Snapping Turtle
The personal blog of David W. Guth
Testudo's Tales from 2009

Vol. 3 No. 49 -- December 21, 2009
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

It is the last Christmas season of the first decade of the new millennium.  In a little over a week, it will be 2010. Amazing. And what can one say about the now-fading millennial decade?  One is tempted to evoke Charles Dickens : "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Unfortunately, it seems as if there was a lot more of the "worst" than of the "best." The decade started with a crazy presidential election and hanging chads in Florida.  The terror attacks of 9/11 were less than a year later. Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Capitol Hill soon followed.  On a personal level, it was a decade of great personal loss: my colleague John Katich and my best friend's father in 2001, my sister-in-law Linda in 2002, my mother-in-law Rita Fillman, father Arthur Southard and cousin Joe Fillman in 2006,  my wife Jan in 2007, my colleague Christy Bradford in 2008, and my friend Larry Schmitz this year.  While all were painful losses, I am sure you will understand when I say that the sudden loss of my wife remains the most difficult tragedy with which I have had to cope. However, as I indicated at the outset, there is a Dickensesque flip-side.  I am in a much better frame of mind this Christmas season than I have been since Jan's passing.  The passage of time and the loving support of friends, family and colleagues have helped me adjust to a much different life than I had known.  My daughter has been a major part of my "recovery." Helping her has helped me and vice versa.  I am also in a growing and satisfying relationship which has helped me find peace.  I don't know what the future will bring.  But at least I am looking ahead toward it. (Oh, by the way: If Nostradameus, the Mayans and Incas were correct, the world is supposed to end three years from today. Therefore, the future may not be what it is cracked up to be.) As for the millennial decade now ending, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times - and now it is over.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 48 -- December 13, 2009
Not in My Name

Sadly, you usually do not find the words sports and journalism in the same sentence.  Too often, sports reporters believe their journalist responsibility is limited to that which happens on the field or court of competition.  When sport leaves the arena and moves into the business or social aspects of real life, these so-called reporters are often reduced to either unfounded speculation or mindless cheerleading.  That's why I like to watch ESPN's Outside the Lines, a serious attempt to peel away the rah-rah and to expose the sports world for what it really is.  This morning's edition of OTL was particularly enlightening.  It showed how Florida State's football program has made a mockery of higher education.  For example, OTL reported that FSU, a school where the grade point average of incoming freshmen is 3.7, admitted a football player on a special waiver with an IQ of 60.  Through a cozy relationship with an off-campus psychologist using questionable methodology, OTL also reported that more than one-third of the football team and three-quarters of the basketball team have been diagnosed with learning disabilities (LD).  "By comparison, experts estimate that 5 to 10 percent of the general adult population has a learning disability," reported ESPN's Tom Farrey. With the LD designation, these so-called student athletes are granted special privileges and the use of resources not available to other students.  According to OTL, FSU was able to play fast and loose with academics until the NCAA identified 61 Seminole athletes in an academic-fraud scandal that included "access to test answers and tutors who edited and typed papers." Head football coach Bobby Bowden, who denies any responsibility in the matter, is seeking to have 14 vacated football victories reinstated.  I know college athletics is big business.  I also know that special accommodations are often made for student athletes.  But the scope of the farce committed at FSU is shocking.  Does it happen here at KU?  I honestly don't think so.  I know that the Athletic Department actively monitors the classroom attendance and progress of its student athletes.  While I have not witnessed any evidence of academic malfeasance in my 19 years on campus, I also remember that the Jayhawk football program was placed on probation and lost scholarships a couple of years ago for a similar "loss of institutional control."  While KU's transgression did not approach the scope the FSU scandal, any violation of NCAA rules is unacceptable - not in my name. It may come as a surprise to deep-pocketed wannabes, boosters, vendors and erstwhile athletic supporters.  However, the academic integrity of any university is infinitely more important than bowl-bids and NCAA-tourney spots.  As for Bobby Bowden, who retires after his team's New Year's Day bowl game, don't expect me to get teary-eyed about the end of his legendary career. While some sports reporters may evoke memories of FSU glory and speak wistfully of the end of an era, I will sum up my feelings about Bowden in two words: good riddance.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 47 -- December 4, 2009
Big Lew

Mark Mangino was fired, er, excuse me, resigned as head football coach at the University of Kansas last night after allegations that he had been abusive to his players.  The decision to resign came after the Kansas University Athletics Corporation - which I will from this point on will refer to as "Big Lew" in homage to KU Athletics Czar Lew Perkins - conducted a secret internal investigation into allegations of player abuse.  The alleged investigation was the "stick" that Big Lew used to force the Big Guy to accept the "carrot" - a contract buyout.  If Big Lew had fired Mangino without cause, the coach would have received a $6.2 million golden parachute under the terms of his contract.  Were there instances of  abuse of players by the coach, or was this really about the Athletic Czar's lust for power?  Perkins didn't hire Mangino. Certainly, a seven-game losing streak to end the season didn't help the Big Guy's case.  It also hurt Big Lew's fund-raising efforts to build the Gridiron Club, a palace for the well-connected. Never mind that any fool could have told you that you don't launch a gazillion-dollar fund-raising effort in the midst the deepest recession in nearly 80 years.  However, it is likely we will not get any answers to my question. Big Lew operates as a private corporation with few disclosure requirements. This legal dodge is, of course, a joke. How can anyone with a straight face suggest that a corporation using public facilities at a public university is private? More than that, Big Lew also uses - some say exploits - student athletes in order to financially support some of the highest administrative and coaching salaries in all of intercollegiate athletics. Big Lew also uses the "Kansas" brand to raise money for fat-cat boosters to sit in climate-controlled comfort while KU administrators face the prospect of slicing academic programs because of a budget shortfall.  Does the word obscenity come to mind? It is time that the Kansas Attorney General challenge Big Lew's claim that KUAC is a private corporation operating outside of public oversight.  The current system of intercollegiate athletics in this country is a breeding ground for nepotism, cronyism and fraud.  In the end, this is not about Mark Mangino's shotgun buyout.  It is about the people's right to know what is being done in their name.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 46 -- December 1, 2009
Tiger's Tale

I have resisted the urge to pile on Tiger Woods for the past four days.  Everyone, included gifted athletes,  makes dumb mistakes.  In fact, Tiger has acknowledged that his post-Thanksgiving run-in with a fire hydrant and a tree near his Florida home was just that - a dumb mistake. I don't necessarily disagree with his desire to keep this embarrassing moment "a private matter." In a statement released by Woods on Sunday, the beleaguered golfer said, "Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible." Woods went on to say, "I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be." But here's the rub. Curiosity aside,  reasonable people can question whether Woods and his supermodel wife lied to the police. The facts, as presented to the police,  do not ring true.  And after three attempts to interview Woods to clear up discrepancies in his account, the golfer and his lawyer have, in essence, told police that they will get no further cooperation from him. He is within his rights to take this position - if he did not initially lie to police.  But if he did, this becomes a criminal matter. And that's why I feel compelled to speak out. Tiger should remember that folks like Al Capone,  Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby did not go to prison for the crimes for which they were initially investigated.  They went to jail because they lied to the authorities. Legal issues aside, Woods and his attorneys are foolishly engaging in wishful thinking if they believe they can "control" this story. Woods needs to get out ahead of it, much like David Letterman did when faced with an alleged extortion plot. Sure, Letterman had to air the dirty laundry about his relationship with a Late Show staffer. But the storm quickly passed.  Until Tiger has his Oprah or Barbara Walters moment, his reputation is going to bleed from a thousand tiny cuts.  I would like to believe that Woods is faithful to his wife and a man of good character.  If he is that man, then why not clear the air? And if he has made a very human mistake, don't compound it by first lying about it then trying to obscure it with silence.  While it is certainly true that Woods risks damaging his reputation by admitting to any human failings he may have, there's something to be said for dealing with the consequences of one's own actions.  There's an old saying in law enforcement circles: If you do the crime, you do the time.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 45 -- November 19, 2009
Culver Kidd

I have been reminded that today is the 146th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address - perhaps the greatest oratory in American history.  However, whenever I think of November 19, I remember a day 33 years ago.  It was on that date that Culver Kidd, a powerful Georgia legislator representing the district in which I lived and worked, was indicted on federal influence pedaling charges.  At the time, I was news director of WXLX-AM in Milledgeville.  I'd like to think that I had earned a reputation as a tough, but fair reporter.  In that capacity, I had a professional relationship with Senator Kidd.  It is because of that relationship that on the day he was indicted -- this day 33 years ago -- Senator Kidd called me to tell me to inform me of his legal difficulties. In a recorded interview with him, the embattled senator gave me the most memorable quote of my journalism career: "Dave, I want to the tell the people of Milledgeville, the people of Baldwin County, the people of Georgia and the people of the United States that Culver Kidd has done nothing wrong. We have never done anything wrong. We are beyond reproach." The senator went on trial in an Atlanta federal court about six months later and beat the rap.  Kidd was later indicted on federal conspiracy charges, and President Jimmy Carter actually testified against him. Once again, he beat the rap. Culver Kidd served in Georgia's legislature for 42 years.  The feds couldn't beat him, but redistricting did. Culver Kidd was denied the Democratic nomination in the 1992 primary.  He died three years later at the age of 81.  The Culver Kidd I knew was a powerful - potentially dangerous - man with a compassionate side and a fondness of loud clothing and strong cologne.  As I journalist, I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of famous people, including two future presidents (Carter and Clinton) and a lot governors. However, the most interesting politician I ever met was Culver Kidd. After all, he was "beyond reproach."

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 44 -- November 11, 2009
Incrementalism

As we today commemorate the service - past and present - of the men and women who have served our nation in uniform, a drama is playing itself out in the White House.  We have been led to believe that the Obama administration is about to announce a decision on America's future course in Afghanistan. Different versions of what are supposedly the President's options have been leaking out for days.  CBS News reported Monday that Obama has decided to send 40,000 troops spread out over a year or so.  CNN reports this morning that there are four options on the table, including the deployment of 33,000 troops in various stages to the most troubled spots of that loose confederation of tribes and thugs we laughingly refer to as a nation. Of course, the White House is denying all of this - despite the likelihood that it is the source of the leaked reports.  I suspect the White House doesn't know how to navigate the waters between expediency and necessity. I know it is not fashionable to praise former President George W. Bush, but his surge strategy in Iraq worked. It was based on the idea of a massive infusion of troops at once.  This is in sharp contrast to the incremental approaches the current administration is considering. To me, that's little more than throwing a six foot rope to a man drowning 10 feet off shore and claiming to have met him more than half way. Let's be clear on this point: This is no longer George Bush's war. Barrack Obama is now in charge.  As I have already stated in this space (Vol. 3 No. 35), I do not favor halfway measures when it comes to risking the lives of our young men and women - especially in the ungovernable cesspool that Afghanistan has become. Let's drop the pretense of building a free and democratic society. And it is not like we can bomb the Taliban into the Stone Age.  For them, that would be progress. Instead, we should punish those jihadist bastards by killing as many of them and those who supported them as we can, declare victory, and come home.  This is not incrementalism, Mr. President.  It is common sense.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 43 -- November 9, 2009
A Slice of American Pie

In his ode to rock and roll history, American Pie, Don McLean wrote that the "players tried to take the field, but the marching band refused to yield." Last Saturday, I witnessed such a spectacle in Jefferson City, Missouri. I traveled to the Show Me state capital to watch my nephew's Kentucky Wesleyan College Panthers take on the Lincoln University Blue Tigers in Division III football action.  I wouldn't say that pigskin fever gripped the LU campus - the band members outnumbered the rest of the home crowd on a glorious Saturday afternoon. Perhaps the fact that the home team hadn't won a game this season had something to do with it. However, I wasn't prepared for what happen after a fairly normal halftime show - marred only by the lady band P.A. announcer who was compelled to squawk over the band's performance. Halftime may have been over, but the Big Blue Tiger Band wasn't done.  Instead, the drum line formed a gauntlet through which band members danced their way into the stands to the drummers' rhythmic beat.  It was cool - for the first five minutes. Unfortunately, this sideshow went on for another 15 minutes after that.  It continued past the second half kickoff. At one point,  a game official had to tell the band's director to tone it down or face an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  (I was told that the band had been penalized two years earlier for that very infraction.) The volume of the drums subsided, but the "Dancing with the Stars" routine continued for another five minutes.  Once the band exited the playing field, it disappeared for the rest of the third quarter. Not another note was heard until midway in the fourth quarter when, for a moment, it looked like the home team had scored a touchdown.  The band broke into what I assume was the school fight song - paying no attention to the touchdown being nullified by a holding penalty. Then, inexplicably, the band launched into a series of show tunes that had absolutely no connection to anything happening on the field. It was a surreal experience - a place where the band bullies the football team. I guess that explains why the Blue Tigers still haven't won any games.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 42 -- November 3, 2009
Obama's Landslide: One Year Later

It has been a year since the memorable election of 2008.  One year since Barrack Obama accepted the congratulations and adoration of a million people in the Chicago night. One year since the Republican Party was declared dead on arrival.  What a difference a year makes.  Republicans tonight reclaimed the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey - two states that were decidedly blue just a year ago. Does this mark the beginning of a Republican revival? Possibly. It is hard to tell because the Democrats fielded severely flawed candidates in both states. Is it the beginning of the end for President Obama? Probably not, considering that a poll released today said he still has a 54 percent approval rating among the American people.  If anything, tonight's election results should give pause to Democrats, who are frittering away a historic opportunity to realign the body politic. Much of Obama's ambitious agenda remains in limbo, despite large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. The Democratic leadership - if that's the proper word to describe the bungling Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi - are courting electoral disaster.  The only thing that may save Democrats from themselves is the civil war raging among Republicans.  As for President Obama, I still support him. While his has been far from a virtuoso performance, he still has three years and three months left in his term of office.  Judging him on less than a year in office - and over-analyzing off-year election results - is ridiculous.  The reasons I left my own party to support his candidacy (see Vol. 2 No. 26) are still valid.  However, President Obama's best chance of success is to continue to pursue a bipartisan path.  If this means moderating some of his proposals, especially in the area of health care, so be it. The zealots on the right and the left may not follow his lead, but the American people will.  In fact, they are already there in the political middle. If the Democrats and Republicans in Congress do not abandon their bickering and do not start attending to the people's business, incumbents on both sides of the aisle may be in for a bloodletting in next year's midterm elections.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 41 -- October 27, 2009
Welcome to My New Home

You may not have noticed - especially if you clicked in from my KU Web site - that Snapping Turtle has a new home with its own URL: snappingturtle.us. I made the move to a new server yesterday for three reasons.  The main reason for the move from the University of Kansas server to a private site was an effort to preserve my political and legal  independence. Please let me make it clear that no one - and I mean no one - suggested I make this move. Nor has KU been anything but an amiable computer host of my Web activity since 1997.  However, it occurred to me that if anyone at the university should have a objection to any of these commentaries, someone might try to pull the plug on the grounds that this blog falls outside KU's intended mission.  The creation of the separate Snapping Turtle Web site allows me to separate personal matters from my academic life, thus removing potential potholes from the road ahead. The addition of this new Web site also affords me additional server space, allowing me to upload future video content.  And yes, since I teach Strategic Communication, the idea of branding this blog with its own URL is appealing. I will continue to maintain my KU Web site and it will continue to link to this blog.  I intend to weave the two Web sites together through hyperlinks. For most people, this will be a seamless transition.  While I have technically and legally distanced myself from KU in the administration of this blog, everything else will remain the same.  I'd like to think that the people who grace this site come away with a belief that it was time well spent.  If nothing else, I hope it gives my visitors something to ponder. And if I brought to them a smile - or at least a knowing nod - then it is worth the effort.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 40 -- October 20, 2009
Garbage In, Garbage Out

The hot story on the Internet and in the liberal media outlets today is the 30 Republican senators who voted against Senator Al Franken's (D-Minn.) amendment to an appropriations bill.  The amendment denies defense contracts to companies that force their employees to take sexual assault allegations to private arbitration - a process that stacks the deck in favor of companies. The amendment is based on the 2005 gang rape of a Halliburton/KBR worker in Iraq.  Because the rape occurred on foreign soil, it was outside U.S. legal jurisdiction. To add insult to injury, the employee was unable to sue Halliburton/KBR because of the conditions of her contract. The Franken amendment passed the Senate 68-30, with all of the opposition coming from Republican lawmakers.  Their argument - one I don't fully understand - is that the government shouldn't interfere in private contracts.  On principle, I understand their concern.  However, I  think that any contract involving the people's money, even that which passes through an intermediary such as Halliburton/KBR, is the people's business.  That is where I find myself in agreement with liberals critical of the GOP.  However, being on the right side of the issue was not good enough.  Liberals have been quick to skewer the GOP for taking such a dogmatic approach.  They have created a mock Web site, www.republicansforrape.org. But while liberals demagogue this issue, they need to check all of the facts. According to the Huffington Post, the so-called "Republicans for Rape" had an important ally: The Obama Administration. It seems that the President's own Defense Department sent a message of opposition to the amendment on October 6.  "The Department of Defense, the prime contractor, and higher tier subcontractors may not be in a position to know such things," the Obama Administration told the Senate. "Enforcement would be problematic." The DoD went on to suggest that different legislation, that which would make all such contractual restrictions illegal, might be a more appropriate remedy.  So, I ask my liberal friends: When can I click on the "Obama for Rape" Web site?  Then there's news that Democrats locked Republicans out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee room because the GOP had the gall to videotape a public meeting of the committee - one the Dems had failed to attend.  The Republicans are trying to force an investigation of alleged sweetheart deals made by Countrywide Mortgage to - wait for it - Democrat lawmakers. The morale of our story: A pox on both their houses.  Neither liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, red staters or blue staters have the corner on moral leadership. Until they sit down and engage each other in meaningful political debate, the story in Washington will remain the same it has been for a generation: Garbage in, garbage out.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 39 -- October 14, 2009
No Competition,  No Service

I have had a couple of reminders this week of just how bad customer service is when there is no competition.  My first experience was with a mini-Axis of Evil: the University of Kansas IT department, KU's human resources department and the personnel folks at the State of Kansas.  To make a long story short, I spent close to two hours trying to do something that should have taken only 10 minutes. Through a combination of poorly designed software, badly written e-mails and a series of seemingly endless closed-looped voice mails, I struggled to complete my reporting responsibilities in connection with the open enrollment period for state employee health insurance.  It's not like I was trying to change my health insurance coverage. No, some genius somewhere decided that I had to file a declaration that I do not smoke cigars, cigarettes or Tiparillos. And I have to file such a declaration every stinkin' year. If I don't, the state automatically increases my health insurance payments.  I am not certain which offends me most, the Bumbling Bozos of Bureaucracy who turn the simplest task into a latter-day Spanish Inquisition or the presumption that I am a foolhardy tobacco fiend until I declare otherwise.  Meanwhile, I am writing this blog while waiting for my Internet and cable television provider to restore service to my home.  The nice lady at the cable company - for whom I had to wait five minutes in Muzak Hell before she finally came on the line - tells me her service people will get on my problem. Right away. Tomorrow. Sometime in the afternoon. Maybe. Do you think I would be treated this way if the mini-Axis of Evil and my Internet/cable provider had real competition for my dollars?  For all of you folks who like the idea of a "public option" in health care reform, you may want to re-think that strategy.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 38 -- October 9, 2009
A Tarnished Honor

If the United States government heaped praise on a foreign leader for things he has promised to do in the future,  gave that leader a medal and awarded him or her a $1.4 million cash award, the U.S. would be accused of meddling in the internal affairs of another nation.  That, in essence, is what the people who award the Nobel Peace Prize have done in giving this year's prize to President Barrack Obama. Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, told "Good Morning America" this morning,  "We feel he has emphasized multilateral diplomacy, he has addressed international institutions, dialogue negotiations. He has inspired the world with his vision of a world without nuclear arms. He has changed the U.S. policy dramatically. There's a whole list." Impressive, especially when you consider that Obama had been in office only 11 days when the nominations for this year's prize closed. So, we are giving the Peace Prize for good intentions?  By that standard, George W. Bush, the compassionate conservative, would have earned the 2001 Peace Prize.  After all, his first 11 days weren't all that bad.  Don't get me wrong.  I voted for Obama (Vol. 2 No. 26).  I want the guy to succeed.  I still support him.  I just wonder how things are going to look in Oslo in December when Obama accepts his prize in the shadow of ongoing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan? The Nobel Peace Prize, which was severely diminished with the 2007 award to Earth Tone Al Gore (Vol. 1, No. 3), has been further devalued by this clumsy political statement.  Sure, I am pleased that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.  I only wish he had earned it.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 37 -- October 6, 2009
The All-Purpose Apology

It sure seems like a lot of folks recently have found themselves making embarrassing public apologies for bad behavior.  David Letterman has joined Kanye West, Serena Williams, Mark Sanford and Joe Wilson (half-heartedly) for trying to explain away inappropriate behavior.  The so-called celebrity apology has become a cottage industry. Hardly a day goes by without a high-profile mea culpa.  As a public relations practitioner specializing in crisis communications, I have realized that I am in a special position to perform a valuable public service. So, if you find yourself on the wrong side of bad publicity, please feel free to use the following all-purpose apology. Just pick-and-choose the options (in blue) that fit the particulars of your sticky situation: "Recently, I did [something bad] with/to/for/from/at [someone I now wish I never met]. I was [wrong/stupid/misguided/drunk]. For that I apologize. I [promise/pledge/hope/pray] to never do that again. It is with the strength of [God/Allah,/Jehovah,/my shrink] that I will get through the difficult [days/months/weeks/litigation] ahead.  There is really no reason to dwell on my [situation/misery/transcript/videotape/arrest report/paternity test]. As I move forward from this [incident/tragedy/conviction/divorce], I believe that I have become a better [man/woman/weasel/inmate]. I hope the public and the media will [respect my family's privacy/burn in hell for tormenting me/will suffer collective amnesia]. Thank you for [understanding/nothing]."  And if you use my all-purpose apology, let me know how that works for you! You can [thank/pay] me later.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 36 -- October 5, 2009
With All Due Respect

I am not in the habit of  telling four-star generals to "shut your yap."  However - and with respect - that is my message to General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. McChrystal, who took on the Army's hottest job in June, recently sent a report to the Pentagon that has stirred up a hornet's nest in Washington.  In it, he said he needs up to 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan to carry out his mission. McChrystal said inaction risks failure. I have no problem with the candor of his report.  The President - the Commander in Chief - requires the best - a/k/a most honest - advice from all of his advisers. Anyone who surrounds himself with a bunch of "yes men" is a fool.  Nor do I necessarily dispute his advice.  As I stated in my September 30 post, the U.S. needs to either take decisive action or go home. My problem with General McChrystal is that he has gone outside his chain of command to lobby for his position. "We need to reverse current trends, and time does matter," he said in a London speech last week. "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome."  He then made the same point in a 60 Minutes interview. I may not have gone to West Point - and I have nothing but respect for those who have.  However, I know that complaints go up the chain of command, not down.  McChrystal's is an important voice which deserves President Obama's attention.  However, the President is obliged to listen to other voices, as well.  That includes the concerns of the people who elected him.  President Obama has some very tough decisions to make.  It doesn't help when one of his field commanders, no matter how well-intentioned, goes outside of channels to pressure his boss.  My advice to the good general is to give the President his best advice and then give the man some room to make a decision. I also suggest he take some time to Google the name "Douglas MacArthur."

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 35 -- September 30, 2009
Obama's Choice

I do not know with moral certainty that all wars are immoral.  But I do know that half-hearted attempts are waging war are. To use a poker term, when you go to war, you have to go "all in."  You do not place the young men and women of our nation in harm's way if the objectives are not clear and public and congressional support is wavering.  President Obama is huddled with his national security advisers today trying to determine our future course in Afghanistan.  As a counterpoint to these discussions, we hear some Democrats using the "Q" word, quagmire, and the "V" word, Vietnam, while urging us to cut-and-run. Afghanistan is not Vietnam, nor is it even Iraq.  We know why we are fighting there: They are the bastards that harbored the scum that killed our people on 9/11. I have no problem bombing the crap out of the Taliban or even the civilians near them.  When you are at war, everyone is a combatant. Certainly, our enemies feel this way. It is regretful that so many civilians died during the Second World War.  But does anyone seriously believe that the defeat of Fascism wasn't in our best interests?  Would we have hastened victory - or made it an unlikely outcome - if we had not been willing to bomb military targets surrounded by civilians?  Remember how the 1973 Vietnam Peace Accords came about?  Nixon bombed the crap out Hanoi until the North Vietnamese cried "uncle."  Of course, North Vietnam eventually prevailed.  But that outcome was guaranteed when Congress removed all real threat of retaliation against treaty violations with the passage of the War Powers Act.  Vietnam provides another lesson from which we should learn: By limiting the scope of ground operations to south of the border, we placed ourselves in a defensive position and needlessly sacrificed young American lives.  As I see it, President Obama has two options. The first is to go "all in" and commit the troops and the weapons - including nuclear weapons - necessary to clean out that rat's nest of a nation. And if that means pursuing the bastards into weasel-infested Pakistan, so be it.  The second choice is to bring the troops home now.  Halfway measures being considered, such as those proposed by Vice President Joe Biden, will accomplish nothing but to squander the resources of our nation and spill the blood of our heroes.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 34 -- September 22, 2009
The Loyal Opposition

Dole Institute of Politics Director Bill Lacy asked the most telling question of the evening - "Where is the intellectual center of the Republican Party?" Lacy tonight moderated the 2009 Muncy Journalism and Politics Lecture at the Institute.  He moderated a discussion with Kathryn Jean Lopez, online editor of the National Review, and Stephen Dinan, head of the Washington Times congressional bureau.  The theme of tonight's lecture was "The Loyal Opposition," and focused on the role of conservative media during a period that liberals are in control of Congress and the White House. In answering Lacy's question, Lopez and Dinan were in agreement - there is no intellectual center of today's GOP.  Unlike the past, when observers could look to the late William F. Buckley and to the National Review to gage the state of conservative thought, today's conservative moment is fragmented. Lopez said the fact conservatives don't speak with one voice is a sign of success - although she wasn't clear why she sees it that way. Dinan said liberals have a similar problem, noting that the late Senator Ted Kennedy served as a sort of "cheat-sheet" for gaging liberal sentiment. Both conservative commentators said they doubted that President Obama will be able to win congressional passage of a broad-based health care bill this year -- primarily because he has to deal with the framentation within his own party.  Lopez suggested that the Democrats may be satisfied  to let health care legislation fail so they can blame the Republicans.  But Dinan said he doubted this strategy would work, given that the Democrats theoretically have the numbers to pass any legislation they want.  Because the President has staked so much political capital on health care reform, Dinan thinks a scaled-back bill will eventually emerge. Perhaps the most refreshing moment of the evening came when Lacy asked his guests about their expectations for the 2010 midterm elections.  Their answer, in essence: We don't know.  It's much too early.  Imagine that: something on which everyone can agree.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 33 -- September 14, 2009
Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Forrest Gump was right: Stupid is as stupid does. We have been reminded several times during the last week that even famous people should take advantage of opportunities to keep their big, fat mouths shut.  First there was Congressman Joe Wilson's infamous "you lie" shout out at President Obama during a joint session of Congress.  The South Carolina republican apologized to the President, and then launched a major fund raising effort supported by his fellow reactionaries.  Wilson isn't smart enough to realize that his boorish behavior has energized the opposition and further damaged the already-feeble GOP. Then Serena Williams - usually as serene as her name suggests - launched into a profanity-laced tongue-lashing of a line official at the U.S.  Open in New York.  The profanity was bad enough. However, she threatened the official. (Don't parse words with me: saying you want to ram a ball down the official's throat is the same as saying you will do it.) Since the unfortunate incident, Williams has been anything but contrite in public. She avoided the issue during post-match news conference and then laughed it off as "old news" when interviewed at center court today.  Instead, she cowardly posted an apology on her Web site.  She's been fined $10,500 - but that's not enough.  You can't threaten officials.  A suspension is in order.  And then there's that great American treasure Kayne West, who made a total ass of his drunken self during last night's MTV Video Awards.  He took it on himself to right a perceived wrong by interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech and announcing that Beyonce, not Swift, deserved the award for the best video.  Of course, this is the same clown who engaged in an inarticulate and rambling "George Bush hates black people" speech during a Hurricane Katrina telethon in 2005.  According to MTV's Web site, "During the 2007 VMAs in Las Vegas, West delivered another rant and lost his temper after he was displeased with his performance being set inside a hotel suite rather than on the show's main stage."  MTV has also reported West "memorably took the stage at the American Music Awards in 2004, declaring he was robbed of the Best New Artist nod."  At least Wilson and Williams face potential sanctions for their stupidity under fire.  I am not certain what can been done about West. Judging by the online reaction to his rant, even the normally lenient hip-hop culture is getting tired of West's narcissistic act.  However, there's a ray of hope out there.  When Beyonce won an award later in the evening, she demonstrated great class when she invited Swift to join her in the spotlight.  It was a simple act of compassion that put the Wilsons, Williames and Wests to shame.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 32 -- September 9, 2009
The Obama Health Care Plan

Like millions of my fellow Americans tonight, I listened intently the President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress on health care reform.  For the most part, I  received his remarks favorably.  I agree with him that every American should have access to affordable health care.  Nor am I opposed to a federal government-run health care option - just as long as I have the choice of choosing my own plan.  I thought the closing moments of the speech where he quoted from the late Senator Ted Kennedy's commentary on the American character were particularly powerful.  I also agree that there is too much disinformation being tossed about, and that we, as a nation, should have a civil debate on this topic.  That having been said, I am not certain that the President was completely truthful with us tonight.  He said his $900 billion plan would not "add a dime" to the nation's debt.  So where, exactly, does the money come from?  Does it come from people who supposedly can't afford to pay health care premiums in the first place? Does it come from the insurance companies? The President also said he was not trying to run insurance companies out of business. I believe that. However, his proposals mandate they cover a range of health care expenses that - at least to the untrained ear of someone who doesn't claim to be a financial wiz - have the potential of bankrupting the insurance industry.  His claim that his plan wouldn't cover illegal aliens doesn't ring true, either.  We are already providing them services - how would this be any different? Is he seriously proposing that he is going to turn his back on one of the Democratic Party's biggest constituencies? (By the way, let me be absolutely clear on one point: I did not like it that Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted "you lie" when the President made that particular statement about illegal aliens.  Such behavior in that place at that time is unacceptable.)  And while President Obama did indicate a willingness to look at tort reform - popular among Republicans, but poison to most Democrats relying on attorney campaign contributions - he did parse his words.  It wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement.  All in all, I give the President good marks.  But, in the end, there's one harsh reality he has to face - if health care reform fails, it will not be a Republican failure.  President Obama and his fellow Democrats have the votes. Ultimately, he has to harness them and bring them home. FDR did with Social Security and LBJ did it with Medicare - both of which President Obama cited in his speech tonight. If the President doesn't get his numerical majority to work to his advantage, he has no one else to blame but himself.  Editor's note: This post was updated 9/11/09 to identify Rep. Wilson and correctly quote his inappropriate outburst.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 31 -- September 4, 2009
The Media's New World Order

There's a lot of teeth-gnashing these days about the future of media.  We've seen all of the headlines about newsroom layoffs, plummeting advertising revenues and newspapers abruptly folding.  However, its not so much that we have reached the end of the mass media age as it is that the media are adjusting to a new world order.  Yes, the days of fat newsroom budgets and obscene profit margins are probably gone, but there are a lot of media companies still making good profits. The demand for local news is greater than ever. While the idea of the "citizen journalist" keeping an omnipresent eye on "the powers that be" is a romantic notion, it is also unrealistic.  Most people don't want to do the hard work that comes with gathering the information required for a fully functioning democracy.  And for the cynics who think the people don't really care about the world around them, I ask them where have they been during the last couple of years? People are tuned in -- figuratively and literally -- to the events around them. Whether it is political, financial,  environmental, scientific or cultural news, people rely on journalists to gather the facts for them.  Sure, they also want the mind-candy of sports, entertainment and pseudo-celebrity news.  But when it all hits the fan and they really need to know what's going on, do you honestly think the people are going to expect content and context from a gum-popping teenager with a I-phone? The news business is going through a metamorphosis, and this transformation is incredibly exciting. As was noted today by a television executive visiting with KU's journalism faculty, future news hounds will have to adjust to a different media culture and workplace regimen.  They will have to keep up with the ever-evolving technological landscape.  But some things will not change, such as a commitment to good writing, balanced and accurate reporting, and ethical decision-making.  If anything, there will be a greater demand for storytelling specialists  who can marry the message and the medium to create a product that the ever-inquisitive public both wants and needs.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 30 -- August 29, 2009
Small Victories

It doesn't matter who you are: rich or poor, powerful or weak, young or old, PC or Mac. There are times life can be pretty tough.  Even even when things are going good, a variety of aggravations can conspire to take the shine off an otherwise brilliant day. It is like being nibbled to death by ducks. That, of course, assumes you are having a good day. When the sweetness of life goes sour, those annoyances are like pouring salt on an open wound.  One of the things I have learned during the past three years is to look for small victories that help salvage even the lousiest of days. These small victories include having all of the socks match when they come out of the dryer. How about finding a good parking space? Then there is having the right tool for the right job in the right place right when you need it.  Things such as carrying the correct change or  toting an umbrella when you need it are worth celebrating. Don't you love it when your team wins a game it had no business of winning or you get the letter to the mailbox seconds before the postal carrier arrives? And let's not forget bacon, canceled meetings that you didn't want to attend in the first place, and the unconditional love of a dog.  These little gifts may not balance life's ledger, but anything that smooths the rough edges should be considered small blessings.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 29 -- August 27, 2009
Ted Kennedy

I have greeted the news of Senator Edward M. Kennedy's passing this week with a swirling mix of emotions.  There is a lot to admire in his 47-year career in the U.S. Senate.  I also admire how he served as the glue that held the Kennedy clan together in wake of tragedy piled upon tragedy.  The manner in which he conducted himself since learning of his terminal illness was both courageous and admirable. However, we are also reminded that Ted Kennedy was quite human with attendant faults that come with that condition. While he has been praised - with some justification - for his bipartisan approach in Congress, one can argue that his orchestration of the vigorous and, at times, vicious attacks on unsuccessful Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in 1987 launched the poisonous acrimony that has infected Capitol Hill ever since.  Kennedy was a tireless champion of health care. However, even he has admitted that the nation's health care system would have been in much better shape today if he had been willing to compromise with President Richard Nixon on the issue.  His personal failings and moral lapses have been well documented.  However, to his credit, he appeared to be a changed man after his marriage to Victoria Anne Reggie in 1992. Yes, there is much to admire and much to hold in contempt.  However, with his death, I choose to honor the passing of a great American who spent most of his life in service to the country he loved and the beliefs he held dear. When it came to public policy, Ted Kennedy and I may not have agreed on a lot of things.  But the things in which we were agreement are sufficient for me to join with the millions who mourn his passing and honor his service.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 28 -- August 19, 2009
A Darker Shade of Blue

Bernadette Gray-Little, the 17th chancellor of the University of Kansas, formally introduced herself to the KU community tonight with an address at the university's 144th Opening Convocation.  She comes to Lawrence from a place and a state I know well, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  There, she rose from the ranks of an assistant professor to become UNC's executive vice-chancellor.  She hails from Washington, North Carolina - a place Carolinians refer to as "Little Washington."  Since I was out of Lawrence when she was introduced at a news conference last May, this was my first opportunity to listen to her.  As one might expect, she spoke in generalities about some of the issues facing KU and higher education.  At the outset of her administration, she said her priorities were to increase KU's graduation rate, increase research productivity (especially undergraduate research), and to secure the resources necessary to achieve KU's mission.  My first impression is favorable.  She strikes me as being a humble person - not a bad quality for a leader.  I was also impressed that there was absolutely no mention of the fact that she is a trail blazer as KU's first female and black chancellor - perhaps another sign of progress.  She joked that she still has some things to get used to -- including a wardrobe with a darker shade of blue than she was used to at Carolina.  I should clue her in - the barbecue here is a lot different than what she was used to Down East (that's Eastern North Carolina to the home folks).  It would be foolish for me to make grand pronouncements about KU's new leader based on one speech.  But first impressions are important, and I think she made a good one.  I wish her the best in her new adventure.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 27 -- August 17, 2009
Doctors Versus Lawyers

I weighed in on the politics of the raging health care debate in my last post (see Vol. 3 No. 26).  Since then, I have sought to better understand the various aspects of the issue. Upon reflection, I can tell you without reservation that I don't know a heck of a lot about health care.  It is outside of my area of expertise - and I feel confident that I am not alone in this regard.  In a democratic republic, we rely upon our representatives to do the heavy lifting for us during public policy debates by defining the options for us. Needless to say, they haven't done a particularly good job of it.  Instead of a meaningful civic debate, politicians on the left and the right are spoon-feeding us mindless pablum long on symbolism and short on substance.   The rhetoric of this debate has been reduced to that of the language on competing bumper stickers. At this point I must confess that I almost contributed to this mindless static surrounding the health care debate.  I was prepared to write a scathing commentary demanding that tort reform be a part of a comprehensive health care reform package.  I was going to fire both barrels. However, I felt a journalist's obligation check my facts before unleashing my salvo.  And like everything else in the health care debate, I discovered the issue of medical malpractice lawsuits is not as black and white as I presumed.  Yes, a cap on lawsuits would lower health care costs. Doctors would not have to practice defensive medicine - ordering unnecessary tests as a shield against speculative lawsuits by ambulance-chasing lawyers. Good doctors would not be penalized for the actions of a few bad doctors.  However, a Harvard School of Public Health study has shown that 80 percent of malpractice claims involve significant disability or death.  An argument has been made that the threat of malpractice suits forces doctors and hospitals to exercise greater caution, thus improving the quality of health care. While I still believe that measures are needed to stop lawyers from using the pain and suffering of people as a gravy train to personal wealth, I also believe doctors and health care providers have to be held accountable.  My position is apparently aligned with that of President Obama, who risks the wrath of his own party for even considering limiting lawsuits against doctors.  My sense is that not all lawyers are bad guys and not all doctors are good guys - and vice versa.  And while this "revelation" may not contribute toward achieving a consensus on health care, at least I am not joining those within this debate who have sought to generate more heat than light.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 26 -- August 9, 2009
Free Speech Rocks!

This morning's newspapers and morning talk shows are replete with confused and hurt Democrats anguishing over public protests about health care reform proposals at town hall meetings around the nation.  They rhetorically ask if the Republicans are behind the unrest.  I ask a better question: Who cares? These same Democrats didn't seem to care when former President Bush and members of his administration were verbally harassed everywhere they went during the previous eight years. My favorite protests came a couple of years ago when hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens took to the streets of American cities in organized anger to fight for their right to - wait for it - break the law. (Keep in mind that my position on immigration is close to that of former President Bush and the Democrats, limited amnesty.) More to the point, any grade schooler can tell you that there can't be combustion without a source of heat.  As a reporter and public official for two decades, my experience has been that for every successful protest mounted there have been 10 that fizzled for lack of public support. There's genuine anger out there across the political spectrum about the continuing impotence of our elected officials to deal with real issues affecting real people. Protest - organized or not - is as American as apple pie. Heck, I just got back from Boston, the home of the first organized political publicity stunt, the Boston Tea Party.  To my friends on the left and the right - assuming I have any - I remind you that the freedom to redress our grievances to the government is an unalienable right of our American democracy.  Free speech rocks! God bless America.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 25 -- July 28, 2009
Scooter and Charlie Hustle

There was a sort of strange convergence yesterday: News that two unrepentant souls are seeking forgiveness.  This week’s Time cover story is about the White House infighting during the last days of the Bush Administration.  Vice President Dick Cheney pressured President Bush to pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s former chief-of-staff. Libby was convicted in March 2007 for obstructing an investigation into the outing of a covert CIA officer’s identity. To paraphrase the article, Bush was convinced that Libby had lied under oath about his role in the affair and wasn’t inclined to let him off of the hook. Cheney, for his part, thought the conviction was political and that the President had dishonored himself by “leaving a soldier in the battlefield.” Ironically, this came on the day the news broke that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was considering a reinstatement of Pete Rose, banned from baseball and ultimately imprisoned two decades ago for illegally betting on the game. Here’s the irony: Both men did the crime, but only Rose has done the time.  I can support Selig’s “pardon” of Rose on that basis – perfectly understanding that the Veteran’s Committee is under no obligation to vote him into the Hall of Fame.  As for Scooter, he made his bed.  Now he should lie in it. After all, he’s an expert when it comes to lying, isn’t he?

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 24 -- July 21, 2009
Beltway  Buffoonery

In case you missed it, former Representative Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) will not be running to reclaim the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives she lost last November.  She was the only Democrat incumbent to lose in the Obama landslide. No, she hasn't made a formal announcement of non-candidacy, per se.   However, she was sworn in Monday as the new deputy assistant secretary of defense of manpower and personnel issues.  Knowing the amount of money required for another run at the office - she spent $1.7 million in a losing cause in 2008 - her dip into the public trough can only be interpreted as a throwing in of the towel. (You can't raise campaign funds while counting paper clips in the supply room.) Of course, the great irony is that the only way she got elected in a heavily Republican district in 2006 was by waging an anti-war campaign. She was an ineffective and practically invisible congresswoman. I'm sure she's a perfect fit for the Defense Department.  While I am on the subject of Beltway buffoonery, here's a special shout-out to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). This legislative giant is turning his laser-like attention to the most important issue facing humanity, the National Basketball Association's requirement that a player must be at least 19-years-old and at least one year out of high school for league eligibility.  Thank God someone is standing up for the embattled multi-millionaire season ticket holder!  The fact that the league and the players union agreed to this rule is of no consequence.  I agree with Rep. Cohen, we need more overpaid and undereducated teenagers to serve as role models for American youth.  I will sleep better tonight knowing that Nancy and Steve are on the job.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 23 -- July 19, 2009
One Small Step

For one brief moment 40 years ago, the people of earth believed that all things are possible.  On Sunday, July 20, 1969, millions - perhaps billions -- of us gathered around our television sets to watch grainy images from another world. Two American astronauts fulfilled one of humanity's oldest dreams when they walked on the surface of the moon.  No doubt, it was a geopolitical event: The U.S. beat the U.S.S.R. to the moon in a triumph of democracy over communism (or something like that). Politics aside, it was a truly wondrous event.  I often think of my grandmother, born in 1875 (a year before the telephone was invented) and in her twenties when the Wright Brothers first flew above the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  What a life she led and what history she witnessed!  Of course, we have continued to write amazing history, especially in the area of wireless digital communications.  The scientific innovation that gave us the historic flight of Apollo 11 laid the foundation for the many electronic gadgets and gizmos we today take for granted.  And what comes next?  I, for one, hope we engage in further space exploration.  While some may argue that we have more pressing problems here on earth, what is to say that the answers we seek do not lie in the stars? The collateral knowledge and amazing technology we gained from the exploration of space has already justified the expense.  Beyond that, we have to continue exploring the unknown.  It is in our nature. Just as Lewis and Clark led a Corps of Discovery to uncover the hidden wonders of the American Northwest just over 200 years ago, we need more Armstrongs and Aldrins to help us expand not only our knowledge of the universe, but how to safely and peacefully coexist within it.  Forty years ago we took a small step toward interplanetary exploration.  Let us continue that journey.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 22 -- July 17, 2009
Salt Water Dreams

I am very fortunate to live in one of the great small cities in the United States.  Lawrence, Kansas, has been named one of the top 10 communities under 100,000 in population - although it probably won't qualify for that status after the 2010 Census.  However, I used to live in one of the top 10 towns under 10,000 - Easton, Maryland.  While I love Lawrence and will likely retire here, I miss Talbot County and Maryland's Eastern Shore.  Easton, Royal Oak, St. Michaels, Oxford and the other Talbot communities have something Lawrence lacks - salt water creeks, coves and bays.  I was reminded of my affection for salt water when I visited my sister and her husband on one of New Jersey's barrier islands earlier this month.  There was a certain smell in the air that reminded me of my youth on the water.  We had a home on Goose Neck Road on Tar Creek,  located just off of the Tred Avon River.  From our house, you could see Oxford a little over a mile away by water - 23 miles by car or four miles by car-ferry. We could go swimming from late April until mid-June when the sea nettles arrived.  Even the smells of a New Jersey boatyard evoked strong memories of watermen toiling in Chesapeake Bay waters  for crabs and oysters.  One local brewer dubbed the region "The Land of Pleasant Living." Of course, this is a somewhat idealized view of an area that, like others, has its strengths and its faults. If you wanted a career in broadcasting - which I originally set out to do - the Eastern Shore was a starting point and not a destination. My dreams once took me away from the Shore in search of that career.  The search resulted in an exciting adventure with unexpected twists and turns. That adventure continues to this day. As I approach the final years of my redefined career, my dreams drift back to that place I still think of as home - a salt water haven where  living is good and life is even better.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 21 -- July 12, 2009
The Wounds of Absence

I met a hero this week on a flight from Philadelphia to Kansas City.  I did not get his name.  However, I learned he was a First Sergeant in the U.S. Army on leave from his second tour of duty in Iraq.  He was given the opportunity to spent a precious week on home leave because he volunteered to escort a wounded comrade home for medical care at Fort Riley, Kansas. He was from Atlanta, and the vagaries of military regulation required him to fly from Georgia to Philadelphia to Kansas City so he could then officially start his return trip to the Middle East via Washington and Frankfort.  He talked with pride of his family, how much he had missed seeing his basketball-playing daughter compete in the state high school championship game and how he had also missed watching his boys playing football. Most of all, he missed his wife.  When he gets back, he will be responsible for the safety of 32 soldiers in his platoon. The decisions he makes may determine whether he and those he commands survive this conflict. The First Sergeant's tour in Iraq is scheduled to end this fall.  He is about 18 months shy of retirement with 20 years of service to the people of the United States.  When we parted, I thanked him for his service and wished him well. Afterward, I thought of how much I take for granted.  I also reminded myself that I should not take my uniformed friend - or his colleagues - for granted.  We hear a lot about the battlefield casualties, but do not think as much about the wounds caused by absence from home.  I thank him for his service and pray that soon he and others will return safe and secure to the arms of their loved ones.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 20 -- June 27, 2009
The Meandering Moron of Immorality

The saga of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford would be funny if it weren't a blatant breach of public trust. Sanford is - or at least led people to believe he is - a visionary leader with pro-family values and a strong streak of fiscal conservativism.  He was also was getting buzz as a potential Republican 2012 presidential nominee. But all of that was before the wandering governor went AWOL, disappeared for days without his security detail and left everyone, including his family and staff, wondering where we was.  The governor's staff told people what Sanford had led them to believe, that the wandering governor was taking a few days to hike the Appalachian Trail.  What we didn't know was that the Appalachians apparently stretch from Maine to Argentina, where the wanderer  had a honey on the side. And now Sanford is apologizing to everyone for his indiscretion and promising to reimburse the state for any money used to fuel his fanciful flight from fidelity. He also vows to remain on the job, ala Bill "I did not have sex with that woman" Clinton.   However, Clinton and his legion of puppy-dog followers didn't get it back in 1998, nor does Sanford get it today.  People don't give a damn about a politician's martial vows.  That's something the happy couple has to sort out for themselves.  It is the oath of office we care about. And when a politician's reckless behavior is accompanied by lies and the use of public resources to cover one's tracks, it's resignation or impeachment time.  Sanford has only himself to blame for his current sorry state. But the people of South Carolina will have to live in their own sorry state if that meandering moron of immortality is allowed to remain in office.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 19 -- June 21, 2009
My Fathers' Son

It is fitting that I take time out today, Fathers Day, to reflect on the men who have assumed paternal leadership in my life.  My real father,  Evan Carey Guth,  passed away from the effects of alcohol abuse in 1960 when I was only seven and he was only 46.  While I do not remember him treating me badly, that was not true for others.  I believe the only thing of consequence I got from him was a nasty temper, something I have battled all my life. (Thanks, Dad.) Even before my father's death, he was out of the house and replaced (so to speak) by my step-father, Bill Connolly. In hindsight, I know him to have been a hard-working and well-intentioned man who gave my mother the love she deserved.  My relationship with him wasn't all that good, but was repaired and in good standing at the time of his death in 1984.  Arthur E. Southard did not become my father by bloodline or marriage - he earned the title.  He had been my Scoutmaster and a family friend when he volunteered to take me in as ward in 1966. I was a rebellious teenager at a perilous fork in the road and he led me down the right path.  Although he never married, he mastered fatherhood better than most.  He passed away in 2006. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge Francis "Pudge" Fillman, who has been my father-in-law since 1975.  He is kind, generous, loving and the common-sensical leader of a family I have grown to love and in which I have taken great pride to be consider a member.  Pudge and I also share a common bond, having been widowed within seven months of each other. (We both married very well.) He, too, has earned the mantle of fatherhood.  On this Fathers Day 2009, I realize that I am my fathers' son.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 18 -- June 11, 2009
Legislative Shenanigans

There is chaos in the New York State Senate. OK, that's not real news.  What is news is why - senate republicans this week seized majority control of the chamber when two disaffected democrats switched sides and joined the GOP caucus. The democrats are denying reality and trying to repeal the laws of mathematics at the same time. They turned off the lights and locked the senate chamber doors to keep the republicans from acting. This is somewhat reminiscent of the Texas legislature in 2003, when state democrat lawmakers fled the state in an effort to deny republicans the quorum they needed to vote on a controversial redistricting plan.  As way back as 1833, Maryland democrats forced the state senate into recess for months by their refusal to appoint electors needed to complete the election process of that time. These legislative shenanigans failed in both Maryland and Texas, as they will in New York.  However, if the U.S. Congress turned out its lights, locked its doors and went home, would anyone notice?

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 17 -- June 7, 2009
The Very Least

Sadly, I didn't catch his name.  He had to be in his mid-80s.  He was frail, sitting in the shade with his oxygen tank just a few feet away from the Dwight D. Eisenhower statue.  He had come to the Eisenhower Center in Abilene on a warm June 6 afternoon for the same reason I had, to join in the commemoration of 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.  He was wearing a U.S.S. Arizona cap, which prompted me to ask him if he was a Pearl Harbor survivor.  He said he wasn't - his son gave him the hat after a recent visit to Hawaii.  However, I also learned that he had served in the Pacific during the Second World War, first in New Guinea, followed by the Philippines and then Japan.  He is one of a dwindling number of surviving veterans of that conflict - members of what Tom Brokaw  called The Greatest Generation.  He wasn't there to relive the glory of battle.  He was there to remember with whom he served, especially those who did not return.  As we talked, two young boys - I am guessing they were 10 or 12 years old - came up to the veteran  and told him "We want to thank you for your service" and shook his hand. This scenario was repeated throughout the day, as people sought out the men and women who came to the defense of their nation at its moment of greatest peril.  World War Two was a so-called "good" war, where the differences between good and evil were well-defined.  However, not all wars are just.  Not all wars are popular.  Not all wars are necessary.  And none should be characterized as good. Wars are the ultimate failure of civilizations to resolve their differences. Dwight Eisenhower understood that when, in his farewell address, he warned of the dangers of the influence of the military-industrial complex. However, the people of our armed forces do not get to pick and choose when and where they will fight.  They do not establish policy.  What they do is answer the call and, all too often, give the ultimate sacrifice.  As a free people, we have the right to support or protest our nation's use of arms.  We do not have to support every war.  However, regardless of our feelings for this policy or that policy, we should follow the example of those two young boys in Abilene and thank those who serve or have served in defense of our nation.  It is the very least we owe them.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 16 -- May 25, 2009
The Real Reagan Legacy

We may be headed toward a historic political meltdown.  The Republican Party is at war with itself and it is getting personal.  On one side is the party of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.  These are the so-called "neocons," ideologically driven social conservatives who believe that the government should stay out of the private lives of Americans - except when it comes to matters of the bedroom.  On the other side are Tom Ridge, Colin Powell and, until recently, Arlen Specter.  These are the so-called "country club Republicans," pragmatic champions of the free-market - except when that free market works to the disadvantage of favored constituents. Starting with the 2006 midterm elections and continuing through Obama's inauguration, the Grand Old Party has engaged in what amounts to a circular firing squad. The irony of this uncivil war is that both sides in their own way have laid claim to the legacy of Ronald Reagan.  Keep in mind that I am a Republican who never voted for Reagan, but have grown to appreciate the job he did as President.   Ronald Reagan would have had you believe that he was a simple man - and often lured his opponents into believing it to their own detriment. He was a sophisticated politician with a solid grasp of strategy and game theory.  Yes, he was ideologically driven.  But he was also a pragmatist.  Because of that, Reagan got things done and was in the eyes of most of the American people a successful President. And that's the essential element missing from today's GOP.  The neocons and the country clubbers need to focus less on process and more on results.  That means finding common ground with President Obama when values coincide and coming up with constructive alternatives when they do not.  (By the way, those constructive alternatives do not include tax breaks when the government is running a gazillion-dollar deficit.) Until the Republicans stop eating their young, the only ones left to claim the Reagan legacy of plain-speaking pragmatism and problem solving are - surprise - the Democrats. (Yeah, I can't wait to see how that works out, either.)

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 15 -- May 18, 2009
All Good Things...

I have decided to step down as associate dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications effective June 30.  I will continue in my role as an associate professor.  As my closest friends can tell you, this is a move I have been contemplating for some time. This was my decision, one reached after consultation with the dean. Being an associate dean is a demanding job – one that my colleagues perceive to have power but really has none.  Being wedged between “the boss” and “the rank and file,” one often feels isolated and frustrated. I vividly remember losing the friendship of someone of whom I thought highly on the day after being named associate dean in 2004 simply because I had become “management.” And while my colleagues have been supportive since my wife’s death in 2007, it is really tough to come home to an empty house at the end of a hard day. There have been a lot of hard days recently, as I have had to deal with budgetary, personnel and enrollment issues. I have been spread thin by personal and professional obligations. So now it is time to let go and turn attention to the things I came here to do 18 years ago, teaching and research. I thank the dean and the school for the opportunity to have served. And I wish my successor Barbara Barnett, another UNC Journalism grad, great success. She has my full support.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 14 -- May 15, 2009
The Question

It was the most famous question of the most famous political scandal: "What did the President know and when did he know it?"  It was asked by then Senator Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) during the Senate Watergate Hearings in 1973. Since then, that question has been the gold standard by which we judge the actions of our elected officials.  Well, almost.  Republicans are expected to answer The Question.  Democrats, on the other hand, get a pass.  Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and both Bushes were peppered with The Question in its many variations during their terms of office. The record shows that each answered The Question - although often in an unsatisfactory matter.  And each paid a price either personally or politically. However, whether it be on the topic of Monicagate, the sale of sensitive defense technology to the Chinese or his failure to deal with Osama Bin Laden when he had his chances, Bill Clinton has been allowed to avoid The Question. The republicans were pilloried for even raising The Question. And now we have Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who yesterday so much as admitted that she lied to the American people about her knowledge of waterboarding of terror suspects by the Bush Administration. No, she didn't admit to lying when she disclosed during a "clear the air" news conference that she had been informed of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques as early as September 2002. Instead, she accused the CIA officials who conducted the briefing for congressional leaders of - wait for it - lying to her.  Nor did she adequately explain why, in the face of the moral outrage she said she has for the practice, she did nothing, nada, zip.  She didn't even write a letter.  When asked about the Speaker's weasel-word performance at her news conference,  House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) initially avoided piling on the CIA, saying "I have no idea of that - don't have a belief of that nature because I have no basis on which to base such a belief."  However, it didn't take long for Hoyer to fall in line with the party line and defend Pelosi.  I guess he got the memo - Democrats don't have to answer The Question.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 13 -- April 29, 2009
Arlen Specter

The last time – in fact the only time – that I have mentioned Senator Arlen Specter in this blog, was to mock him (see Vol. 2 No. 4). I will not mock him today.  The Pennsylvania senator has made the difficult but politically necessary decision to abandon his life-long commitment to the Republican Party to join the Democratic caucus. He has been under fire from conservatives for being one of only three Republican senators to vote with the Democrats for President Obama’s stimulus package.  That decision has been unpopular among Keystone State Republicans and has made it unlikely that he could win the party’s nomination for another term next year.  Predictably, some conservatives have chided Specter’s decision to switch sides as an act of political expediency. Perhaps it was.  But it was also courageous.  It isn’t easy to jump to the other team after a lifetime in the GOP.  However, as a person of principle, he felt he had no other choice.  The irony is that just a few months ago, the standard-bearer of the Republican Party – my party – ran under the mantra of “Country First.” However, it is ironic that when a lifelong Republican made the decision to place the interests of the nation ahead of scoring a few political points, the neo-cons ran him out of the party. And they wonder why people don’t trust them.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 12 -- April 22, 2009
It's Not Easy Being Green

The very first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970.  It was the brain child of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. More than 20 million people throughout the nation participated in a series of events that Senator Nelson would later write "organized itself." I was one of them. On that ocassion, I was senior at Easton High School on Maryland's Eastern Shore.  I was also among a group of dedicated students who decided that as members of the new generation of soon-to-be high school graduates - and, therefore, about to righteously assume the reigns of power in society - that it was up to us to save the planet. Working with some very intelligent, dedicated and, in hindsight, underappreciated teachers, we organized a "teach-in" at our school.  That evening, students and teachers made solemn presentations to parents and interested public about the sorry state of Mother Earth and the things we needed to do to save the planet.  We thought we were saving the world. That was then and this is now.  Today, it is all about being green.  Unlike 1970, the 2009 edition of Earth Day has a strong corporate feel to it.  Almost every company is telling us how using its products will help save Mother Earth.  Heck, even the producers of 24 remind us that they run a "carbon-neutral set." (If Jack Bauer is on our side, how can we lose?) Others seek to remind us how they have been good stewards of the Earth.  Cynics call this attempt by corporate America to drape itself in an environmentally friendly cloak "greenwashing."  In some cases, that is undoubtedly true.  However, some companies are acting on their values when they seek an eco-friendly route to profits.  What is wrong with that?  Who loses when everybody wins? It's better than being like Daniel San Diego, the self-styled animal rights activist who just yesterday earned himself a spot on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Terrorist" list.  His idea of saving the planet is blowing up buildings.  I'm certain his mother is real proud of him. Back in 1970, the seniors of Easton High School thought we could nip this environmental thing in the bud. I guess we didn't.  But at least we tried. And it was a start.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 11 -- April 13, 2009
Asymmetrical Warfare

The United States Navy struck a blow for truth, justice and our way of life yesterday when it snuffed out three Somali pirates holding an American merchant marine captain for ransom.  A fourth lowlife, who was attempting to negotiate with the Navy when snipers did their job, is now in custody.  This was a “happy ending” in the latest chapter of a troublesome trend. We are seeing increasing American involvement in what is known as asymmetrical warfare, conflict between two or more belligerents where their relative military power differs significantly.  To put is another way, a David versus Goliath kind of war - perhaps the very first asymmetric war. Sometimes it is as simple as partisans versus the establishment.  It can also be wars fought by proxy, such as the Spanish Civil War, where the Nazis bankrolled Generalismo Francisco Franco.  The thing about asymmetrical warfare is that, from Goliath’s point of view, it is utterly infuriating. Goliath thinks David is nuts and doesn’t have a chance.  And more times than not, Goliath is right. However, if you remember your Bible, David won. So did the Mujahadeen against the Russians in Afghanistan, the Viet Cong versus the Americans and, lest we forget, the colonists against the British Empire in 1776. The War on Terror is an asymmetric war.  It’s a messy business and wholly unsatisfying. You never know when it is over until long after its over. And even then, you can’t be sure.  Yeah, we beat the pirates on Easter Sunday.  Unfortunately, this will not be the end of it. That’s the nature of asymmetrical war.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 10 -- March 25, 2009
Another Bonehead Jurist

There was an item in the news this week that caught my attention: A federal court judge threw out a Bush administration rule against the sale of the so-called "morning after" abortion pill to minors.  The judge's reason: the decision was made on a political rather than scientific basis.  While I am, in general, pro-choice, I am not in favor of leaving those kind of decisions in the hands of minors.  However, that is not what has me steamed.  All policy decisions in a democratic society are, by their nature, political.  We elect our leaders to make these judgments.  If they make bad decisions, we elect someone else.  However, there are too many examples of activist - and unelected - judges substituting their will for that of the people.  The future of this policy was the Obama administration's decision - not that of some unelected judge.  The fact that Obama might have imposed the same result is not relevant. Judges should decide matters of law and not dictate public policy.  We had a case here in Kansas a few years ago where the Kansas Supreme Court not only ruled that the General Assembly had failed to meet the constitutional requirements for providing a quality public education, but then prescribed exactly how much money the state should spend on its schools.  Excuse me, but setting appropriation levels is the purview of the legislative branch of government, not that of the judicial branch. The court clearly overstepped its constitutional authority and the legislature (if it had had the chops) should have -- diplomatically, but forcefully - told the court to go to hell. At a time when faith in public institutions is at a new low, we do not need another bonehead jurist imposing his unelected personal opinions on public policy over those elected to make those decisions.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 9 -- March 15, 2009
Two Years

This week marks the second anniversary of the passing of my wife Jan.  A lot has happened during the past two years.  It has been a time of grieving, reflection, anger and healing.  This is not to imply that I have followed a particular process and that the process is now complete.  I continue to grieve at some level, and suspect I will for the rest of my days.  I cannot imagine a day that I will not miss her. However, at other levels, I have started the next phase of my life. I have resumed work on my Chesapeake Bay Bridge book, which was put on hold with Jan's death.  I have been taking better care of myself by watching my diet and doing some exercise.  (I had lost as much as 50 pounds, but gained some of that back during the winter months. As the weather improves, my  exercise will increase.) I have also begun a social life - a story unto itself that will not be recounted here. Let's just say that dating as a 56-year-old widower is not the same as being 17 and in high school. The most important thing I have done in the past two years is to continue to be a parent to my daughter. She's doing fine - and, as always, is quite capable for speaking for herself.  I also know that I have been the beneficiary of the love and acts of kindness of many people - family (the Guths and the Fillmans) and friends. Clearly, my state of mind is better today than it was for the first anniversary (see Vol. 2 No. 8). And on this somber ocassion, that's about as good as it is going to get.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 8 -- March 10, 2009
A Box of Chocolates

I had an amazing dream last night.  For one thing, it wasn’t your typical fantasy-based dream. Instead, I relived one of the most important moments of my life. It was 1962 and I was in the fourth grade of St. Michaels Elementary on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Every school in county did a special activity that spring to commemorate Talbot County’s Tri-centennial.  Along with my first “best friend” Mark Aydellote, I had been picked to be a reader for a special program where each class depicted an important moment in county history.  This event became memorable because Mark and I were the only fourth graders asked to read – the rest of the readers were sixth graders.  I even remember the first line of my script: “Along the shores of the bay called Chesapeake, life for the colonists began to change.” The fact that we had been so precocious was a real boost of confidence. For perhaps the first time, both of us knew there was something we did better than most.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that as adults, Mark and I both had radio careers.  And my radio career sent me on a path that resulted in me meeting my wife, having a daughter, and eventually joining the faculty of the University of Kansas. Perhaps this is an application of chaos theory or, as Forrest Gump so profoundly noted, proof that life is like a “box of chocolates.”  However, I feel blessed that for at least one night, I could revisit a turning point of my life.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 7 -- February 27, 2009
In Defense of Newspapers

Another great newspaper has rolled off the presses for the last time.  The Rocky Mountain News ceased publication today, just two months shy of its 150th anniversary.  The Rocky was a victim of new age technology and old age economics.  Of course, the current economic downturn accelerated the paper's demise.  There are also serious environmental questions surrounding the materials used in producing newspapers. However, more to the point, 21st century newspapers are struggling to find their niche in the Digital Age. The Internet has siphoned off readers and, more importantly, advertising revenues.  As Time noted in a recent article, the growth of the Web created an expectation that news content should be both free and available around the clock.  It has also given rise to the so-called "Citizen Journalist," where anyone with a computer and camera (or camera phone) can reach a worldwide audience.  (Michael Phelps being a case in point.) The problem with this model is that most of these so-called "I-witnesses" neither have the training nor the desire to provide the complete, balanced and meaningful narratives like those prepared by professional journalists.  And while there is some merit in the argument that media are biased, who believes the solution to that problem involves the silencing of journalistic voices? Keeping in mind that my background is in broadcasting, I feel that the loss of a newspaper is serious blow to any community.  In the case of the Rocky, it had been a vital part of Denver's social fabric for seven generations. It chronicled the rise of a great American city and the proud people who inhabit it. And now it is gone.  And what will be next paper to fold? Don't get me wrong - I think newspapers are here to stay.  However, they will remain endangered until someone figures out a business model in which people are willing to pay for news content and that parent companies fully embrace the social responsibility that comes with publishing the news.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 6 -- February 12, 2009
The Lincoln Mythology

There's a certain irony that both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were both born on this date in 1809.  Throughout the years, the mythology surrounding our nation's 16th president has gone through a constant evolution.  Not unlike President John F. Kennedy during my youth, the years immediately following Lincoln's assassination were a period of martyrdom and canonization for the fallen leader.  Only after the passage of time were people willing to assess the whole man, warts and all.  This deconstruction of history happens with all of our leaders. For example, the martyred JFK was probably an above-average president, but not as great as his earliest biographers would have had us believe.  Dwight Eisenhower, who was painted by his contemporaries as a mediocre transitional leader, now appears from a distance to have been an exceptional president who gave the nation much-needed stability after decades of turmoil. Harry Truman and Gerald Ford both engendered the respect of the American people long after the distain of those same people hastened their departures from the White House. All of which takes us to Lincoln, a man who freed the slaves but believed whites were superior to blacks.  While prosecuting a war in the name of preserving the Union, he frequently ignored the Constitutional liberties that supposedly defined it.  Lincoln was a humble man, but incredibly image-conscious.  Truth be told, he was neither a saint nor a sinner.  He was a man - albeit an exceptional man who performed extraordinary deeds in our nation's most perilous times.  To understand the true Lincoln, a great man who did even greater things despite personal flaws, is to truly appreciate him.  Understanding Lincoln's humanity helps us to embrace our own. By knowing that he overcame his own fears and frailties to become our most beloved president inspires us - using Lincoln's own words - to follow the better angels of our nature.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 5 -- February 1, 2009
Old Habits Die Hard

There's a reason the Republicans are out of power.  That's because they appeared to be uncaring and out of touch with the people.  The people kicked them out. However, it is also important to remember that there was a reason Republicans achieved power in the first place.  That's because the Democrats also appeared to be out of touch with the people.  Back in the days of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America," the Republicans promised to curb the unrestrained tax-and-spend tendencies of the Democrats.  Of course, the GOP didn't live up to its promises (and supposed principles) and eventually got the boot. It's early, but that pattern seems to be repeating itself. Despite the fact the United States is facing a severe financial crisis, the Democrat-controlled Congress, which took power on a promise to return discipline and integrity to government, is treating pending emergency relief legislation as if it were a Christmas tree. There's a gift under it for everyone. Granted, some of the earmarks that have been proposed - such as money for anti-smoking programs and cancer research - are worthy.  But as economic relief? President Obama has asked the Congress to keep its eye on the ball and stick to the business at hand.  Unfortunately, the Nancy Pelosis and Harry Reids are more interested in perpetuating business as usual.  Isn't unrestrained spending a huge part of what created this problem in the first place? Let's hope that moderates in both parties - if any exist - can refocus the debate of what really matters, the economic well-being of our nation.  If they don't, we are in for another long contentious period followed by a Republican resurgence.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 4 -- January 20, 2009
George W. Bush

George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001 professing to be a “compassionate conservative” who would be a “uniter, not a divider.” However, as he leaves office today after eight tumultuous years, one wonders where his professed instincts failed him. He leaves office with the lowest approval rating among modern presidents. In fairness, the disputed 2000 presidential election raised the toxicity of the American body politic to new levels. Even with the temporary truce immediately after 9/11, the well of good will and compromise had already been poisoned as Bush entered office.  Blame for that falls as much on his critics as it does on Bush. At the end of the Bush administration, the ledger is not entirely negative. That the U.S. has not experienced another terrorist attack since 2001 is a credit to Bush’s leadership.  His foreign policy toward Africa was inspired.  Even without adequate funding, No Child Left Behind finally addressed the need for accountability in education.  History may also credit him for his surge strategy in Iraq as well as his initial response to the current economic crisis.  However, the images of the Bush years that we are left with are the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a mission not accomplished, torture in Abu Ghraib, the drowning of New Orleans, and a wounded economy.   I don’t believe history will judge Bush as harshly as his contemporary critics have.  But one fact is inescapable: A lot of bad things happened on George W. Bush’s watch.  No amount of spin will change that fact.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 3 -- January 10, 2009
The Gettysburg Inaugural

I had the pleasure of teaching the best class in my 18 years at KU during the fall 2008 semester.  It was called "Campaign 2008 - The Media, Politics and Persuasion." There were 104 students enrolled in the class, and never have I had a group of students more engaged in discussion.  The final assignment for the class was to write an inaugural speech for President-elect Barrack Obama in 250 words or less - ala Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  Inaugural addresses should bring the country together,  preview the goals of the new administration, bring comfort to our friends and warn our enemies.  The class did a really good job on the assignment.  In the spirit of the assignment, I shared my own version of Obama's Gettysburg Inaugural with my students:

My fellow Americans...220 years ago…a Virginia slave owner took the oath of office as our first President. I have taken that same oath.  Not as a victory of one man or of one party, but in fulfillment of a promise made on the day this nation was born. A promise that all men are created equal. There are forces that would deny our American Dream. Our economy is distressed. Our health care system is ailing. Our planet is under siege. And on distant shores…Americans are serving…and dying…to ensure that all people are free. Let’s join together to build a new economy built on the productivity…creativity…and generosity of the American people…..tackle the challenges of health care and the environment with renewed vigor…and work with our friends around the world to eradicate ignorance…poverty…. disease and terrorism.  By harnessing the greatest source of energy this world has ever known…the human spirit…there are no limits to what we can accomplish. Some may see this vision as being too idealistic.  But isn’t that what some said when a Georgia minister stood on this very same mall 46 years ago to proclaim that he had a dream?  A dream that people of all races can live in harmony and share in all the goodness this nation has to offer? Today’s ceremony bears witness to a partial fulfillment of that dream.  There’s more to be done.  But we can do it…once we get started…united in purpose…under God…and with an abiding respect for all people and for the earth, itself.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 2 -- January 4, 2009
Sleepless in Seattle

One of the networks broadcast one of my favorite movies, Sleepless in Seattle, in prime time last night.  This was a bit of a surprise, considering that the movie is 15 years old. Perhaps it was a shrewd counter-programming effort to draw an audience away from the NFL playoff game between Indianapolis and San Diego. I had not been much of a fan of romantic comedies until Nora Ephron's funny, yet poignant story of a Seattle widower (Tom Hanks) making a love connection with a Baltimore newspaper reporter (Meg Ryan). One of the things that drew me to the movie was the realization of my own mortality.  It was one of the first times I had given serious thought to what my life would be like if I were to suddenly lose my spouse. Of course, it was an intellectual exercise.  No one believes that is going to happen to someone they love. Besides, Tom Hanks didn't seem to be doing so all that bad -- he was living in the nicest houseboat I had ever seen. (Talk about waterfront property!) Now, nearly 22 months after the death of my wife,  Sleepless in Seattle has a much different meaning for me. I understand all too well the pain of loss and the difficulty in restoring a so-called "normal" life.  It marked the first time since Jan's death that I could actually bear to watch the movie. The timing of the broadcast was ironic, coming on the heels of a subdued and, at times, painful holiday season. The movie, itself,  takes place during this time of year. Tom Hanks' character and I appeared to be in the same empty place.  I guess I was finally willing to watch the movie because I knew that Hollywood pain is nothing like the real thing and that at least this was one widower's story with a happy ending.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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Vol. 3 No. 1 -- January 1, 2009
Time Will Tell

New Year's Day is the third and last of the big year-end holidays.  For some, it is a time of new-found optimism for better times ahead.  Certainly, with the inaguration of a new president in less than three weeks, there are a great number of the American people who believe that happy days are here again.  However, I am not certain that I share in such optimism -- and I even voted for the guy.  I like the decisions President-elect Obama has made so far, especially his "Team of Rivals" approach to selecting a cabinet. However, we are bordering on a national emergency and I have severe doubts that our elected representatives - Democrats and Republicans - are up to the task. Time will tell.  On a personal level, this New Year's Day for me is just like the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays recently past - just another day on the calendar.  I am not in celebratory mood.  While the intensity of grief over the passing of loved ones has diminished during the past year, the pure joy of living has not returned.  Don't get me wrong.  These are not days of despair. There have been short-lived moments of happiness. However, for the most part, there has been neither sadness nor joy.  Emotion has been replaced with numbness of just going through the motions.  Fortunately, there's still enough of an optimist deep inside  hoping 2009 will bring positive change. However, there is also the pessimist inside reminding me that I felt the same way on New Year's Day 2008. Time will tell.

That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.

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