Snapping Turtle
The personal blog of David W. Guth
Copyright © 2017
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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. 11 No. 30 -- Ballistic Bluster
August 9,
2017

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Viscerally, I agree with Donald Trump. I'd love to bomb the crap out of North Korea. The "hermit kingdom" is the closest place to hell on earth and its leader is a certifiable nut job. Intellectually, I understand that war with North Korea should be the last option we consider. Millions of lives - American, Korean and innocent third parties -would be at risk. The events of yesterday caused many to pause and take a deep breath. The Washington Post reported that Kim Jung Un's regime has developed nuclear weapons small enough for use on intercontinental ballistic missiles. This news came in the wake of North Korea's violent reaction to newly implemented United Nations sanctions. Vacationing President Trump ratcheted up the tension when he declared “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Predictably, Kim upped the ante by announcing that plans are underway to attack Guam, a U.S. territory with 168,000+ American citizens. It was at that moment when we were all reminded that there is more than one unstable finger on the nuclear button.  My question to President Trump is this: "What the hell were you thinking?" The United States holds most of the cards in a potential confrontation with North Korea. There's no need to pour gas on the fire by telling Kim what he undoubtedly already knows. Yesterday's ballistic bluster came from a man who has always used over-the-top rhetoric to compensate for what he sees as his own deficiencies - whether it the size of the inaugural crowd, the size of his vote or the size of his tiny, tiny hands. Mr. President, before you vigorously protect your manhood, how about acting like a man? Teenage tantrums may work in the world of real estate. But in a high-stakes geopolitical showdown, your antics have exposed you for what you really are, an impatient and immature narcissist in an empty suit. And they have exposed the American people - not to mention South Koreans, Japanese and Australians - to very real danger. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this morning sought to dial back Trump's threats, assuring Americans that we can "all sleep well at night." My reaction to that statement was two-fold. First, I am pleased - and relieved - to know that there are still some adults in the Situation Room. Second, it appears that the greatest threat to peace does not live in Pyongyang, but instead lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 29 -- An Odd Parallel
August 2,
2017

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The events at the White House this week remind me of a bad television show. Really. This is not a metaphor. On February 5, 1969, ABC-TV debuted a new show that was supposed to be the network's answer to NBC-TV's Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. The new show was called Turn-On and it was produced by the same people who produced Laugh-In. Like Laugh-in, Turn-On utilized rapid-fire editing, snappy one-liners and risque jokes. Unlike its predecessor, Turn-On was filmed, had no sets, no laugh track and focused almost exclusively on sex. More to the point, the program was not very funny, borderline obscene and in incredibly bad taste. It was so bad that many stations dropped it in mid-broadcast. A Cleveland station dropped it after the first commercial break. Needless to say, people were turned off by Turn-On - it was canceled after one episode. It is today considered one of network television's biggest flops, alongside the likes of The Tammy Grimes Show and the XFL. Let's move ahead 48 years to the strange case of Anthony Scaramucci. With much fanfare, "the Mooch" was brought in to replace the beleaguered Sean Spicer. In his White House Briefing Room introduction, Scaramucci came across as a fresh - albeit cocky - breath of fresh air. But that was before he actually started his job. Like Turn-On, it didn't take very long for "the Mooch" to self-destruct. In his first - and as it turned out, his only - round of Sunday morning interviews, Scaramucci brashly stated that he was going fire everyone that got in the way of President Trump's agenda. (Does that mean he would fire Trump?) And then - again similar to Turn-On - Scaramucci really went off the rails with a profanity-laced interview with The New Yorker. It was such an obscene performance that it was actually funny watching network commentators doing verbal gymnastics to paraphrase what "the Mooch" had said. It is obvious that Trump hired "the Mooch" to set the stage for the firing of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. But even Trump may not have realized that Scaramucci was a suicide bomber.  Like Turn-On, "the Mooch Show" was short-lived. In his case, 10 days was all it took to pull the plug. As soon as the new chief of staff came on board, Sacramucci was escorted off the White House grounds. In an administration marked by short tenures, "the Mooch" had set a recored for self-immolation - again, just like Turn-On. Whether it be a bad television show or a bad political mouthpiece, the American people have little tolerance for those who insult their intelligence. And that's why in the annals of history, Turn-On and "the Mooch" are best forgotten.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 28 -- Bad Choices
July 29,
2017

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While it is true that some people are disadvantaged at birth, it is not true that the direction of our lives is preordained. Many people have overcome physical, mental and/or financial obstacles to lead successful lives. Of course, it depends on how you define success. I am not wealthy. I am not the CEO of a great company or the leader of a great movement. My home is nice, but modest. I drive a 2006 Chevy Equinox - and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. However, I consider myself reasonably successful. I am a college professor at a great university located in a wonderful town. I am married to a loving woman and am the father of a terrific daughter and son-in-law. And let's not forget my step-son and his terrific family. I could go on and on, but let's not belabor the point. How one chooses to define success is the key. However, I am not writing about success, per se. The focus of this post is about the choices we make - including the choice of how one defines his or her own success. Notice that I said I consider myself reasonably successful. I qualified that statement because I have made choices that probably kept me from achieving my life goals. For example, my choice of a college major - radio, television and speech - set me along a particular path. I often wondered if I should have gone into emergency management, a field that holds my interest today. However, I choose not to regret that decision. Any change in the past would have altered the path I followed and would have resulted in me missing the many good things I have experienced. It seems to me that the political dysfunction that America is currently experiencing stems from a series of bad choices. The worse choice Americans have made in recent years is electing Donald Trump as our president. How did he win? Trump appealed to voters' insecurity. He said the economy was in bad shape when, in fact, it was not. He warned about the dangers of immigrants taking away jobs and raping our mothers, sisters and daughters. Statistics do not support such a conclusion. He has claimed that millions of illegal votes have been cast in U.S. elections, despite evidence to the contrary. Those and other outlandish claims resonated with people who, because of the life choices they had made, now feel scared and disenfranchised. Rather than accept the consequences of their own actions, they use the government as the straw man for everything that is wrong in America. Because of the antiquated Electoral College, Trump was able to win election with 3.5 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Since the election, support for Trump has dropped by one-third. Yet there is a core group, approximately one-third of the electorate, who are still standing by a man who many fear lacks the mental stability to be president.  Yes, some support Trump for philosophical reasons. I do not wish to minimize the sincerity of their beliefs. But I venture to guess that most Trump supporters are unhappy with their lot in life. Unwilling to accept responsibility for the choices they have made to land them where they are, they prefer to blame blacks, Muslims and LGBTs for their misery. These disenfranchised feel they are morally superior, even though the evidence suggests otherwise. All of this in the face of strong evidence to suggest that we, as a people, have never had it better. I suggest you read Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature. It puts to rest many of the fear-inciting claims that Trump and people of his ilk have exploited. It is time for the president's supporters to wake up and smell the coffee. It won't be long before we, the people, will have to decide whether Mr. Trump's presidency should be terminated.  Are we going to embrace the American values of free expression and equal justice? Or are we going to stick to the same old narrative, one that reflects many of our citizens' bad choices?

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 27 -- Unworthy
July 18,
2017

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In the final scene of Saving Private Ryan, an aging John Ryan stands at the grave of Captain John Miller. Miller sacrificed his life so that Ryan's mother would be spared the loss of a fourth son. Miller's dying words to Ryan were "earn this." In that final scene, Ryan asks his wife to bear witness that he had, in fact, earned the precious gift Miller had given him. I thought of that scene this evening after watching an episode of the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary The War. It too, dealt with the incredible carnage that followed the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. We lost more American soldiers in the six weeks following that invasion than we have lost during 16 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. After watching the documentary, I couldn't help but ask myself Private Ryan's question: Have we, as a nation, earned the sacrifices made by America's armed forces in the years since 9/11? Honestly, the answer is "no." First, America's civilian population hasn't been willing to make the kind of home front sacrifices that were made during World War II. Forget ration books or Rosie the Riveter. This generation of Americans is unwilling to pay taxes to cover basic services -- including the money necessary to properly operate the Veteran's Administration. Nor does the tone of our political discourse come close to honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of democracy. All we do is bicker. We call each other names. We have forgotten that compromise is not a dirty word. Instead of trying to reach a consensus on the great issues of the day, we seem willing to bludgeon one another in the name of ideological purity. It is not just the Republicans. Nor is it just the Democrats. There's a pox on all of our houses. There was once a time - six months ago to be exact - that the world looked toward America for leadership. Now, the U.S. has become irrelevant. No nation is perfect, but it used to be that Americans were always striving to achieve a more perfect union. Now, not so much. At the risk of sounding like an aging old curmudgeon, I fear that America is in a downward spiral. When it comes to following our values, we've lost our way. We've told the world that we are more interested in regime change than climate change. Do we welcome people to our shores who are yearning to be free? No. Do we believe in social and economic justice? Not a chance. Respect for different religions? Sure, as long as we are not talking about Muslims. And do we respect the views of those whose opinions differ from our own? Not really. We've become an intolerant and selfish nation. Is this trend reversible? I hope so. But until then, we are unworthy of the men and women who have given what Abraham Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion." And for that we should be ashamed.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 26 -- The Season of Reunions
July 16,
2017

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Toward the end of this coming week, my wife and I will travel from America's heartland to the Jersey shore to attend a reunion of my surviving siblings. In the past, family reunions have occurred more by happenstance than planning. The family came together for the usual occasions, such as weddings, graduations and funerals. However, in recent years, a more conscious effort has been made to get together to swap stories and enjoy each other's company. The passing of two of my older brothers in recent years created a new urgency to share some time together. We are now all of an age where we can no longer take these gatherings for granted. Every family has its own dynamics when it comes to reunions. Our parents' divorce in the 1950s effectively limited our contact to only one branch of the family tree. That we have since scattered to the winds and moved far from our Maryland Eastern Shore home also has limited contact. Compare that to my late wife's family, the Fillmans, who have had reunions every year for nearly 60 years. While that family has also scattered across the map, there are several locations - Illinois, Kentucky, Florida and California - where enough members of the Fillman family reside to create the necessary critical mass to organize this annual gathering. Last week, for the first time, the Fillmans gathered in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it and regret that I was unable to spend time with a family I have known and been proud to be a part of for more the 40 years. And then there's my wife Maureen's family, the Mannings, where most of the family lives in the Kansas City area and vacations in cabins they own alongside a Minnesota lake. For the Mannings, there's less of a need to organize reunions because the family members are in constant contact with one another. That they are of Irish descent is also a strong tie that binds the Manning clan together. Still, even with proximity and a common Irish heritage, there have been several times my wife's siblings have organized gatherings of Bob and Katie Manning's kids. They felt a need to have everyone in the same place at the same time. Summer is the season of reunions. It's a time when families overcome distance and differences to remind themselves of a common heritage. In a summer where our nation seems to be a war with itself, family reunions are needed now more than ever. At such a discordant period in our nation's history, it's a good time for families to gather to remember the things that are really important - shared history, common values and, most of all, a love for one another.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 25 -- Democracy's Dirty Word
July 4,
2017

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The American people launched a grand experiment in democracy 241 years ago today. It's an experiment that continues to evolve. We are still trying to figure out whether we can bridge the gap between the promise and the reality of government of, by and for the people.  For the most part, we've done pretty well. The United States is, in many ways, what many nations aspire to be. However, in so many other ways, we do not measure up to our lofty expectations. Among civilized societies, the United States is the most violent. Unlike other industrialized nations, we have not figured out how to bring provide health care for all of our citizens. Our educational system founders while we have surrendered our lead in entrepreneurship and innovation. And, at least at the federal level, our government is virtually non-functioning. Why have we gotten to this point? I suggest it all comes down to one word: compromise.  When I went to school in the 1960s, we were taught that compromise is what makes democracy work. By bargaining with one another, we ensure ourselves of maintaining steady, albeit slow, progress toward mutually define goals. However, in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam, compromise somehow became a dirty word. Nowadays, voters on both ends of the political spectrum demand our leaders possess what passes today for political purity.  We are electing people who believe it is immoral to waver from a political position and that their job is batter those with opposing views into submission. When that happens, nothing gets done. It's the Hatfields and the McCoys on steroids. Both republicans and democrats share this blame. And I am not just talking about the politicians. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you haven't fostered this "take no prisoners" dialectic. That includes me, who on occasion has been too strident in the defense of my beliefs. Real communication does not occur is everyone is yelling and no one is listening. Compromise doesn't mean abandoning one's beliefs. Nor does it mean that we have to compromise on core values. (For me, that's freedom of expression - even that expression which is not popular.) However, we can't draw a line in the sand for every stinking issue.  The only reason we are unable to come social agreement on issues such immigration, gun control and health care is because all sides appear to enter these debates with their mouths wide open and the minds shut tight. If we are going to reserve this trend toward disunity and discord, the healing has to start at the top. We need to remainder the President and Congress that their job isn't to "Make America Great Again." (That sounds like an acknowledgment that the era of American exceptionalism is dead.) Instead, let's focus on keeping America great. We start by embracing the values committed to parchment 241 years ago today: "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." If we use that as a starting point for all negotiations, we will have a greater chance of narrowing the gap between the promise and reality of democratic government.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 24 --  Bernadette Gray-Little
June 29,
2017

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Friday, June 30, is the last day on the job for University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. Gray- Little, 71, is retiring after coming to KU from the University of North Carolina in 2009. At the time of her appointment, I couldn't help but wonder why the Board of Regents would choose someone near or at retirement age and who had no academic administrative experience outside of UNC. However, she quickly dispelled that concern. And the record she leaves behind is impressive. The most tangible expression of that record is the considerable amount of construction taking place on the campus - especially in the area of what is now known as the Central District.  Her ability to attract public and private money to fund such an expansion is impressive. On a personal level, I have always found the Chancellor to be a quiet, calm and steadying force in the midst of a storm. When I was the target of a hateful campaign of abuse over my tweeted objections to irrational opposition to any and all gun control, the Chancellor understood that I was within my rights as a faculty member and as an American citizen to speak my mind. And while she didn't like the tone of my language, she still had my back. That's in sharp contrast to then-Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Tim Caboni, who wanted to appease pro-gun legislators by throwing me under the bus. Fortunately, Chancellor Gray-Little wouldn't have any of it. It was Caboni who also created the Chancellor's worst public relations stumble, a slow and clumsy response to sexual abuse allegations on campus. However, the Chancellor soon regained her bearings and responded to the very serious charges in an appropriate manner. Caboni has since departed KU to lead Western Kentucky University - a move that many on campus see as addition by subtraction. The best that the leader of any organization can hope for is to leave it in better shape than he or she found it. Without question, Chancellor Gray-Little passes that test. I wish her and her family the best as she moves into a well-earned retirement.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 23 --  Crying Wolf
June 27,
2017

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The White House press office issued an ominous statement late last night. It said there were signs that Syria was about to launch another chemical weapons attack against its citizens. The White House statement went on to say, "As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price." Had this come from the White House of any other president, I would applaud it. This nation is the only one in the world that can stand up against these war crimes. I believe doing so is in our national interest. I have stated such in previous posts in this space. I also criticized President Obama for "drawing a red line in the sand" against these attacks and then failing to take any action. Yes, I normally would support President Trump in this matter. However, these are not normal times. President Trump is a proven serial liar. He has repeatedly doubled-down on statements that were easily disproved. His press office is an embarrassment. So, instead of automatically falling in line behind our president, I cannot help but wonder if he's telling another lie. Is Syria really planning another chemical attack or is this just lie designed to misdirect public attention from the Russia investigation? When Assad denies the White House claim, which serial liar should we believe?  Is this statement a Trump administration ploy to draw attention away from Senate Republicans' attempt to pass a horrific health care law that would take away coverage from 22 million people? Can anything Trump and his minions say be taken at face value? This is the price of Trump's lying. The White House has lost all credibility. Who can take anything coming out of that puzzle palace without more than a few grains of salt? Trump asked the American people to elect him on the promise that he would bring common sense leadership back to the White House. Unfortunately, we now know that, too, was a lie. All this president has done is make a dangerous world even more dangerous. Our friends don't believe him. Our enemies mock him. And an overwhelming majority of Americans just want to see Trump go away. That's presidential leadership in the 21st century? Donald Trump is now the boy that called "wolf." No one believed him, either.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 22 --  Nancy Pelosi: Problem and Solution
June 21,
2017

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The last two of four congressional special elections were held yesterday with the same results. The four elections were necessitated by the resignation of Republican congressmen appointed to positions in the Trump administration. All four races saw Republicans retain the seat despite a more competitive than usual challenge by Democrats. As you might imagine, both sides are spinning the results to suit their own narratives. As Trump and the GOP will note, the Democrats are 0-4 in house races since Trump's unexpected election last November. As usual, Trump will overstate the results as a resounding - "yuge" - vote of support for his train-wreck presidency. Democrats will claim a moral victory and say the tightness of the races bodes well for the 2018 midterm elections. I do not share either view. And I am not alone. According to CNN, "Jon Ossoff's loss Tuesday night in a hyper-competitive Georgia race -- the most expensive in history -- 'better be a wake up call for Democrats,' tweeted Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, an emerging Democratic leader. 'We need a genuinely new message, a serious jobs plan that reaches all Americans, and a bigger tent, Moulton wrote.'" A look at recent election campaigns is instructive. Republicans rebounded in 2010 from significant losses in 2008 by painting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the boogie man. Usually, when that sort of thing happens, the losing party turns to new leadership. However, the House democrats stuck with Pelosi. After failing to the take the House in 2014 and again in 2016, the Democrats are again going into battle in 2018 with the same flawed field general. Isn't that the classic definition of insanity? There are two major lessons from the 2016 presidential election that the Democrats do not appear to have learned. First, being against Donald Trump is not enough. Democrats have to articulate their vision for America - something Hillary Clinton did not do. Second, they need to stop recycling their leadership and should turn to new people with fresh ideas. The single-most important thing Democrats can do right now to begin to emerge from their political wilderness is to convince Nancy Pelosi to retire. She is the albatross hanging around their neck. Maybe that's not fair, but it is the reality. If Pelosi truly wants to see a resurgence among Democrats, she needs step down from Congress, go back to San Francisco, spend more time with her grandchildren, and accept the thanks of a grateful nation.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 21 --  Truth or Consequences
June 15,
2017

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The events of the last few weeks have been coming to us at break-neck speed. Every day, there's another Trump/Russia story. Up until now, there has been more smoke than fire. There is a growing preponderance of evidence to suggest that people within the Trump campaign either directly or indirectly colluded with the Russian government to influence last fall's presidential election. There are also strong indications that the President Trump has obstructed justice in the Russian problem. Now, even Trump's son-in-law is under investigation. However, a preponderance of evidence cannot be confused with proof. Frankly, President Trump would be in a lot stronger legal position if not for his own actions. The firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump's self-incriminating tweets and his oddly tone-deaf support for friendly relations with Russia have cast a cloud of suspicion over the White House. But everything that has happened up until now is preliminary. As Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller begins to interview witnesses under oath, each interviewee will have reached a point of no return. You can lie to reporters and get away with it. You can even lie to Congress and get away with it. But if you lie to an federal investigator, you will face almost certain criminal prosecution. According to the Washington Post, Mueller is interviewing top intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers. Coats and Rogers during a congressional hearing stubbornly refused to discuss their private conversations with the President, even though the substance of those conversations was not classified nor had the Trump administration claimed executive privilege. Mueller has the legal means to force them testify, such as calling them before a grand jury. My sense is that both of them will eventually tell the truth. They are not Trumpeters, they are public servants. However, there are some people Mueller may subpoena who are Trump loyalists and may be faced with an uncomfortable reality: Tell the truth or face dire legal consequences. How certain can they be that other Trump loyalists - such as disgraced former General Michael Flynn, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump confident Carter Page - will be willing to risk a criminal conviction to protect Donald Trump? Just ask James McCord. Will they remain loyal to a man who demands loyalty but does not give it in return? Just ask House Republicans. And as for Republicans in the House and Senate, the absence of legal liability in this scandal is the least of their problems. The more they defend Donald Trump, the more they are placing themselves in political peril. Make no mistake about it - Donald Trump will be the main issue in the 2018 mid-term elections. The time is rapidly approaching where they will have to either jump in the lifeboats or learn the lyrics to Nearer My God To Thee. One other thing the President needs to consider: He will not be judged by Congress in a legal proceeding. Under the Constitution, sitting Presidents cannot be indicted. However, impeachment is a political process. And "high crimes and misdemeanors" are whatever Congress says they are. Truth or consequences: Tweet that.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 20 -- The Ugly American
June 3,
2017

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The Ugly American is a 1958 political novel detailing the failures of U.S. diplomacy in southeast Asia. It is also the title of a commentary written this week by Dana Millbank of the Washington Post. In it, Millbank said, "For the last fortnight, Trump has presented himself to the world as the caricature of the ugly American: loud, boorish and ill-informed. For nine days in Europe and the Middle East, Trump shoved, hectored and lectured, betraying confidences and demonstrating an ignorance of world affairs. The French president applied a crushing grip to Trump’s tiny hands to show that he would’t be bullied, and the German chancellor suggested that Europe may need to go it alone after 70 years, without its suddenly flaky ally. The pope gently conveyed disdain." I had already decided to write a blog post titled "The Ugly American" when I stumbled across Millbank's offering. I couldn't have said it better. President Trump's behavior during his first international trip, combined with Thursday's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords, has made the United States a rouge nation in the eyes of the rest of the world. For a nation that has stubbornly lived up to its word for 16 years of war in the Middle East, this ill-considered and unilateral decision to withdraw from a treaty of which we were among the principle authors is stunning. The United States has joined Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations on the planet to reject the treaty. (Actually, Nicaragua thought the treat didn't go far enough and Syria is in the midst of a civil war.) This is America's worst betrayal of its values and principles since Republicans in Congress refused to join the League of Nations. And as I noted in a Facebook post earlier this week, that betrayal helped to hasten the Second World War and the loss of 60 million lives. The irony in all of this is that much of the treaty has to do with implementing voluntary measures - meaning that Trump could have revised America's response to the treaty without rubbing the world's face in the mud. But that wasn't enough for our narcissistic, jingoistic President with the vocabulary and maturity of a 17-year-old bully. Yes, there are a bunch of ill-informed people who voted for this clown and who are thrilled by the President's actions. But here's the rub: When the United States begins to pay the price for isolating itself from the mainstream of global thought, those Trump-loving folks will be most likely the ones that pay the heaviest price. The wealthy Trump supporters will suffer financially from the devaluation of the American economic leadership. The least wealthy among the Trump supporters will become even poorer and will be forced to deal with the realization that that they voted for a man who doesn't care a flip about them. And the ugly truth is that both groups will have no one to blame but themselves.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 19 -- Memorial Day - In Context
May 28,
2017

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Memorial Day is the solemnest of American holidays. It is a day of remembrance for those who have died in defense of American freedoms. A familiar and uniquely American controversy serves as a backdrop for this year's observance. It has to do with the conflicting views of this nation's most tragic event, the Civil War. In recent weeks, there has been a call for the removal of Confederate memorials from public places. And there are a lot of them -- more than 700 nationwide. As USA Today has reported, some of them are located in places that were not even part of the United States at the time of the war. African-Americans see the memorials as an offensive commemoration of treason committed in defense of the indefensible institution of slavery. Others, mostly white Southerners, see them as a recognition of their ancestor's defense of their homeland. This conflict is inevitable. Can you think of another country that allows the losers of a civil war to venerate the leaders of the rebellion? It reminds me of something I wrote in this space more than seven years ago: "The Civil War was an inevitable conflict to clear the ambiguities of the federal-state relationship left by the nation's Founders. Atrocities were committed by both sides.  Should we condemn the Confederacy for what it was, an armed rebellion against the United States in defense of an immoral institution? Absolutely. Should we paint Southerners who fought in that conflict with the broad brush of terrorism? Not unless you are personally willing to wear the mantle of responsibility for My Lai,  Abu Ghraib and other atrocities committed in the name of the United States." (Vol. 4 No. 14) I don't have the answer to this controversy.  However, I think the experience of my native Talbot County, Maryland, is instructive. The courthouse was built in 1710. A statue to county residents who served the Confederacy was erected on the courthouse grounds sometime after the war. It stood there alone for more than a century before it was joined by another statue - one celebrating Talbot County native Frederick Douglass. Does this arrangement "balance the books?" Probably not. But it allows all parties to commemorate their own history. And as they do so, let me add this proviso: No version of history is complete unless it is understood within a full and appropriate context.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 18 -- The Price of Doing Business
May 25,
2017

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The former journalist in me likes leaks. The former government official in me does not. The realist in me understands that there are times when leaks are appropriate and other times when they are not.  Why do leaks happen? They happen because someone is dissatisfied with the way the people's business is conducted. Granted, the motivation for leaking information is often selfish and vindictive. The perceived wrongs may be more about the inadequacies of the leaker than those targeted by the leaks. However, there is just as often a higher, moral justification for leaking information. Giving secret information to journalists has historically served as a social pressure valve that, on many occasions, has helped society to either avert major calamities or allowed it to bring justice to those who created them. In another context, this kind of leaker would be known as a whistle blower. Another important consideration is that leaks could not occur without a free, vigorous and vigilant press. Free and independent journalism is a cornerstone of democracy. The freedom of individuals is linked to their unfettered access to information. The Trump administration, which has been the subject of more leaked information than any administration in memory, has gone as far to suggest that journalists should be jailed for disseminating leaked information. The irony, of course, is that the President, himself, has leaked highly sensitive classified information on at least two occasions. And today, the British government has announced it will not share information about its investigation into the Manchester bombing because of American government leaks. The question is: Are leaks good or bad? And the answer is: "Yes." It would be foolish and morally wrong to apply one standard to all leaks. Each has to be judged within its own context.  Mark Felt's a/k/a "Deep Throat's" leaks to the Washington Post led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Knowing now what we didn't know then, we can say those leaks served a greater public interest. (And, yes, they also served Felt's personal interests, too.) On the other hand, Bradley/Chelsea Manning's release of classified information to Wikileaks put the lives of American overseas operatives at risk. (And, yes, it exposed some bad stuff, too.) My point: Leaking secrets to the press is both good and bad. Each has to be taken within the context of its situation and whether the ultimate impact of the leak serves a Utilitarian greater good. Regardless of whether we embrace or disdain leaks to journalists, we must recognize that they are the price of doing business in a free, democratic society.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 17 -- A Message From Our President
May 19,
2017

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The following is a rebuttal editorial written by Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States: My fellow citizens of this, the bestest country in the whole, wide world. As your President, I asked for this opportunity to discuss the phony-baloney witch hunt that the crybaby Democrats have unleashed against me. As you know, my first 115 days or so as your leader have been phenomenal. Under my magnificent leadership, the American people have enjoyed beautiful prosperity. Millions and millions of you have told me that they are so much better off than they would have been under Crooked Hillary. As I promised, I have gotten rid of that failed Obamacare and have kicked all of the Muslims out of our beautiful country. Well, at least I tried. My press secretary's daily briefings have had the highest television ratings of all time! (Suck on that, Arnold Schwarzenegger!) And my golf scores have been better than those of those so-called "pros." A lot better than Obama's. But now I have to deal with that loser James Comey. Everybody in the FBI hates Comey and loves Donald Trump. Everyone wanted me to fire him. Comey is a bad, bad hombre. Everybody knows that I have not colluded with those adorable Russians. Hell, I don't even know what colluded means. But now, the out-of-control Justice Department has appointed a special councel to investigate me, the most successful president in the history of the presidentiary. (What? Of course it is spelled c-o-u-n-c-e-l. I'm the greatest spellerer in the history of the Harvard Bizness Skool.) I won the greatest landslide in American history all my myself. I didn't need Vladimir Putin's help. I should have won the popular vote. After all, I am America's most popular commander in chief since President Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Russians aren't our enemies. They are our friends. We need them. The Germans would not have attacked Pearl Harbor if they had know that Putin was our best-buddy. Please understand - Being president has been a big sacrifice for me. Heck, I'm living in public housing and am forced to use public transportation. But I am willing to do it for you, the beautiful people of the biggliest, bestest and greatest country in the history of the universe. All I ask is that you tell those sore loser Democrats to give this impeachment talk a rest. And give Mike Flynn a break. After all, he is a sweetheart of a guy who had to work two jobs to make ends meet. It's hard to advise a presidential campaign and promote a foreign government at the same time. He's just the kind of working man I am fighting for.  So, let's stop this unnecessary investigating.  As that great civil war President Andrew Jackson once said, "Let it go. Let it go. Can't hold it back no more. I don't care what they are going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold doesn't bother me anyway."
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 16 -- Storm Warnings
May 10,
2017

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Donald Trump is the last thing I wanted to write about tonight. He has been in office some 100+ days and I am sick of him. I don't like to talk about him. I don't like to think of him. He makes me want to barf. As I pondered my latest blog post, I had decided to avoid Trump and write instead about another national security controversy that took place in 1953. I published several academic papers about Harry Dexter White some 20 years ago. Instead of being a chronic complainer, I was going to assume the role of thoughtful historian. But that was before Tuesday's bombshell, the President's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. It's stunning news that echoes back to the Saturday Night Massacre of October 1973. To be fair, the firing of Comey is not a mirror image of President Nixon's firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. One difference is that Nixon was threatening to ignore a federal court order. Comey's investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election had not reached that stage - yet. (However, CNN reported this evening that the FBI has issued its first grand jury subpoenas in its Russian investigation.) An even bigger difference has to do with the composition of the American government. The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress in 1973. Nixon's resignation came after it was apparent that Congress was ready to remove him from office. Today's reality is that the Republicans control the executive and legislative branches. Impeaching The Donald in 2017 is a much taller hurdle to clear. So, once again, I find myself writing about Donald Trump - the lying, morally corrupt sexual offender who has embraced America's enemies, dissed America's friends, trashed the First Amendment, undermined the nation's courts and pretty much crapped on the concept of public discourse in a civil society. I don't want to overreact. But today's shocking episode sure feels like our country has reached a crossroads.  I can't dismiss the Comey firing as "just politics." If it looks like a cover-up, smells like a cover-up and sounds like a cover-up - it's a cover-up. And if the thought of American armed forces under the control of a mentally unstable man with the maturity and vocabulary of a seventh grader doesn't give you the jitters, nothing will. My best hope is that the Comey firing will have the same effect as the Saturday Night Massacre. Perhaps now, as was the case nearly 44 years ago, an ethically challenged President has unleashed forces that he can't control and will eventually drive him from office. Storm clouds are gathering. We have some rough sailing ahead.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 15 -- 100 Days
April 29,
2017

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These are words you haven't heard me say very often - President Trump is right. He is correct when he says that judging a president by his or her first 100 days in office is arbitrary and foolish. However, it was candidate Donald Trump who promised that he would make America great within 100 days of taking the presidential oath. He promised. But like so many alternate facts that have permeated this cesspool of an administration, his words have been meaningless. Granted, there have been two successes - getting his Supreme Court nominee confirmed and retaliating against Syria's use of chemical weapons. However, most of the other so-called successes he claims were either superficial, a result of things his predecessor started or long-planned actions carried out by others. So what has our 45th president actually accomplished? It's an impressive list. He has demonstrably lied earlier and more often than any president in U.S. history. He couldn't repeal Obamacare as quickly as he said he would. And the health care legislation that is currently being hammered out would strip health insurance coverage from millions and weaken it for millions others - things he promised wouldn't happen. His tax plan - if that's what you can call a one-page list of bullet points - would explode the nation's already burgeoning debt while rewarding rich folks like himself. He is reversing or killing environmental regulations that actually improved the quality of our air and water. In foreign policy, he has embraced our enemies and disrespected our friends. His careless rhetoric has unnecessarily added tension to an already volatile situation involving North Korea. Oh, lest we forget, there's strong evidence to suggest that Trump and his associates engaged in treason during the campaign. After criticizing his predecessor for an occasional game of golf, Trump has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars running down to Florida practically every weekend so he can hit the links at his so-called "Winter White House." He has brought into government a cadre of bottom-feeders such as Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. For a guy who says he wants to run government like a business, he has permitted a level of incompetence that no self-respecting business executive would tolerate. (But then again, who said Trump was a self-respecting business executive?) Hell, this president couldn't even organize the White House Easter Egg Hunt. It's no wonder this guy has the lowest 100-day approval rating since the Second World War. To top it off, Trump told an interviewer this week that being president was much harder than he thought it would be. Of course it is. That's what we get when we hire an apprentice to do a president's job.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 14 -- Birdageddon
April 22,
2017

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Can you smell it? The scent of war is in the air. How it will end? No one knows. The outcome is literally up in the air. There have been border skirmishes for years. But lately, the enemy has crosses the line.  By now, I suppose you are saying to yourself "what war?" I have to admit, the fake news media have ignored it. But let me tell you, the fate of democracy rests in the balance. The flash point came last week, when the Bluebirds returned to Carver Lane to nest in Maureen's very special Bluebird house. Suddenly, the Sparrows appeared. For those of you who are ornithologically challenged, Bluebirds are like Canada, the neighbors you like. (Not to be confused with Blue Jays, a Canadian baseball team I detest.) Sparrows are the Empire's stormtroopers, mean-spirited snots up to no good. The Sparrows like to takeover the Bluebirds habitat, make it their own and often kill off the Bluebird offspring in the process - a true avian atrocity. Sparrows usually have their way - until now. My wife Maureen has become the Bluebird Avenger. She hasn't caused any physical harm to the winged intruders - yet. But she sits in her recliner with a monocular scoping out the Bluebird house. When a Sparrow arrives in forbidden territory, she will spring from her roost, charge into the back yard and shoo the enemy away. Trust me, hell hath no fury like an Irish woman. During the last few days, the Bluebird Avenger has had her own wings clipped by minor surgery. So it is up to me to get up, run into the yard and shout "away, away you bird bastards!!!" (Well, at least until the neighbors complained.) Keep in mind that the only birds I really care about are Orioles, Ravens and Jayhawks. For now, the Bluebirds seem to have the upper hand, er, wing. But it is as fragile a truce as our President's ego. So, if you travel to west Lawrence in in the fair state of Kansas, please be aware that you are entering a war zone. Of course, Lawrencians have survived other conflicts, including Quantrill's Raid and a Russian nuclear attack. But this is different. This is Birdageddon! However, no need to hide in your nest. My money is on the Irish woman!
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 13 -- Easter's Lost Message
April 16,
2017

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The story of Easter is about sacrifice and spiritual rebirth - two things that this country is in short supply of these days. Whether that sacrifice comes in the form of the deprivation of luxuries, working harder without additional compensation or the willful giving of something of value with no expectation of reciprocity, sacrifice no longer appears to be a part of the American lexicon. How else can you explain the insatiable desire of our politicians to cut taxes without regard to the social harm it brings? We complain about the quality of education and then, in the same breath, we slash spending on schools and teachers out of the belief that our taxes are too high. Our roads and bridges are in need of repair, but lawmakers don't dare raise gasoline taxes out of fear of retribution from voting motorists. And when it comes to the principles upon which our nation was founded, we find ourselves spiritually exhausted. Practically every poll taken says we don't believe in public institutions such as our government, our courts, our police and even our churches. The loss of faith in those institutions may be directed more to the people who run them than the ideas upon which they were founded. However, even the basic principles of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, equality and self-determination no longer seem to be the moral imperatives they once were. Maybe that explains how people who consider themselves persons of faith could praise God in one moment and vote for a morally bankrupt politician like Donald Trump in the next. And that's why some are quick to surrender privacy rights in the name of security. This is not to say that America hasn't always found itself working at cross-purposes. The fact is that democracy is messy. It has always been a delicate balance between protecting our self-interests while considering the greater good. Those two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Foreign aid and environmental protection laws are just two examples of where self-interest and the greater good are in concert. There have been times when we, as a nation, stood tall in defense of human rights. But now we talk about refusing access to America for refugees fleeing oppression. In today's hyper-political climate, we seem to have lost the word compromise from our vocabulary. Change frightens us. We are paralyzed by our insatiable search for personal advantage. We have lost our way. These are things to ponder during this season when many celebrate the greatest sacrifice of all.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 12 -- Immoral and Amoral
April 4,
2017

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Let's look at today's headlines. President Trump yesterday welcomed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who the website Vox described as "the brutal military dictator who overthrew his country’s democratically elected president in a 2013 coup, killed more than 800 protesters in a single day, and has imprisoned tens of thousands of dissidents since he took power." To put this in perspective, Trump embraced a brutal dictator that the Obama administration had shunned just days after he was publicly cool toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the nation's strongest and most reliable allies. Meanwhile, out of the blue, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced that he wants to review consent decrees the Justice Department has made with police departments across America - despite the fact that these decrees were the result of well-documented abuses of power and violations of individuals' constitutional rights. According to the New York Times, "In a memorandum dated March 31 and made public Monday, the attorney general directed his staff to look at whether law enforcement programs adhere to principles put forth by the Trump administration, including one declaring that 'the individual misdeeds of bad actors should not impugn' the work police officers perform 'in keeping American communities safe.'" The Trump Justice Department wants to delay the implementation of a settlement agreement with the Baltimore Police Department - despite the fact that Baltimore's mayor and police chief don't want the delay. And just in case this administration hasn't made its position clear, National Public Radio has reported that Trump and his Secretary of State have decided that it is not in the nation's best interests to promote human rights. Of course, this follows the President's recent claim that Russia's approach to human rights has the moral equivalence of this nation's. So, what does this all mean? By his own words, we know that Donald Trump is immoral. These and other events also suggest that Trump is amoral, which Merriam-Webster defines as "having or showing no concern about whether behavior is morally right or wrong." One would think this would come as a surprise to the evangelical community that shockingly supported Trump's candidacy during November's election. As one who believes that how we act upon our values defines us as a people, the trajectory of this immoral and amoral government is a cause for grave concern. In a democracy, we elect our leaders to act in our name. But the only name that Trump cares about is his own. This evidence suggests that any reasonable American with any level of integrity should know that the Trump brand of morality is not one we should embrace.
ponseXrsøtmade
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 11 -- Maryland, My Maryland
March 25,
2017

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In the moments after the Baltimore Ravens squeezed out a hold-your-breath Super Bowl victory in February 2013, quarterback Joe Flacco said, "We don't make it easy, do we?" Then he added, "We are just like the city of Baltimore."  Joe Cool may not have known it, but his statement was historically accurate. Lord Baltimore's namesake city and the colony he founded 383 years ago today never seemed to follow the easy path. Maryland and its people have been defined by overcoming adversity. George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, risked everything when he went against the tide in Protestant England to convert to Catholicism. On his deathbed, he was granted a royal charter to establish a New World colony based on religious tolerance. The Mary Land colony was nestled between two aggressive and often-belligerent neighbors, Virginia and Pennsylvania. A power struggle between Patriots and Loyalists made Maryland the last colony to sign off on a Declaration of Independence at the Second Continental Congress in 1776. Against all odds, stubborn Marylanders turned the tide against the mighty British fleet in the Battle of Fort McHenry in September 1814. Despite being a slave state with decided Southern leanings, Maryland chose to stick with the North in 1861 - a decision that went a long way toward preserving the Union. The bloodiest battle in American history was fought near Sharpsburg in September 1862 -- and cleared the way for President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The 29th Infantry Division based at Fort Meade was the only National Guard unit to participate in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944. In the early 1970s, Baltimore was dreary and decaying metropolis. However, with enlightened political leadership and a surge of civic pride, Baltimore experienced a renaissance during the next decade that made it a model for other American cities. After decades of benign neglect and unchecked pollution, the state's greatest treasure, Chesapeake Bay, is beginning to rally from the brink of extinction. (But there's still a lot of work to do.) It's the state that brought us Edgar Allan Poe, H.L. Mencken, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Nancy Pelosi, Ogden Nash, Upton Sinclair, Nora Roberts, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Frank Zappa, Goldie Hahn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Babe Ruth, Bill Belichick, Kevin Durant, Cal Ripken, Lefty Grove, Jimmy Foxx, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Michael Phelps, Pete Sampras, Steven Decatur, Francis Scott Key, Jim Henson, Kermit the Frog -- and me. Tired of writing about the sorry state of affairs in Washington and Topeka, I've decided to take this Maryland Day to honor the land of my birth. It's been 43 years since I called the Free State (or Old Line State) my home. But not a day goes by without me thinking of where I was born and raised, went to school and forged most of the values I live by today. And while our state song is sung to the same tune as "Oh Christmas Tree," we Marylanders take pride in having the coolest state flag. I'll bet you didn't know that our official state sport is jousting. Lacrosse is Maryland's official team sport. And the official state reptile? Come on, make a guess. After 383 years, she's still going strong. Happy birthday, Maryland, my Maryland!
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 10 -- Ten Years
March 17,
2017

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February 22, 1974, was a day that changed my life. Late on a dreary, rainy Friday afternoon, I arrived in the tiny western Kentucky town of Hawesville. My VW bug was packed with all my worldly belongings. I had come to this remote corner of America to begin my first post-college job as an announcer and ad salesman for a small 500-watt daytime radio station. (Believe me, they don't get any smaller than that.) I had taken the job over the telephone - site unseen. The country was in the midst of a recession and it was the only job offer I had gotten. It was like I had landed on the dark side of the moon. I didn't know what to think of this rundown river town nor of its tiny radio station located in an old wooden-frame house. However, once I got to meet the radio station folks who would become my defacto family, I began to feel more at ease. The station manager took us all out to eat at "The Captain's Table," a small restuarant just across from the Hancock County Courthouse. That was when my world turned on a dime. A beautiful, smiling young waitress wearing wire frame glasses, a white dress and blue stockings walked into my life. Her name was Jan Marie Fillman and exactly 18 months and one day later, she became my wife. And what a life we had together. Like any couple, there were both good times and bad. Thankfully, the good outnumbered the bad many, many times over. Life with Jan was more than an adventure, it was a pleasure cruise. She was very smart -- a lot smarter than I.  However, Jan had her "ditsy" and silly moments that made us both laugh. For example, when I took that Iowa-born girl to see the ocean for the first time in her life, she said "The beach would be great if it wasn't so sandy." How could you not fall in love with woman like that? As great a wife as she was, she proved to be an even better mother. Jan was devoted to our daughter. I know that she would be proud of the woman and wife our daughter has become. Jan passed away with no warning 10 years ago today, March 17, 2007. While the passage of time has allowed me to pick up the pieces and begin a new life, thoughts of Jan will remain with me until I take my last breath. As is often true with widows and widowers, the memory of that tragic day dominated my thoughts for a long time. My grief knew no bounds. Eventually, those dark thoughts were crowded out by powerful remembrances of our joyous times together. They reminded me to embrace life as Jan had. I think of her every day. And now, when I do, I smile. I try to honor her memory by living life to its fullest. Which is why on this, the 10th anniversary of the worst day of my life, I choose to honor a special woman by focusing on that precious day in February 1974 -- A day when my life and her love became one.
ponseXrsøtmade
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 9 -- We Still Like Ike
March 4,
2017

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When he left office in January 1961, historians were quick to label Dwight David Eisenhower as a caretaker president. The conventional wisdom was that grandfatherly Ike governed during a period when America finally got a chance to catch its collective breath after the the crisis-filled Depression, World War II and Korean conflict years. Eisenhower certainly suffered in comparison to the youthful and dynamic John Kennedy who succeeded him in the White House. The inevitable revaluation of the Eisenhower years came. As more and more documents from his administration became available for public view, a new image of Ike emerged. Historian Fred Greenststein's The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader presented Eisenhower as a skilled, behind-the-scenes manager who exerted far more influence than he had been given credit. For example, Greenstein noted that Eisenhower worked quietly behind-the-scenes to undermine fellow Republican and communist witch hunter Joseph McCarthy.  While the 1950s are seen fondly as a relatively quiet period in world history, our view of that time might have been much different if Eisenhower had not skillfully defused a series of international incidents that could have easily escalated into war. Shortly after taking office, the former military leader became the nation's most visible peace advocate. In a speech known as "A Chance for Peace," Eisenhower told a gathering of newspaper editors that "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." Often accused of being slow on civil rights, it was Eisenhower who sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce a federal court school desegregation order. Although Kennedy is often referred to as the first television president, I argued in a 1996 paper in American Journalism that it was Eisenhower who first used televised news conferences to remove restrictions on White House coverage. Up until 1954, journalists covering presidential press conferences were not allowed to directly quote the President. Eisenhower removed those restrictions as a means of speaking directly to the American people.  When Eisenhower left office in January 1961, the former general is remembered for his farewell address warning the nation of the growing influence of the military-industrial complex. It is not surprising to me that a recent C-SPAN poll of presidential historians moved Ike up to fifth place on a list of the greatest presidents.  After a half-century of Watergate, Vietnam, Iran-Contra, Monica Lewinski, missing weapons of mass destruction, ISIS and the meltdown of civility in government, the calm reassuring leadership of Dwight Eisenhower looks pretty good. That's why more than 60 years after he left office, America continues to like Ike.
ponseXrsøtmade
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 8 -- Lip-Service Liberty
February 23,
2017

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My mother's family arrived in America before the Revolution. My father's family came to these shores during the Industrial Revolution. That, in essence, is the American story: We all came from somewhere else. Most immigrants come to America with little more than a dream of building a better life. Even the President's mother was an immigrant. They don't come here looking for welfare or hand-outs.  They want to work and become a part of the fabric of the greatest nation on earth. They believe in America's most basic values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." In our most sacred founding document, we proudly proclaimed that "we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal." The United States of America is a proud nation based on natural laws firmly rooted with our Constitution. Yet there millions of us who wear these liberties as if they are a cloak of armor designed to protect us from those seeking to share in them. Many of my fellow citizens want to deny safe harbor to refugees fleeing from deadly and chaotic conditions. We fear that immigrants will take away American jobs -- despite the fact that they tend to fill the kind of jobs that most Americans don't want.  We fear they will bring terrorism to our shores - forgetting that most of the acts of terrorism we have experienced since 9/11 have been home-grown. We want to build a wall - something rich in irony considering that one of this country's greatest victories came with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The sad truth is that when it comes to American values and liberties, many of us give them little more than lip-service. When we put our hands over our hearts and declare that we are "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," we don't really mean it. Many of us who claim to be devoutly religious fail to heed the words of the Bible, Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers.”  Like it or not, this is a nation of immigrants. We have benefited from the migration of people fleeing oppression and seeking a better life. It is the blending of cultures and traditions that have made the American experience what Ronald Reagan once called "a shining city on a hill." Just look at the University of Kansas journalism faculty of which I am a member. It would be only a shadow of what it is without the blending of great minds from Romania, Poland, Corsica, Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan. It is plain to me that the immigration issue is a straw man politicians have constructed to shroud their own lack of imagination and substance. If these so-called government leaders really want to do their jobs, then they should start by folllowing the words of their oath of office in which they promised "to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
ponseXrsøtmade
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 7 -- On The Road To Impeachment
February 15,
2017

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Donald Trump is the ringmaster of a three-ring circus from hell. Just like the much-feared Chinese water torture, we are seeing a constant drip, drip, drip of chaos coming out of his White House. Every day, a new disaster. Every day, a new blunder. And every day, a new gaggle of lies from the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. In just the last 48 hours, Trump has had to fire his national security adviser because he engaged in diplomatic negotiations with the Russians before the inauguration and then lied about it. That's a violation of the Logan Act, a federal law that levies fines and/or imprisonment to unauthorized citizens who negotiate with foreign governments. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that there's evidence that high-level officials in the Trump campaign had extensive contact with Russian intelligence officers during the presidential campaign. That's an act of treason. And today, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Labor has withdrawn his name from consideration after it surfaced that he is a tax-evader and a wife-beater. Nominating Andrew Puzder was an act of sheer stupidity. It took six years for Richard Nixon's lies to catch up with him. For Trump, it may be less than six months. Now, let's be realistic.  It is not likely that Republicans will abandon Trump overnight. They've got too much skin in the game. While Gallup says Trump's overall approval rating is only 41 percent, his approval among Republicans is around 90 percent. Until that figure drops below 60 percent, its not likely that enough Republicans in the House would abandon him to ensure that Trump will be impeached. However, the allegations of Trump's involvement with the Russians are serious - even more serious than anything Nixon faced. Again, we are talking about treason. Should definitive evidence surface that Trump conspired with the Russians to influence the election - and I think there's a high likelihood that it will - then his support among the GOP will collapse like a house of cards. And why am I so certain that this evidence will come forward? Let's just say it is not nice to denigrate the intelligence community. Eventually, there will come a point when conservatives, evangelicals and others who blindly supported him will no longer be willing to wallow with him in the swamp of his own making. We have already seen some Republicans beginning to distance themselves from this train wreck of a presidency - one that's less than one-month old. At first, I thought an early end to the Trump presidency was a fantasy.  However, I am beginning to think that this may be the week that started this nation down the slow and painful road to impeachment.
ponseXrsøtmade
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 6 -- An Appeal To Trump Voters
February 7,
2017

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Permit me to address my comments to the people who voted for President Trump. There were a lot of them. No, not a majority, but enough to have earned a victory in the Electoral College. To my friends, the supporters of Donald Trump: I understand why you voted for him.  You were frustrated and you wanted to shake things up in Washington. Congratulations, he has done that. But here's the worry in all of this: There hasn't been a single day since he took the oath of office that the President hasn't lied to you. I'm not talking about a difference of opinion where the facts are open to varied interpretations. I'm talking about lying - a deliberate release of information one can easily verify as being false with irrefutable facts. It started on day one, when Mr. Trump claimed his inaugural crowd was the largest ever. There was pictorial evidence and statistical evidence from the Washington Metro system that disproved his claim. Of course, who really gives a flying flip about such an inconsequential issue? Unfortunately, it set a pattern that continues today. The latest: Media are under-reporting terrorist attacks. With the exception of Kellyanne Conway's mythical "Bowling Green massacre," that's just not true. And none of the attacks that have happened in the United States would have been averted by the Trump immigration ban. As bad as all of that is, here's the worst part. Despite being caught in easily refutable lies, this President and his staff repeatedly double-down on the lies. They offer what they call "alternative facts," which themselves are, by their very nature, lies. Why does he do this?  I'll admit up-front that what I am about to say is not a fact, but is a well-considered opinion. I think he continues to lie to the people - especially his own supporters - because he thinks are you stupid. Trump believes that if he tells the lie often enough and loud enough you will accept it. Your natural distrust of the media - which is not totally undeserved - helps fuel his phony fables. But here's the thing: If a reporter is caught in a lie, more times than not, the reporter is fired. Now that Trump is President, he feels as if there are no consequences for repeatably disceiving the American people. But that's the biggest lie of all. When you, the voters who gave their trust to a man who has repeatedly treated it as if it is a box of kitty litter, come to realize that Trump is a pathological liar who is neither a conservative nor a Republican, the end of his reign of disruption will begin. When that happens, the adults in Washington will set the American nation back on a righteous and moral course. Of course, that won't happen until you decide that you deserve better than what you've received.
ponseXrsøt
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
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Vol. 11 No. 5 -- Only 207 Weeks to Go
January 26,
2017

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You have to hand it to President Trump. His first week in office has been the worst in the history of the presidency since William Henry Harrison. If you don't remember Old Tippecanoe, he is the chief executive who gave a two-hour speech in March without a topcoat, caught pneumonia and died 28 days later. My criticism of Trump has nothing to do the new policies he is putting into place. After all, elections have consequences and he won. There are many people who like what he's doing - although, based on the popular vote, those folks are probably in the minority. No, my criticism has to do with the daily series of unforced errors and outright lies emanating from the White House. When the media pointed out that Trump's inaugural crowds where considerably smaller than Obama's, Old Orange Top went ballistic. He sent out his pitiful press secretary to berate the media for lying. When the media refuted his provable falsehoods with well documented facts, what did the Trump administration do? It double-down on the lies and invented a new Orwellian term, "alternative facts." And, oh, by the way, why did he choose to make the size of of his inaugural crowds and issue in the first place? That's because size matters to Thin-Skin-Donny. Of course, this was just one of several first-week blunders by the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.  He's questioning the veracity of his own election by saying "millions" of illegal voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton - thus denying his victory in the popular vote. Of course, he didn't offer even a nugget of evidence to support his preposterous claim. Even Republicans are shaking their heads in disbelief. Today, he managed to piss-off the Mexican President over the ridiculous claim that Mexico will pay for his $15 billion wall. Trump even suggested that he would impose tariffs on goods imported from Mexico. Doesn't Donald know that Mexico is the United States' largest trading partner? And who does he think will really end up paying for his wall? If you don't know, just look in the mirror. And let's not forget that Trump also suggested in an interview this week that he favors bringing back torture as a tool against terrorists. Forget the morality of it. Torture is a violation of U.S. and international law. Even if President Waterboard wasn't serious, his very words have undermined the moral authority of the United States. Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief White House strategist and the latest incarnation of the late Ron Ziegler, today told called the news media "an opposition party" and told reporters to keep their mouths shut. (Apparently someone forgot to tell Bannon that this isn't 1938 and he doesn't live in Berlin.) And this was just Week One. There are 207 weeks left in his term of office -- unless, of course, he is impeached. One can only dream.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 11 No. 4 -- A Distant Inaugural
January 18,
2017

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My late wife Jan and I embarked on an adventure of a lifetime 40 years ago today. We left our home in Milledgeville, Georgia, during a snowstorm and drove eight or nine hours north to Washington, D.C., to attend the presidential inauguration of Jimmy Carter. I had become acquainted with the former Georgia governor while serving as the news director of his hometown radio station. I had interviewed him and his wife several times during the period leading up to his successful run for the presidency. Jan and I were amazed when we received a formal invitation to attend the inauguration. Keep in mind that in 1977 I was only 24 years-old and Jan was barely 20. If memory serves me correctly, I was making a whopping $8,000 a year back then. Needless to say, to be invited to an inauguration was what Georgia folks called "pretty high cotton" for a couple of kids. We almost missed the swearing-in - a D.C Transit bus that was supposed to take us to the ceremony from L'Enfant Plaza never showed up.  Jan and I shared a last-minute taxi with a couple from New York. We didn't have reserved seating for the ceremony, so we stood in the snow on the east front of the Capitol - I believe that was the last time the ceremony was held in that location. But we did have an invitation for that evening's Georgia Ball at Washington's National Guard Armory. Jan borrowed a gown from her mother and I rented a blue velvet tuxedo. It's a shame that we don't have any pictures of just how damn good we looked that night. In addition to appearances by the newly sworn-in President and Vice President, we got to listen and dance to an eclectic trio of bands: The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band and Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. It was a magical night and, in a sense, a magical time. It was very different than the feeling around this week's inaugural of Donald Trump. Even though I had voted for Carter's opponent in the election, the inauguration of Jimmy Carter felt like the nation was getting a fresh start after years of Vietnam and Watergate. Of course, that feeling didn't last forever. But for a brief period, the nation was uniting behind its newly-minted president and my wife and I had our shining moment of cutting the rug among Washington's power elite.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 11 No. 3 -- The Greatest Threat
January 16,
2017

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It has been 24 years since the United States has had a peaceful transition of power. In January 1993, President George H.W. Bush handed the reins of the government to President-elect Bill Clinton. Clinton had defeated Bush in the November general election. Even though Clinton had neither the experience nor the moral standing of his predecessor, no one questioned his legitimacy as president. Americans held their heads high proclaiming that the nation's two-century long tradition of accepting the will of the electorate and giving support to the new leader is an example for the world to follow. But do we feel that way now? Clinton was reelected in 1996, meaning there was no transition. In 2000, an electoral deadlock was ultimately decided five weeks later by the Supreme Court. Some democrats claimed Bush's presidency was illegitimate. After a close vote in Ohio, they renewed that claim after the 2004 election. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and 2012, many republicans claimed that he wasn't an American citizen, making him ineligible for the office. As we know, one of the most vocal proponents of the so-called birther movement was Donald Trump, the man who succeeds Obama as president on Friday. Even after he acknowledged the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, he famously proclaimed in one of last fall's presidential debates that he would withhold judgment on the legitimacy of the election until after he had seen the results. And now there are people saying that Trump's election is illegitimate because of the intervention of Russian hackers - and presumably the Putin government - into the American election. As of right now, there is no evidence to suggest that Trump's campaign collaborated with the Russians. If that remains the case, then our beef is with the Russians, not Trump. However, if the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton, that's another thing. In that case, both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence should be impeached. Until then, Americans need to move on. Ironically, that includes the limpid liberals at MoveOn.org. Donald Trump is not the greatest threat to American democracy. Nor are the Russians. The greatest threat to American democracy is the cynicism that has for nearly a generation questioned the legitimacy of our presidential elections. That is a cancer that left unchecked could ultimately lead to either a voluntary or violent abandonment of the democratic processes we hold dear. And we would have no one to blame but ourselves.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 11 No. 2 -- Obama's Symbolic Presidency
January 10,
2017

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President Barack Obama tonight will give his farewell address in his adopted hometown, Chicago. Farewell addresses are not new - George Washington gave the first farewell address in 1796. In advice we would have been well served to have followed, Washington cautioned against partisanship that divides the nation. Most presidential farewells are self-serving, last-ditch attempts at defining a legacy. Aside from Washington's address, only one other farewell has been particularly noteworthy. In January 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower used his speech of "farewell and leave-taking" to warn of the dangers of the growing "military industrial complex." Will tonight's Obama address achieve the status of Washington's or Eisenhower's farewells? Because of this particular president's eloquence and historical significance, there's a chance that it will. However, given the nation's caustic political environment, it is doubtful that Obama's remarks will have a lasting impact. It's more likely that any significance given these remarks will be assigned by historians in years to come. That, in many ways, sums up the Obama presidency. The election of the first African-American president was an important moment in this nation's political life. In terms of moral leadership, he deserves high marks. This moral leadership was never more evident than in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The president hit the right note in expressing his grief and outrage. Unfortunately, the Republican majority and the gun lobby successfully ignore the national outrage and blocked any meaningful gun control reforms. And that was the case with almost every proposal President Obama offered: A Republican roadblock that stalemated government. In the few areas where Obama was successful - most notably Obamacare - the GOP is promising to dismantle them under the Trump administration. Obama's administration has been scandal-free - not necessarily a high bar of achievement, but an achievement anyway. Some criticism of Obama is justified. He invited disaster when he drew his proverbial "red line in the sand" in Syria and did nothing once it was crossed. As recently stated in this space, his actions toward Israel have been justified, but clumsy and heavy-handed (Volume 10 No. 48). Many of the elements of the nation's economic recovery and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq were put into place by his predecessor. Overall, as a president, husband and father, Barack Obama has earned the praise and respect of his country. I'd give the 44th president an "A+" for effort, but a "C-" for execution. He never achieved his full potential. However, it is important to note that no president ever has and probably ever will. And when one considers the unreasonable expectations that accompanied Obama into the Oval Office, no one should not be surprised that he did not meet them. Obama's greatest legacy is that he has become an embodiment of the American dream; that hard work, perseverance and a moral character can lead to a desired result, no matter how improbable. In absence of real accomplishments, President Obama's symbolic leadership was inspirational and surely will be missed.
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That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 11 No. 1 -- We Asked For It
January 1,
2017

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America today enters a new year with the highest level of anxiety that I can remember within my lifetime. It's not about the economy: The Gallup Poll says investor confidence today is higher than at any time since the Great Recession. As he leaves office, President Obama's approval rating is in the mid-50s, unheard of in recent decades. The crime rate is down. ISIS is on the decline. Despite the good news, the nation enters the new year deeply divided. And we are not really sure where we are going. On January 20, the ship-of-state will have new captain at its helm, Donald J. Trump. Even Trump supporters are not exactly sure about the nation's future direction. Not withstanding Trump's Electoral College triumph, the fact remains that a significant majority of voters in last November's election voted for somebody else. And many of those who voted for the New York entrepreneur did so while holding their nose. And since the election, the President-elect has behaved in an unconventional and erratic manner. By all indications, Trump exemplifies many of the traits conservative Republicans hate. He's a RINO - Republican in name only. Who really knows what this guy believes? There's a great fear that the people who actually pulled the lever for Trump on November 8 will learn the true meaning behind the caution "be careful what you ask for - you may get it." Here, in Kansas, we are anxiously waiting to see what happens in Topeka. Will Governor Brownback resign to join the Trump Administration? A lot of people - many of them Republican legislators - are hoping he will get the call. And will Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, our xenophobic elections monitor, be asked to join the Trump team? Again, lots of Kansans are lighting candles and praying for a Kobach-free Kansas. (One again, "be careful of what you ask for.") The other big question coming out of Topeka is whether the shellacking conservatives suffered in the recent legislative elections will be enough to get them to steer the Sunflower ship-of-state out of the financial minefield into which Governor Brownback has driven it. There's also uncertainty about the leadership at the University of Kansas, with its chancellor planning to retire at the end of the school year. The Board of Regents just appointed a search committee. One hopes it will do a good job. Of course, this is the same group that imposed an unconstitutional social media policy upon the state's universities. And if that's not enough, thanks to the wisdom of Kansas legislators, it will be lawful to carry concealed weapons onto Kansas college campuses starting July 1. The theory is that this policy will make college campuses safer. Let's hope they are right. (Again, "be careful what you ask for.") There are just so many unknowns going into 2017 that only a fool or a paid political pundit would be silly enough to predict the future. Looking ahead one year to start of 2018, will we look back and see 2017 as a good year or a bad year? One thing is for certain: Many of us will get what we deserve. After all, we asked for it.
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That's it for now. Happy New Year. Fear the Turtle.

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