Snapping Turtle
The personal blog of David W. Guth
Copyright 2015
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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 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. 9 No. 8 -- Shoot it, Jim. Shoot it!
February 24, 2015

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The recent passing of former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith has evoked many stories about his most famous innovation, the Four Corners Offense. Casual fans - or just plain-old Tarheel Haters - called it Stall Ball. However, it worked.  Players would pass the ball around the perimeter of the offensive zone until someone made a sudden strike at the basket. It shortened the game and allowed Carolina to lull its opponents into defensive lapses that led to a score, usually off of a back door pass. Smith used it to perfection in 1982 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament final between the Tarheels and Virginia, teams that would meet a few weeks later in the Final Four. Carolina won 47-45, but the nation that saw the game on NBC-TV was aghast. They called it boring and a shot clock was introduced to men's college basketball the next year. Now, there's talk of shortening the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds in an effort to increase scoring. I'm not sure I favor the change. After all, the best college basketball game I ever saw was a pre-shot clock thriller during my freshman year at the University of Maryland.  South Carolina, which at the time was still in the ACC, came to College Park as the nation's second-ranked team. The game, played in January 1971, followed a meeting between to the two teams a month earlier in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks clobbered the Terrapins, a program that was a year away from climbing into national prominence. (Future All-Americans Tom McMillen and Len Elmore were on the freshman squad - freshmen were still ineligible for varsity play in 1971.) However, the Sons of the South took offense when black Maryland guard Howard White was scoring almost at will against the Gamecocks. A fight broke out between the fans and the Terps and the game was called with a few minutes remaining. The next morning's front page of the Washington Post had a picture of two South Carolina thugs holding back the arms of Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell while a third redneck punched him in the face. Security around the rematch in College Park was tight. Right after South Carolina took the opening tip, there was a one-shot foul (players were awarded foul shots on all fouls in 1971). The Gamecocks took a 1-0 lead and dropped back into a zone defense. Lefty didn't want to face the zone, so he held the ball. Twelve minutes into the game it was still 1-0. The Maryland Pep Band, taking note of the almost exclusive New York roster of the visitors, serenaded the fans with a deliberately off-beat, off-tune version of East Side, West Side. When Coach Frank McGuire decided to switch to a man-to-man defense late in the half, the crowd at Cole Fieldhouse roared. Maryland led at the half 4-3, shooting 100 percent from the field. The game was tied at the end of regulation 21-21 - thanks to two Terp baskets in the last 20 seconds. South Carolina had a 30-25 lead with 16 seconds remaining in overtime. Maryland scored a basket, stole the inbounds pass and scored again. Down by one with six seconds remaining, Lefty called for one of his gadget defenses and local product Jim O'Brien - who Sports Illustrated once described as having a "Bozo the Clown haircut" - stole the ball. It may be 44 years later, but I can still hear television play-by-play announcer Steve Gilmartin shouting, "Shoot it, Jim. Shoot it!" He did. Swish. Buzzer. Ballgame. Maryland won 31-30. Had there been a shot clock, I would have been denied one of my favorite college memories. You see, it isn't how fast you play the game, but how well you play it.

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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 9 No. 7 -- Brownback's Hypocrisy
February 11, 2015

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With a single stroke of a pen, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback yesterday shed his cloak of Christian hypocrisy and laid bare an ideology absent of substance and morality. In rescinding an executive order providing legal protections to to LBGT state employees, Brownback said it has been wrong for Governor Kathleen Sebilius to create this protected class by executive order in 2007. He said that was the sole prerogative of the state legislature.  If Brownback felt this way, why did he wait eight years until after his reelection to a second term to take this action? It smacks nothing short of cynicism and cowardice. Many have called Brownback an ideologue. But just whose ideology does he follow? Certainly not that of Jesus Christ, who in John 13:34 said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." Nor does he he follow the seminal document of democracy, The Declaration of Independence, which boldly proclaimed, "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." It seems as if the voices Sam Brownback hears are those that come from dark places and are born of prejudice, hate and political calculation.  I am not a member of the LBGT community. Nor do I profess to understand that lifestyle. But I do understand that the essence of Christianity and American Democracy is to allow people to follow their own paths and make their own choices as long as they don't infringe upon the same rights of others. Freeing others from discrimination does not diminish me or my beliefs in any way.  However, through his immoral and reprehensible act, Governor Brownback has diminished himself and tarnished the reputation and honor of the state of Kansas.

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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 9 No. 6 -- Brian Williams
February 6, 2015

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As one who teaches and still practices journalism, I have been saddened by the controversy surrounding NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.  He has come under intense scrutiny after admitting earlier this week that he had erred when he described an incident in which the helicopter he was riding was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2003. It didn't happen that way. What was intended as a story designed to praise the bravery of American soldiers who had protected him and his crew has become an albatross weighing the anchor down. Using a discombobulation defense, Williams, in essence, said he "misremembered" events over time - something everyone does. And now his reporting during Hurricane Katrina has been called into question -- although I today heard from New Orleans journalists who have said it is possible, albeit unlikely, that Williams, in fact, did see a body floating in the Mississippi River from his hotel room window in the French Quarter. NBC News is now conducting its own internal investigation. I don't pretend to have any special insight into whether Williams has been victimized by a failure of memory or a failure of character. Absent evidence of deliberate distortion, I am inclined to take the man at his word. However, my desire to see justice administered with mercy doesn't mean that I think Williams is entirely blameless.  He is a journalist and therefore must be held to a higher standard of accuracy. As we saw in the tragic events of Ferguson, Missouri, people witnessing the same event can create entirely different narratives of what happened. It is the journalist's job to shift through the noise and report the facts as he or she understands them. In an subjective world, the reporter should strive for objectivity. That is also why it is the job of the journalist to avoid inserting himself or herself into the story. In this instance on both counts, Brian Williams failed. In doing so, he has given voice to every media critic quick to condemn the entire profession based on one incident.
If nothing damning surfaces in NBC's internal investigation, I think Williams should keep his job. Reprimanded or suspended, yes. Fired, no. Through ratings generated by their viewership, the American people will let NBC know if they are willing to forgive Brian Williams for his transgression. And perhaps the experience will convince him to drop the first-person pronoun from his scripts and to focus on the accuracy of his reporting.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 9 No. 5 -- State of Chaos
January 30, 2015

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Imagine a company where the Chief Executive Officer promised his shareholders that he would improve their investments by lowering prices. The CEO's theory was the reducing costs to others would encourage them to buy more of the company's products and services.  Then, to the CEO's surprise, the beneficiaries of his largess did not do as he planned. Instead of taking the money saved through reduced prices and reinvesting them in the company's products and services, they kept it for themselves. As a result, the company was forced to cut vital products and services -- reducing the value of the shareholder's investment. And to add insult to injury, the CEO also plans to impose a series of surcharges
on the shareholders in an effort to make up the budget deficit he created -- even though he spent much of the last two years saying he wouldn't do that. In the real world, the CEO and his board of directors would be fired for financial incompetence. But this is not the real world. The company of which we speak is Kansas, the CEO is Governor Sam Brownback, and the shareholders are the taxpayers who just reelected him for another four years based on false promises and unproven economic theories.  Since Brownback claimed victory in the November election -- he was the only governor in the nation reelected with less than 50 percent of the vote -- we have learned that he plans to delay employee pension payments, raid state highway funds and retrench on promises made to schools to correct a budget shortfall of his own making. We have also learned that the state's economy -- which supposedly was going to flourish under his tax policies -- is actually doing worse than those in neighboring states. Now Brownback proposes to raise so-called "sin taxes" on things such tobacco and and alcohol to narrow the budget gap. Never mind that he campaigned on the promise that there would be no need to raise any taxes.  He also campaigned on a promise to strengthen the state's public schools. However, he didn't do that during his first term and there are no indications that he will do it during his second.  He's also planning on slowing payments to state employee retirement funds and on raiding state highway funds. (Maybe soon our roads can be just as bad as Missouri's!) In fact, the only original ideas coming out of Topeka these days aren't designed to fix the budget - they are designed to fix elections. Brownback wants to take control of judicial appointments so he can avoid the election of judges who actually believe that the state constitution is a meaningful compact with the people. Instead of fixing the schools, why not stack the courts so judges won't bug him on that pesky matter again? And then there's Boy Blunder, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who now wants to rig elections by allowing straight ticket voting.  Just like his voter ID scam, Kobach is trying to remedy a problem that doesn't actually exist. It is nothing more than a fairly transparent attempt at voter suppression. If this were a real-world corporation, there would be a shareholder's revolt and new management installed.  But this is not the real world. This is Kansas.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 9 No. 4 -- The Return
January 23, 2015

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It's a beautiful thing to return to your home town and be welcomed back as a rock star. It's an experience everyone should enjoy at least once in his or her life.  I was born in Baltimore City and lived most of my first three years in Baltimore County. About a month shy of my third birthday in 1955, my family moved across Chesapeake Bay to a home two miles outside of the Eastern Shore hamlet of Royal Oak. Specifically, I lived on Goose Neck Road.  Our home was on Tar Creek, just off of the Tred Avon River. Across the water - about a mile by boat and 23 miles by car - lay the town of Oxford. There I stayed for the next 15 years until September 1970, when I moved to College Park to begin my freshman year at the University of Maryland. Although I had departed the Delmarva Peninsula, I never stopped considering myself a citizen of the Eastern Shore. Although an expatriate for nearly 45 years, I always have worn the title of Shoreman as a badge of honor.  I love the place, yet I know my destiny lies elsewhere. I now live - and will probably die - in Kansas. That's why every chance to return to Talbot County is a treasured opportunity. But last week, I experienced something different.  I returned to make two presentations about my book Bridging the Chesapeake, A 'Fool Idea' That Unified Maryland. My first presentation was at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in Saint Michaels. Even adding to my excitement of returning to the town where I went to elementary and junior high school was the fact that the museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year -- and as a Boy Scout in 1965, I had participated in the CBMM's dedication ceremonies. (I was part of the honor guard that raised the flag on a light ship that served as the centerpiece of the ceremonies.) The staff at the museum was gracious and made me feel welcome. And I was overwhelmed by the size of the turnout for my talk. After the talk, I signed books for a number of people who all were very kind, complimentary and had their own Bay Bridge stories to tell. I had a similar experience later in the day when I crossed the Chesapeake and spoke at the Annapolis Maritime Museum. By the end of the day, I experienced a happy exhaustion - glad that was over, but not really. To be truthful, the book is not even remotely a best seller. But that was never the point of this exercise.  Everyone has a book inside of them. Unfortunately, not everyone writes his or her book. However, I wrote mine. And knowing that the effort is appreciated by my fellow Marylanders has made
the long - and at times difficult - journey on which the writing of this book had taken me one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 9 No. 3 -- Framing America
January 19, 2015

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President Obama and Congress will engage in a uniquely American act of statecraft Tuesday night, the State of the Union. The President will give his vision of where the nation should be headed, followed by a Republican response. But the evening will not be so much about what is said as it will be about how it is said. In the world of communications research, there is a concept known as framing. Essentially, the manner in which one shapes a communication in an effort to have it understood with a particular meaning is referred to as framing. Think of framing a picture: The manner in which it is framed influences what the viewer sees by emphasizing some aspects of the view and deemphasizing others. Framing is commonplace in political rhetoric. However, within the context of the dysfunctional American dialectic, framing is become harder to do. Just last week, Gallup reported that a higher percentage of Americans identify themselves as “liberal” than at anytime within the last generation. For years, Republicans have been able to frame "liberal" as being wasteful and extravagant public spending. They also were successful in casting liberals as weak on crime and national security. However, “being liberal” is seen by an increasing number of people as a badge of honor. “Being a liberal” means being one who honors the social contract between the American people and the U.S. Constitution. It also means compassion. For many, the meaning of being a “conservative” has also changed. It was once synonymous with fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense and an adherence to basic American values. However, the actions of many self-proclaimed conservatives have blurred that frame. They are seen by many - but not by themselves - as racially and culturally intolerant individuals stuck in the past. This picture of conservatism is probably as unfair as the Reagan-era view of liberalism. The tragedy is that people at both ends of the political spectrum are so strident in defense of their political philosophies that they, in essence, assume the frame assigned to them by their adversaries. In the absence of constructive compromise, little is accomplished. It used to be that American elections were won in the middle. But that wasn't the case in 2014 and the prospects of 2016 don't appear much better. And that feeds how the rest of the world frames the United States, as a impotent and hypocritical giant in decline.

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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 9 No. 2 -- Two-Word Answers
January 8, 2015

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There was an episode of the old NBC-TV prime-time drama West Wing, in which the staff of President Josiah Bartlett encouraged him to get into the habit of giving 10-word answers to every question. The staff saw that as a way of reining in Bartlett's intellectual loquaciousness. As I think of the growing field of 2016 presidential candidates, I've decided to do the West Wing eight better by describing each potential candidate in just two well-chosen words. First, I'll start with the democrats, in no particular order. Hillary Clinton - power seeker. Joe Biden - beer buddy. Elizabeth Warren - windmill tilter. Jim Webb - who cares? And Bernie Sanders - socialist nutjob. Now, let's look at the more lengthy list of republicans, again in no particular order. Bobby Jindal - nervous nellie. Rick Perry - blunder boy. Ted Cruz - Canadian bacon. Ben Carson - Trump wannabe. Donald Trump - human wannabe. Rick Santorum - frothy evangelist. Mike Huckabee - barbequed evangelist. Marco Rubio - half-baked. Scott Walker - tea baggage. Chris Christie - Jersey bridgetender. Rand Paul - libertarian astronaut. Paul Ryan - wonkish jock. Jeb Bush - bad brand. John Kasich - Ohio's votes. And Mitt Romney - standing by. Of course, depending on your own political leanings, you might come up with entirely different descriptions.  Actually, there's one description that seems to fit all of the aforementioned: not presidential. And lest we forget, there's Barack Obama - still president.

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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 9 No. 1 -- Grumpy New Year
January 1, 2015

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For all I know, 2015 may be the year I win the lottery.  Or it could be my last year on this earth.  Uncertainty is the nature of life.  I'd like to move into this new year as an optimist believing that the world will become a better place. However, this new year I'm feeling a bit grumpy. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that 2015 is going to be another bad year - maybe worse than 2014. On the international scene, it appears that China and Russia will continue to act recklessly as the leadership in both countries try to divert attention from disastrous economic and political policies. Nor is there any sign that the Islamic world is prepared to take ownership of actions that discredit their own professed faith. (How can plain old dumb ass murder be construed as an act of faith?) And, of course, there's that nut job in North Korea. Nationally, constructive engagement in public debate has been replaced by petty posturing and confrontation. And I am not just talking about the politicians. The American people used to be the most optimistic people in the world. However, we are becoming a nation of litigating whiners.  Locally, the Kansas legislature will have to address a budgetary disaster of its own making. Just this week, the courts scolded lawmakers for failing to properly fund education. Unfortunately, the early signs are that the governor and the legislators will tackle the budget crisis in the same manner in which they have addressed almost every major issue in recent years: Listening to vague and unproven ideology ignoring common sense. I know that it is up to the optimist or the pessimist in us to determine whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. However, this is Kansas, where many feel - the drought be damned - that our future lies in draining the water from that glass as fast as we can. Yup, 2015 is shaping up to be a real downer.  However, I am holding out hope that this screwed-up world will bring all of us pleasant surprises in the coming year. (Maybe Hillary and Jeb won't run.) But most of all, I hope the new year will bring us peace. I think we've earned that. And yes, I will resolve to be less grumpy.

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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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