright young fella?") The Kansas City Royals ended a 30-year drought and won the World Series. Although the Royals are only my second-favorite team, it has been fun to watch the spirits of an entire region lifted by the success of what was truly the best team in baseball. And it seems as if the Chiefs, my second-favorite football team, have caught the Royals' spirit: They haven't lost a game since the Royals won the World Series. While the Baltimore Ravens - my favorite NFL team - placed 20 players in the injured reserve list and lost more games than they won, at least I had the satisfaction of knowing that they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers twice. The coming year is almost guaranteed to be exciting. The United States will elect a new president - and God help us if either of the two front runners actually win. There will be excitement - and sewage - in the air during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. And with familial and personal ties to Maryland, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Kentucky, there's a good chance that at least one of my teams will make this year's Final Four in NCAA men's basketball. (However, I can't help but hold my breath out of the fear that the incompetent boobs who run the NCAA will figure out how to screw up the most exciting time of the year.) As the new year dawns, let's all say a prayer for peace. Let's pray for the people of law enforcement - may they remain safe and may they make better judgments when confronted by the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect. In fact, I'll end the first blog of the new year with the sailor's prayer: May you have fair skies and following winds.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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