Snapping Turtle
The personal blog of David W. Guth
Copyright 2015
x
Back to most recent post

Testudo's Tales

Vol. 9 No. 44 -- The Winter of Our Discontent
December 22
, 2015
x=

Today is the first full day of winter. At least that's what the calendar says. And the weather - which has been screwy all year - finally appears to be catching up with the calendar. While the summer and fall have been relatively mild from a climatological perspective, the American mindset has been deeply mired in a dark, cold and relentless winter for months. It's hard to find anyone who will tell you that he or she is happy with the state of affairs in the United States. How else can one explain the relative success of the presidential candidacies of socialist-turned-democrat Bernie Sanders and businessman-turned-mindless fascist Donald Trump? The American people are so thirsty for change that they will gratefully drink sand from a mirage and call it refreshing. However, there's more to this discontent than frustration. If people were interested in meaningful change, then true fresh-face candidates like Martin O'Malley, John Kasich or Marco Rubio would be getting more news coverage and would be higher in the polls. The truth is that the American people have become intellectually lazy.  The complexity of the issues are so complex that many frustrated Americans are gravitating toward candidates offering simplistic solutions.  Why do your homework on the issues and study the records and positions of the candidates when all you really want to know can be articulated on a bumper sticker?  (Catchy one-liners such as "Ban All Muslims, Ban all Guns," and "All Lives Matter.") Judging how Americans have expressed themselves on weighty issues such as immigration, terrorism and gun violence, they seem more interested in a candidate's superficial brand image than they are in the candidate's detailed positions on the issues. They would rather know what each candidate says he or she stands for rather than the actual substance on which that platform was built. (So what if the candidate wants to shred the Constitution?) The process of electing the next President begins next month. That's right, next month. And I can't help but dread what's going to happen. There is a very strong likelihood that we will elect as our next president someone who is emotionally, psychologically, legally and morally unfit to serve. Yes, I'm talking about you, Hillary. (Of course, there's also a good chance she will have drop out after plea-bargainning her way out of prison, as well.) And what makes things even sadder is that she may be the best choice we will have to make from what has been the largest and least-qualified field of candidates in American history. That's why I refer to this as our winter of discontent. Because no matter what the calendar says, every day just seems to be another cold day in hell.

X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 43 -- What's The Excuse This Time?
December 5
, 2015
x=

Fourteen people are dead in San Bernardino, California. Another two-dozen or so were wounded in this week’s latest gun massacre. And only God knows how many people have been terrorized by the thought that no place – not even an innocent office Christmas party – is safe. I ask the Second Amendment-at-all-costs crowd, what’s the excuse this time?  You say the shooters were radicals inspired by ISIS. Yes, they were. So why did we make it so easy for them to acquire weapons of mass destruction? You say the latest slaughter of innocents proves that California’s “tough” gun laws don’t work. Perhaps those laws aren’t tough enough. You say that if we disarm the people, only the criminals will have guns. And you say this wouldn’t have happened if the victims had been carrying concealed weapons.  But the research has shown that for every person who kills a would-be-assailant with a gun, 34 others die from gun violence. The truth is that the presence of concealed weapons only increases the likelihood that someone innocent will die. You say we should focus on strengthening mental health treatment rather than restricting access to weapons that are clearly designed for one purpose, killing human beings on a grand scale. Since the United States is the only developed country in the world where multiple gun murders occur on an almost daily basis, I say why can't we do both? I do not want take away the right of people to defend themselves. But rapid fire – or easy-to-modify to rapid fire – weapons with high volume magazines are not defensive weapons. Gun ownership is a constitutional right. And I believe it is a right that should be protected. But as is the case with every other section of the Constitution, there are limits. I am as big a First Amendment defender as anyone. However, I believe the United States Supreme Court was correct when it ruled that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Given recent history, I believe you shouldn’t be allowed to carry concealed weapons into a crowded theater, either.

X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 42 -- I Am Not Afraid
November
19, 2015
x=

It has been a week since the terrorist attacks on Paris. I have been deliberately silent on the topic.  I wanted some time to reflect on what has happened before trying to make sense out of senseless acts. I have had the privilege of visiting Paris twice. Having done so, I am in agreement with those who say it is the world's most beautiful city. Some of the attacks took place in the area of town where I stayed during a much-too-brief stopover visit in 2001. I have been impressed with how Parisians have acted in the wake of this tragedy. They are defiant - in much the same manner New Yorkers were following 9/11. Terrorism as a geopolitical weapon is highly overrated. Sure, the actions of groups such as ISIS can momentarily frighten us. However, history has shown that these murderous assaults ultimately strengthen the resolve of those victimized. I am proud of the way the French have handled themselves. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for those in Congress from both sides of aisle who want to use these attacks as an excuse to halt the flow of Syrian refuges seeking American shelter. They fear - with some cause - that terrorists might sneak into the United States in the same manner as those who apparently entered France by blending in with refugees. The critics of the President's plan to take in 10,000 Syrian refuges want tight screening before they are allowed to step on these shores. That is reasonable.  However, it is not reasonable to say that we should close our doors to these people, most of whom are women and children who risked their lives to escape the very tyranny we say we oppose. It is during crises that democratic values are placed under the greatest strain. Some justify their fears as an excuse for abandoning the most basic values on which this nation was founded. The United States has stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It has been a champion of equal justice and human rights. This is a nation of immigrants. The families of our Founders - and some of the Founders themselves - came to these shores as refugees from oppression. And now we are going to turn our backs on people seeking the same freedoms for which our ancestors fought and died? When did we, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, become slaves to our fears? I think it is downright unpatriotic to not welcome these oppressed people to our shores. And let us not forget that some of the loudest voices against admitting the Syrians claim to be "good Christians."  If I remember my Bible correctly, weren't Mary and Joseph refugees themselves when Jesus was born? What would Jesus do in this situation? I think we all know the answer to that question. Am I concerned about potential ISIS attacks in the United States? Damn right I am. But am I going to cower and abandon my basic values to cover myself in a false cloak of security at the expense of others? Hell no. I am an American who believes in American values. I am not afraid.

X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 41 -- Speak, Then Listen
November
15, 2015
x=

Colleges and universities portray themselves as places where free expression and the exchange of ideas are embraced. Unfortunately, there is a widening gap between that perception and the reality. Never was that more evident than at the University of Missouri during this past week. Two of Mizzou's leading administrators were forced to resign following a series of protests over what protesters said was as an inadequate response to incidents of racial intolerance and harassment on campus. While the clamor for administrative action had been building for weeks, it wasn't until Mizzou's black football players -- with the blessing of their coach -- threatened to refrain from all team activities in protest of the school's inaction. Once the football team, the most popular institution on the Mizzou campus, threaten to boycott games, the administrators in question saw the handwriting on the wall and resigned -- or were forced to resign. The administrators learned the hard way that leadership is more than just leading. It involves listening. Their tone-deaf response to racially charged incidents proved to be the catalyst for their departure. To me, as a journalist, writer and professor, there was one moment during the Mizzou protests that stands out above all others. A communications studies professor with a courtesy appointment to Mizzou's School of Journalism tried to block a student journalist from covering the protest in a public area. The courts have upheld time and again that people engaged in public protests in public spaces have no expectation of privacy. The professor even enlisted help from protesting students to physically bar the student from doing his job. Fortunately, the young man recorded the entire episode -- the functional equivalent of giving the professor enough rope to hang herself. The blacklash to her stupid, unconstitutional and unconscionable act was swift and strong. Within hours she apologized and resigned her journalism faculty appointment. I wish I could say that this sunshine libertarian's faux pas was an isolated incident. However, it repeatedly has been my experience during nearly 25 years on the faculty of a public university that free expression is often given lip service by those who should know better. University administrators and faculty are often portrayed as existing within some sort of mystical ivy tower, free from pettiness and politics. However, my experience has shown that college professors and administrators often are as reactive and hostile toward free expression as any of those outside of academe they often vilify. Academics often go to great lengths to preserve the illusion of transparency and tolerance.  But the reality is that whenever their self interests are involved, the rights of others are often brushed aside. If our democracy is to work, we must be willing to listen to all of those desiring to air their grievances. However, communication is a two-way street requiring those who speak also to listen and be tolerant of those with differing perspectives. That is why we have a First Amendment and why freedom of expression is considered a universal human right.

X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 40 -- Good Intentions, Lousy Results
November
7, 2015
x=

I do not hate Sam Brownback. Although the Kansas governor and I have never met, I have a sense that he is a fairly likable fellow. I know that he is a deeply religious man of principle. I will not join in the chorus of those who claim that Brownback is evil. As a person, I happen to think he is a good guy. When I criticize the governor -- I have referred to him in this space as "Sam the Sham" and as "Brownie" -- it is not out of dislike for the man. It is out of dislike for his policies and performance as governor. Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Brownback has followed supply-side economics -- an increasingly discredited macroeconomics theory that lowering taxes and removing regulatory barriers increases consumer spending and creates jobs. The only ones who seem to benefit from supply-side economics are the very rich -- people, who by definition don't need financial help. Brownback deeply believes that Kansas is headed for a bright sunny future.  That's why his reelection theme last year was "the sun is shining in Kansas." He thought that after the crippling effects of the Great Recession, that - to borrow a phrase from Democratic campaign lore - happy days will be here again. Guess what? That has not happened. Just yesterday, the Brownback administration announced that this fiscal year's state tax revenues are expected to fall $159 million short. So far, the governor's and the republican-dominated legislature's only plan to address these deficits is to blame President Obama and slash spending on highway maintenance, the governor's own children's initiative and education. Just yesterday, the administration tried to defend itself in the Kansas Supreme Court against complaints that the state has failed to meet its constitutional responsibility to provide adequate education for all Kansans. The state has lost on this issue in the past and is likely to lose again. And a Wichita State University economist says the Kansas economy is growing much slower than that of the rest of the nation. No, I do not hate Sam Brownback. I just happen to think that he is a very nice man with good intentions and lousy results. I also think the people of this state deserve something better.

X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 39 -- Open Sourced Textbooks
November
1, 2015
x=

I refuse to be the bad guy. Yet, to hear some people, I am an evil because I have the audacity of charging students for something I wrote. That's right, I am a textbook author. I have co-authored three public relations textbooks since 1999. The first of them, Public Relations: A Values-Driven Approach, is in production for its sixth edition. Yes, students are expected to pay for it. And yes, I earn royalties off of every one that is sold. There is a effort afoot to move toward open-sourced textbooks, ones that are distributed free of charge. This movement is a reaction to the high cost of textbooks. Proponents accuse textbook publishers of publishing unnecessary new editions to financially squeeze students. If I may borrow from the late Paul Harvey, let me tell you the rest of the story. Yes, I make some money from the textbooks I write. The fact is that my royalty checks are nowhere near as much as some think. If you were to divide the amount on my royalty checks by the countless hours I have spent writing, revising and editing these books, I would be eligible for food stamps. And then there's the fact that my coauthors encouraged our publisher to print the books in paperback to lower student costs. I take great pride in knowing that our actions forced many of our competitors to abandon costly hardbacks editions and move to less expensive paperbacks. The books I have written allowed me to teach the courses I teach the way I wanted to teach them by emphasizing the pedagogy I prefer. Our book is revised approximately every three years so that we can present our readers with the latest theoretical and applied thinking within our field. In that our textbook has been adopted at more than 200 schools suggests that others are in agreement with our approach.  I certainly am not a Donald Trumpian capitalist by anyone's standard. In fact, making money is one of the worst things I do. However, I am not ashamed to say that a free marketplace of ideas works to the benefit of all.
Consumers are free to vote with the choices they make. If a textbook's -- any textbook's -- prime selling point is that it is inexpensive or free, then I humbly suggest that the consumer's values are out of line with goals of higher education.   I also believe that you get what you pay for. One other point worth noting: I do not make any money off my own students. To avoid a conflict of interest, all profits I make selling my books to my students are donated to the university. And I pay taxes on the rest. Are textbook costs rising? Yes, as are all the other aspects of higher education. The cost of a student's tuition to attend the University of Kansas is not going up because of the price of textbooks. It is rising, in part, because the so-called people's representatives in the state legislature are more interested in cutting taxes to appease donors than they are in meeting their moral and constitutional obligation to support public education. If you want to be angry at someone, I suggest you look toward Topeka and not at me. As I said, I refuse to be the bad guy.
X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 38 -- Nixon versus Bunga Bunga
October 24, 2015
x=

It has been more than three weeks since I last posted, one of the longest hiatuses since I launched this blog in Fall 2007. There are two reasons for the silence. First, I have been incredibly busy. Between grading papers, writing one book and editing a second, free time has been scarce. The second reason involves the state of American politics. It is hard to get excited when the two frontrunners are people of such questionable character. As I have said on several occasions in this space, Hillary Clinton is nothing more than Richard Nixon in a pants suit. Like Nixon, she is smart and politically savvy. However, she shares other important traits with Tricky Dick: an unquenchable lust for power, a habit of confusing truth with spin, and the absence of a moral compass. As for Donald Trump, he reminds me of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi. Like Trump, he is rich, media savvy, audacious and uniquely unqualified to hold any public office. Berlusconi has been barred from running for public office until 2019 following his convinction on tax fraud. In fairness, "The Donald" hasn't been convicted of any crimes -- yet. But he has proven himself to be an unprincipled capitalist who is tone-deaf when it comes to nuance -- just like Bunga Bunga. By the way, "Bunga Bunga" is a nickname Berlusconi received after being accused of inappropriate relations with an underaged girl. Trump hasn't done anything like that - but he has shown in both his personal and political lives contempt for women. The prospects of an election between Pants Suit Nixon - it is more appropriate to call her husband Tricky Dick - and Bunga Bunga is enough to make one consider moving to Canada. However, I will stay here. For no matter how depressing the prospects of a Clinton-Trump clash may be, I believe the American people have more common sense than to elect either of those two bottom-feeders. Besides, I didn't say that this campaign doesn't have a certain entertainment value to it.

X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 37 -- Judging the Past
October 2, 2015
x=

I do not pretend to be one who has all of the answers, especially with questions that pit long-held traditions against a changing landscape of values. A series of recent events back in my native Maryland have raised such questions. There is a movement to change the name of the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium. The stadium was named for Dr. Curley Byrd, one of the most important figures in the growth of Maryland from a small agricultural college to one of the nation's leading public universities. However, Byrd was also a segregationist who kept blacks from enrolling at the university until 1951. Then there's the controversy in the county where I was reared. The local chapter of the NAACP is spearheading a drive to remove a memorial to confederate army veterans from the grounds of the Talbot County Courthouse. Ironically, it has been only a few years since the residents erected a statute
on the courthouse grounds to the county's most famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Finally, there's news that some Maryland Democrats want to change the name of the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner.  They correctly cite that Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were both slaveholders. However, Jefferson is the author the Declaration of Independence and Jackson is the founder of the party. These three controversies share the same dynamic - holding people of a different era to today's values. It's the old "Tom Sawyer should be banned" argument. Opponents of the Mark Twain masterpiece object to it because it uses racially charged language common to the period in which the stories are set. The question I struggle with is whether we should embrace our past - warts and all - or impose today's societal values by wiping the slate clean. I do not question the sincerity in which people object to the symbols of a dark past. However, at the same time, I look to Germany and Japan, two nations that are trying to eradicate all memories of the horrors they committed during the Second World War. The attitude of most Americans toward their former enemies is: "You did it. Now own up to it." Are we, when we seek to sanitize the present by removing longstanding reminders of the past, trying to do the same thing? Are we going to eliminate all references to slave holding George Washington, without whom there would be no United States? I am inclined to believe that since we did it, we should own up to it by leaving things as they are, but placing them into an appropriate context.  However, I acknowledge that some could say removing controversial names from dinners, statues and stadiums accomplishes that purpose as well. No, I do not have all the answers. I think we have to calmly decide these issues on a case-by-case basis with the full understanding that people in the future will reserve the right to pass their judgments on our actions just as we have on those who came before us.
X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 36 -- John Boehner
September 26, 2015
x=

Who would have thought that John Boehner would upstage the Pope? But that's what he did yesterday, when the Ohio republican abruptly announced that he would resign as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and would vacate his congressional seat at the end of next month. As one who has covered and worked for politicians, I am not one to paint all elected officials with the same broad brush. Frankly, calling all politicians corrupt or pawns of power brokers is intellectually lazy. I believe that John Boehner is an honest guy who has tried to do good things for his constituents, his party and his country. I also am not surprised that he is fed up with the so-called Tea Party wing of the GOP. Its members have come to Washington with a dangerous combination, supreme confidence in the righteousness of their own cause and stubborn determination to refuse compromise. The result has been a nasty stalemate in government that has made it impossible to get anything of substance done. Even more alarming is the role the so-called non-establishment candidates during this early stage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The fact that the Donald Trumps and the Bernie Sanders of the world are getting traction with the voters is a sign of a weary and angry American public, one willing to drink the sand as long as these political outsiders say it is water. The public is also troubled by the fact that after three decades of political infighting, the best the political establishment seems able to produce are retreaded versions of Bush and Clinton. One hopes that the American voter is just going going through a phase and is venting his or her anger through the polls. I believe that the closer Trump and Sanders come to winning the nominations of their two dysfunctional parties, the more likely it is that the American voter will end this temper tantrum and turn to more qualified mainstream candidates. As they flirt with the crazies, voters need to consider this: There's a reason Russia and China have been taking more aggressive roles in world affairs. They see the American government imploding in bitter, nonsensical quarrels. In short, Putin and Xi believe that America is impotent. And so does John Boehner. Although the speaker has a reputation of being able to shed tears about anything, we, the American people, are the ones who should be crying about the sorry state of affairs into which the American Body Politic has fallen.
X
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 35 -- At A Loss For Words
September 22, 2015
x=

I love to write; opining on almost everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. I revel in manufacturing magical metaphors, telling twisted tales and, yes, even articulating alluring alliteration. As you may have noticed, I also like Roman triplets. There is a joy that comes with taking seeds from disparate facts and cultivating them into a compelling narrative. I like to think that I have something to say and I want to be heard. Maybe that's hubris, pompousness or unadulterated ego.  (And another Roman triplet.) But these and other reasons are why I created this blog almost eight years ago. (The first blog entry was September 28, 2007.) This is my 429th blog entry over that period -- averaging a little over a post every week. Sometimes my posts are inspired by personal experiences. Other times, I write to give voice to my sense of right versus wrong, good versus evil, and justice versus injustice. (Make it a triplet of triplets!) Everything I write is a product of my passion. I don't mind pouring my heart out onto a page. However, lately I have had difficulty composing these posts.  Maybe is it the onset of the cynicism that often comes with advancing age. But I am having a hard time finding topics that inspire me. I am, by anyone's standard, a political junkie. However, the current presidential race is the antitheses of inspirational. There's not a soul running for the presidency I am willing to embrace as my "guy" or "gal." To paraphrase something written by the late Fletcher Knebble, author of the political thriller Seven Days in May, you could place all of the candidates in a barrel, roll them down the hill, and there would be a son-of-bitch on top every time. Other world events, such as ISIS, the European refugee crisis, and the reigniting Cold War - damn, yet another triplet - leaves one wanting to retire to a 1960s era fallout bunker, sip on cold beer and wait for Armageddon. (I promise - that's the last triplet.) Don't forget, I live in Kansas where, according to our starry-eyed governor, the sun is shining even while the state teeters on financial and moral bankruptcy. And did I mention that our football team stinks? So how does a writer get out this funk and produce pearls of wisdom? The answer is to write one word at a time. Plow ahead. Embrace the madness. Try to surf a stream of consciousness that weaves those words into a tapestry.  And don't mix your metaphors! Sometimes, this approach results in magic. On other occasions, the outcome is mush. Good writers don't become good writers if they don't write and bare themselves to the judgments of others -- much like I have in this forum some 429 times over the past eight years. And did I mention that it can be fun to just play with words?

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 34 -- The UnAmerican Kris Kobach
September 12, 2015
x=

The worst kind of public official is the one who wraps himself in an American flag and does violence to the values and constitution he is sworn to protect. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is one such individual. His nativist and ideological zealotry is more than just an embarrassment to the people of this state.  It represents a break with traditional American values - the same values he has ignored to commit a variety of public policy atrocities. Take a look at his campaign to eliminate voter fraud. Despite the indisputable fact that there is no evidence to suggest that this has been a problem, he was whipped up an anti-immigrant frenzy that is really no more than a thinly veiled effort at voter suppression. He says the requirement of showing a birth certificate his necessary to protect the integrity of elections. If he is interested in protecting the sanctity of the vote, then why is he fighting a Wichita State University mathematician's request for paper tapes from electronic voting machines. Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research, wants to research statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts across the country. Could it be that fraud committed in the name of neo-conservativism is being overlooked -- or encouraged? Just today, we learn that Kobach has been holding Bible study meetings in his office. We learned this through a court filing in a lawsuit brought by a former employee claiming to have been dismissed on religious grounds. Kobach says participation in the sessions were and are voluntary. But that's the not the point. The mere presence of organized religious activity within an elected public official's office may violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. And even if it doesn't, the mere presence of it can have a coercive effect within a state government workplace. Why not hold these meetings outside of the office, Kris? After all, you don't really spend that much time there. You are too busy flying off to places like Alaska to spread your gospel of electoral exclusion to be bothered with the mundane affairs of the Sunflower State. Of course, he says he does this outside work on his own time. Guess what, Bunky -- there is no such thing as "your time" when you are an elected state official. Being secretary of state is not a part-time job. If you want to spread your special brand of class warfare and racial hatred, resign and do it on your own dime. But don't do it in my name.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 33 -- The Immigrant Crisis
September 7, 2015
x=

The news -- especially the pictures -- coming out of Europe these days are heartbreaking. The scenes of thousands of Syrian refugees risking, and in some cases losing, their lives to reach safer shores tear at the souls of those compassionate with their plight. Of course, reaching European shores hasn't meant the end of the ordeal. Some governments, most notably Hungary, have made it clear that they don't want the immigrants and have rounded them up and placed them in camps - an image that, perhaps unfairly, evokes the memory of concentration camps of the Second World War. Ironically, the one nation that appears to be welcoming is Germany, the very nation that turned concentration camps into death camps 75 years ago.  When the Germans are seen as being more compassionate than their neighbors, then you know the world has become a very different place.  One can't help but watch the maturity of the German response to the immigration crisis and think about the immaturity of many Americans -- mostly Republicans -- whose answer to immigration on this side of the ocean is to deport illegal aliens and to build their own version of the Berlin Wall. The Republican presidential candidate currently leading in the polls says he would deport the 11 million undocumented persons in the United States during his first 24 hours in office. I don't know which is sadder, that Donald Trump said it or that millions of misguided and conscienceless people actually believe that dribble. In fairness, not all Republicans feel that way. Jeb Bush and Lindsay Graham have spoke with compassion about the plight of the immigrants. Jeb's brother, the former president, actually pursued a humane immigration policy while in office.  But the Trumps and the Ted Cruzes of the party are damaging the Republican brand, one that was already in desperate need of repair.  Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that we Americans seem to have forgotten our own history. When a nation of immigrants needs to follow the moral leadership of Germany, then you know that the world has been turned on its head.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 32 -- Ten Years Since Katrina
August 29, 2015
x=

It was 10 years ago today that Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, flooded New Orleans' Ninth Ward and destroyed many people's faith in government. It was a pivotal moment in former President George W. Bush's presidency. Following Katrina, his popularity began a downward spiral from which he never recovered.  While Bush should shoulder some of the blame for the government's slow response, much of what happened in New Orleans wasn't his fault. The public -- and the news media -- lacked (and still lacks) a basic understanding of emergency management. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was established as a recovery agency, not as a response agency. That means that FEMA's legal role began after the fact, providing disaster relief. The job of responding to disasters, dealing with them before and during, has always rested in state and local officials. FEMA's response was also hampered by Congress's ill-considered decision -- one initially opposed by the Bush administration -- to throw FEMA into that bureaucratic nightmare called the Department of Homeland Security. DHS was far more interested in hunting for Al Qaeda than it was in menial domestic affairs. Then there was the incompetent leadership of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagan and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Deblanco, who are most responsible for the late and inadequate response to the impending threat. You should note that Mississippi and Alabama, two states harder hit by Katrina than Louisiana, are never mentioned in the "bungling Bush during Katrina" narrative. That's because the governors and the emergency management officials in those states actually knew what they were doing. And, of course, Nagan and Ray were Democrats and Bush was a Republican. Much of the post-Katrina narrative was driven by politics. And then there was the hysterical reporting. At the time, one could be suspicious of Geraldo Rivera's sensational reporting. But, at that time. we had no reason to believe that Brian Williams of NBC might be hyping the story. Even the late Tim Russert misinformed his viewers of the government's role during a natural disaster. Yes, the Bush administration should have strengthened the levees in New Orleans. But the same can be said for his predecessor. Finally, some blame lies with the people. Many did not heed warnings. Also, they had a false expectation that government would make everything right overnight. The truth is that during any natural disaster, there is going to be a period between the disaster itself and the government response when people are on their own. You can't equate emergency management to a fast food restaurant.  The whole world isn't McDonald's. The government did a lot of things wrong during Katrina.  But it also did a lot of things right.  Ten years after Katrina, I doubt that we have learned our lessons.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 31 -- The Gift
August 22, 2015
x=

We all have been given a gift, life.  It's what we do with that gift that defines us. One of the great challenges facing each of us is that we never know when when the gift will be returned to sender. We each have had numerous reminders through the years of the fragility of life. Just this week, one friend lost his mom after a long illness. Another friend is still with us because of a heart transplant. And in recent weeks, I have had to adjust my mindset and lifestyle following diagnoses of atrial fibrillation and type II diabetes. The doctors didn't say it, but the message was clear: change your lifestyle or that great gift will be taken away. I am not complaining or seeking sympathy. It is what it is. What these and other events have reminded me of is the value and fragility of this life. It also despresses me to see how wrecklessly people are willing to throw it away. Often this violence occurs on a personal scale: Someone leaves a gun out where children can reach them, another chooses to experiment with a controlled substance in the belief that the warnings against its use are overstated, or perfectly sane and loving parents risking the lives of their children because they can't wait until the car is stopped to send a text message. Then there are the more global risks, such as people in western Kansas pumping groundwater to grow corn without regard to the depletion of the acquifer, the nutjob of a leader in North Korea testing how many times he can poke the bear before the bear lashes back and the billionaire blowhole who callously says he will uproot and deport 11 million undocumented foreign nationals living in our country the day after he moves into the White House. Talk is cheap, lives are not. I sometimes wonder whether humanity is deserving of this gift. And then this week we saw former President Jimmy Carter, facing an agressive cancer, tackle what is likley to be a losing battle with grace, dignity and humility. Whether you are a person of faith or one whose beliefs lie elsewhere, we all share a tenuous existence on this world. And more we understand that, the more worthy of that gift we will be.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 30 -- It's About Time
August 15, 2015
x=

As dawn broke over Havana, an American flag fluttered in the soft Caribbean breeze at the newly opened U.S. Embassy. While polls suggest that most Americans - and an overwhelming majority of Cubans - favor the normalization of relations between the two nations, there is a surprisingly substantial and bipartisan backlash against it. Some - not all - Republicans and some - not all - Democrats believe President Obama's move to normalize relations with our neighbor is a mistake. They say this action creates de facto legitimacy for the Castro regime and provides cover for its human rights abuses. (Of course, some of those objecting to relations with Cuba are the same people who question the legitimacy of the Obama presidency and are willing to overlook human rights violations within our own borders.) Not only do I think normalization of relations with Cuba is the right thing to do, but we should have done it 25 years ago. Our major concern was Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere. Guess what? There ain't no Soviets no more. (Bad grammar done for effect.) If we want to really change Cuba, open the door.  Allow the Cubans to see the benefits of capitalism.  Let them experience a level of freedom that Cubans under the age of 60 have never known. I am of the belief that economic capitalism and political communism can not coexist.  The former forces changes on the latter. Take a look at what has happened in China. While it is true that China and the United States are rivals on the world stage, most of that rivalry is economic in nature. And while China is trying to build itself into a military superpower, the strains of doing so upon its economy are forcing it to move more slowly and cautiously than many in Beijing would like. And as much as the Chinese would love the curb American influence, the fact is that the economic relationship between the two countries forces them to make accommodations with one another. And Cuba is not China. Raul Castro is leading a dirt poor nation with a restless population yearning for a better life. And when the people of Cuba begin to experience the benefits of America tourism, capitalism and culture, a new Cuban revolution will begin. It will not be a revolution marked by violence and bloodshed. It will be a quiet revolution waged at Starbucks, McDonald's, and the Gap. Like the Chinese, Cuban leaders may still call themselves Communists. However, they will also be interdependent partners in a global economy largely made in the U.S.A.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 29 -- I Left My Heart - And Wallet - In San Francisco
August 10, 2015
x=

The 49 square miles that comprise the city of San Francisco are, perhaps, the most geographically, demographically and psychographically interesting real estate in the country. Its steep rolling hills gives residents and visitors some breathtaking street views, not to mention some sore calves from walking to same hills. In hotel lobbies and taxi cabs, one hears a wide variety of languages spoken. After just a few days in the city, it is easy to discern that San Francisco is magnet for foreign immigrants and vacationers alike. While it is a community that has a liberal "anything goes" reputation, it is not something that overwhelms the visitor in the way it can in New Orleans or Amsterdam. It is a city that puts on a good face for its visitors, something one especially appreciates after a long flight to get there. Perhaps the one thing that grabs your attention more than anything is the cost-of-living. One taxi driver told me that his one-bedroom apartment costs him $4,000 per month. A house the size of my residence in Lawrence, Kansas, costs nearly 15 times what I paid for my home. And judging by the cost of food, there's no wonder there are so many skinny people walking the streets.  Prices in 'Frisco are enough to take your breath away. On the surface, San Francisco appears to be a young city inhabited by 20-30 year-old professionals who do not go anywhere without a smart phone in one hand and buds in both ears. The best thing for visitors to the city by the bay is the weather - 72 degrees is considered a warm day in August. It is definitely a nice place to visit. But living there is above my pay grade.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 28 -- This Guy Wanted To Be President?
July 29, 2015
x=

Sam Brownback envisions himself as a leader. His job resume suggests that a majority of fellow Kansans think he is. He has been elected state agriculture commissioner, to one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, two terms in the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor of Kansas.  He actually pursued the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and many thought he would have sought it in 2016 had not the Kansas economy been shattered by his reckless tax-cutting policies.  However, just as his vision of being "presidential material" has been shattered, so has the illusion of the governor's leadership ability. The Brownback administration will announce on Friday what is likely to be an unpopular and controversial plan to cut $50 million dollars from the state budget. The administration has been forced into this position by the state legislature, which failed to meet its constitutional responsibility in June of passing a balanced state budget. The timing of the announcement of the governor's cuts is curious in two ways. First, it will be announced on Friday - the day of the week that savvy public relations practitioners typically choose to deliver bad news. The theory is that announcements made on Friday appear in the newspapers on Saturday, the day of the week with the lowest readership. (Frankly, with more and more people getting their news online, I don't think this is a viable strategy any more.) Secondly - and most curious - is that when the bad news is delivered, our Great Leader Governor is leaving the job of breaking the news and answering questions to his minions. Brownback will be out of town, possible at Dick Cheney's infamous "undisclosed location."
I'm sorry, but this strikes me as a singular act of political cowardice. Is Brownie leaving town because its his weekend at a time share? Is he undertaking a secret mission on behalf of the Agents of SHIELD? Perhaps he has tickets to a Taylor Swift concert. Or could it be that our Great Leader Governor, who was said to have cried during a frustrating budget meeting with legislators in June, doesn't have the backbone to own up to his own mess? Is it that he literally wants to get out of Dodge before the fertilizer hits the fan? Whatever Governor Brownback's reasons are for fiddling around while the palace burns, the optics stink. And, to borrow imagery from the most famous of Kansas fables, we should no longer pay attention to that man behind the curtain.  The Great and Powerful Brownie has been exposed for what he really is - a weak and ineffective governor. This is probably the last time that anyone will use the words "Brownback" and "leadership" in the same sentence. And this guy wanted to be President?
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 27 -- Call For Ethics Education
July 26, 2015
x=

I have long held the belief that America's students would be better prepared for the "real world" if they were required to take a basic business education course for graduation. I have felt that too many students are ill prepared to make business decisions -- even if those students do not plan a business career. Too many of the financial decisions facing young people are made without a discipline or framework for making them.  However, that being said, I have come to the conclusion that there is an even bigger hole in the high school curriculum, one that has had even greater societal consequences than the lack of business acumen. Too many of problems we face are the product of an absence of ethical decision-making.  One need only look at the causes of the Great Recession of 2008 to realize things would have been significantly better for all if decision-makers had focused more on the right and wrong of situations than the bottom line. Think how much different our debates on health care, gun control and immigration would be if they were conducted within an ethical framework.  This is not to say that some people wouldn't oppose Obamacare, gun control, and a path to citizenship. That's because those positions are not inherently immoral. What is immoral is that we often close our minds to opposing views and take a stand without considering the social context. That leads to gridlock and, ultimately, to the nation's decline. Ethical decision-making not only helps create a climate where people with opposing views can reach a compromise, but it also strengthens the confidence of individuals in the correctness of their position.  It is interesting to note that one of the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires companies to publish their codes of ethics with their annual 10K report. That law also holds the officers of a company liable for the accuracy of their financial statements. Just think what it would be like if everyone could hold one other accountable for his or her actions. People would be more inclined to do business with those who are socially responsible and shun those who are not.
Mandatory ethics education is not a cure-all: Some people will always do what they want without concern for the consequences of their actions. But at least it is a start and it certainly can't hurt.
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 26 -- Flash Trumps Substance
July 20, 2015
x=

It used to be conventional wisdom that the major reason people went to car races was to see the crashes.  Many also thought the major reason that people went to see ice hockey games was to see the fights.  However, the folks at NASCAR and the National Hockey League realized that being identified with one's worst moments devalues the brand and makes for a lousy business model.  One now wonders whether Donald Trump will ever learn that lesson. America's worst narcissist is running a presidential campaign as if it was scripted by the Onion. It was bad enough that he opened his campaign with stupid and racist comments about Mexicans. This weekend, he rammed his other foot in his mouth by saying Senator John McCain isn't a hero because all he did was get captured by the North Vietnamese.  No matter what some early polls say, no one takes this muskrat-coiffed miscreant seriously -- except, perhaps, the news media.  Their fascination with the Trump train wreck has drowned out any serious discussion of public policy issues for weeks. When the Donald speaks, the news media have been all too happy to provide him a megaphone. There was a glimmer of hope last week when the Huffington Post announced that it would limit its coverage of Trump to its entertainment pages. So far, the Post has been true to its word. However, since the Post is not a paper-and-ink newspaper, there is little distinction between news and entertainment pages when links its Trump stories are still posted on the home page. This is reminiscent of 2004, when Democrats used false documents to question President's Bush's service record and Republicans responded with equally bogus "swift-boat" attacks against Senator Kerry. The subsequent coverage added little to the public debate then and that still hold true today. Donald Trump is a 21st century P.T. Barnum who believes any publicity -- even bad publicity -- is good publicity.  The news media need to realize that the Trump stump is nothing more than an attempt to manipulate coverage. The sooner that the nation's political reporters stop feeding the monster, the sooner the Manhattan mongrel mogul will crawl back under his rock.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 25 -- Nullifcation Theory
July 12, 2015
x=

In his celebrated essay Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau argues that government rarely proves itself useful and that it derives its power from the majority because they are the strongest group, not because they hold the most legitimate viewpoint. He contends that people's first obligation is to do what they believe is right and not to follow the law dictated by the majority. He said that when a government is unjust, people should refuse to follow the law and distance themselves from the government. In essence, he says things that are legal are not necessarily ethical and vice versa. Thoreau spent a night in jail because he refused to pay taxes to support the war against Mexico and the institution of slavery. An expression of Thoreau's essay is known as nullification theory, a legal theory that a city or state has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional. The Confederate States of America made nullification theory its legal justification for committing treason. Article VI, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding." This section of the Constitution is known as the Supremacy Clause. In the Federalist Papers, James Madison defended the Supremacy Clause as vital to the functioning of a nation. Unfortunately, we have recently seen state governments -- including Kansas -- dust off the old Nullification Theory cloak to justify ignoring U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage. However, it isn't just the right that has used this dubious justification for ignoring the law. Numerous cities -- including Lawrence -- refused during the past decade to follow the requirements of the Patriot Act. And San Francisco - a self-proclaimed sanctuary - is in the news because of its refusal to follow U.S. immigration laws.  I believe Thoreau - as well as his devotees-by-convenience on both the left and the right - are on dubious moral ground. I also think these actions are unAmerican and border on treason. A civil society cannot exist if individuals are able to pick and choose which laws they will follow. Unless we want chaos to reign, we have to agree to follow the law and, if we do not agree with the law, use the mechanisms provided by the Constitution for changing them.  Our history is filled with examples of meaningful change as a result of the legal/political process. When public officials take their oaths of office, they universally swear to defend and protect the Constitution - not just the parts they like.  Thoreau was a great man. But he was wrong. And so are those who cling to the pseudo-moral right of nullification. Those who cannot administer the laws they swore to protect and defend disqualify themselves from public office.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 24 -- May God Bless America
July 4, 2015
x=

Today, we celebrate the 239th anniversary of an event unique in human history. It was the first time a people shed their obedience to an unelected monarch and announced to the world: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." Two hundred thirty-nine years later, those words still resonate in the American soul.  It is true that we, as a people, have not always lived up to the noble ideas on which this nation was founded.  Yes, there have been times during the history of the United States that its people have been restless and discordant. This is certainly one of those times. But I can't help thinking back on my 60+ years on this planet about how much this country has changed for the better. The American Revolution continues. Yes, we need to do more in the area of civil rights, gender equality and social justice. I'd like to see us come to a consensus on gun violence, immigration, religious freedom and freedom of expression. I refuse to believe that we, as a nation, have become so selfish and thin-skinned that we cannot look beyond our own desires to address the needs of others. Perhaps it is our heavily mediated world of 24/7 cable news and social media that reduces our public dialectic to the depth of a bumper sticker. You know what? I don't like Hillary Clinton and shudder at the thought of her being president. But that doesn't mean I think she is evil or stupid. I could say the same thing about Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio or any of the nearly two-dozen people hoping to move into the White House. And no matter who wins, I will accept him or her as our new president and give the new president a chance to lead. Unfortunately, many of us did not give that simple courtesy to our current president. At the risk of sounding Pollyanna, let's start acting like Americans once again.  I grew up in an America where compromise was a sign of strength, not one of weakness. As we venture into the 240th year of this grand republic, it is fitting -- as Irving Berlin so famously penned -- to ask God to shed his grace on thee. Perhaps then we could truly crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. Happy birthday, America. And may God bless us.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 23 -- The Week Common Sense Prevailed
June 26, 2015
x=

Within a span of 24 hours, the United States Supreme Court has struck a blow for common sense. Yesterday, SCOTUS ruled six-to-three in favor of federal subsidies for health care to persons in states where the governor and legislature have refused to carry out the provisions of the Affordable Care Act a/k/a Obamacare. A negative ruling would have had the effect of gutting the landmark legislation and would have taken health care coverage away from millions of people. Chief Justice John Roberts, in writing the majority opinion, essentially said that the duty of the court is to follow the intent of the Congress and to not invalidate law based on the parsing of some sloppy legislative language. Health care is an issue that I freely admit that I don't fully understand. But I do understand that once we start giving people access to health care they otherwise couldn't afford, it would be morally wrong to take it away just to spite the President of the United States. That's common sense, pure and simple. Today, SCOTUS ruled in a five-four decision that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. This squares with the opinion of an overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States who have finally acknowledged that giving homosexuals legal protections do not diminish anyone else's rights.  As I have said a number of times in this space, I don't understand or endorse the gay lifestyle. But I have also said that as long as it has no effect on my rights, I don't really give a damn as to how other people choose to live their lives. If you believe in God and believe God will render an ultimate judgment on each of us, why is it necessary for so many to want to serve as God's proxy? Frankly, the only people really upset at today's ruling are most of the Republican presidential candidates and the Fred Phelps crowd. That, alone, is enough to tell you that today's SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage was an act of common sense. And any public official unwilling to carry out the law of the land as defined in these two decisions should resign or be impeached. Period. End of discussion. That's how it works in a constitutional democracy. And on these two occasions, common sense has prevailed over pettiness and bigotry.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 22 -- You Have To Be Carefully Taught
June 20, 2015
x=

It often amazes me how disparate aspects of one's life can coalesce into a moment of instant clarity. After a week dominated by the horrific news of the massacre in a Charleston, South Carolina, church, last night seemed to be a good time to escape reality. Yesterday was my wedding anniversary and my wife and I decided to celebrate by taking in a play at Theatre Lawrence. By coincidence, that play was Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1949 classic South Pacific. The play uses a wartime setting to expose the folly of racial prejudice - certainly an appropriate subject for week when the immoral stupidity of blind racial hatred was on display for the entire world to see. While I was familiar with the play going in, I was struck by how one of its lesser-known songs captured the essence of this tragic week. Its first verse says it all: "You've got to be taught to hate and fear. You've got to be taught from year to year. It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You've got to be carefully taught." Someone carefully instilled within the miscreant Dylann Roof an indescribably horrible and warped sense of right and wrong. He comes from a regional culture that reveres the leaders of a treasonous insurrection and the flag they followed 150 years ago. (They say it is a part of their "cultural heritage.") He was born into a violent society more willing to recklessly arm its citizens against imagined enemies than it is willing to address the real threats of ignorance, poverty and amorality. There's little doubt that Dylann Roof is a sick and emotionally crippled individual.  But elements within American society carefully taught him that a totally insane act within a house of God was a moral imperative. As if the score from South Pacific wasn't enough to remind me of the true source of racism, that message was reinforced - surprisingly - by an Internet meme posted yesterday by comedian Denis Leary. He said, "Racism isn't born folks. It's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps. End of list." It's easy to see racism. Eradicating it, that's an issue obscured by politics, economics and so-called "cultural heritage." It seems that tolerance is also something that has to be carefully taught.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 21 -- What's the matter with Kansans?
June 13, 2015
x=

The Kansas state legislature has just concluded the most repressive and regressive session in its history. And Kansans have no one to blame but themselves. Let's briefly recap what Sam the Sham and the Zeroes accomplished this session. For a bunch of people who claim to hate intrusion on local governance, they stripped county and city governments of their rights to raise revenues, regulate firearms and to hold non-partisan elections. Speaking of elections, they stripped local district attorneys of the power to prosecute individuals of voter fraud and, instead, handed those powers to a megalomaniac whose sole purpose of raising this phony issue is voter suppression. And speaking of suppression, the legislature had the unconstitutional gall to link funding of the judiciary to favorable rulings in lawsuits the state is facing because of pathetic funding of public education. And the greatest insult of all was the decision to address a state budget crisis of their own making by preserving tax breaks for the rich and adding a crushing sales tax increase on the backs of the poor and middle class.
As I noted on April 5, the legislature re-energized the patently racist stereotype of welfare recipients driving Cadillacs by passing insulting restrictions on the use of state aid - once again addressing a problem of which there is no hard evidence that it actually exists. And after all of this, the lawmakers didn't pass a balanced budget. They came up about $50 million short, leaving future cuts to Sam the Sham. Funny thing, that's the only thing the state constitution requires of them and they failed. And because the legislature is as dysfunctional as the Sunnis and Shiites, it wasted an additional one million dollars of taxpayer money to hammer out a Rube Goldberg budget during the longest legislative session in history. And who is the blame for this? Quoting Shakespeare - and more recently Edward R. Murrow - "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves." It's not like the Kansas electorate had not been warned of the dangers of electing Brownback-shirted legislators. They have done EXACTLY what they have said they were going to do. And now the people of the state will pay for this folly in poorer schools, poorer roads, lost jobs and national humiliation. One of this state's most famous journalists, William Allen White, once famously asked "What's the matter with Kansas." After watching the people of this state time and again vote against their own interests because of party labels, I can't help but wonder what's the matter with Kansans?
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 20 -- Let's Do The Math
June 6, 2015
x=

At the time I write this post, the state of Kansas is still without a budget for the fiscal year starting on July 1. And if the lawmakers don't come up with a spending plan by midnight tonight (Saturday), thousands of state employees will be furloughed because the government will not be able to pay them. The legislature is struggling with filling a $400+ million deficit - one it created by enacting widespread income tax breaks for businesses. These tax breaks have been financed, in part, by enacting the second-highest sales tax rate in the country. And unlike most states, Kansas taxes food - an odd position in which an agricultural state finds itself. Without tossing verbal bombs and questioning people's motives, let's just say some lawmakers like the sales tax as being the fairest way to collect taxes. Their reasoning: Everyone pays at the same rate. What could be fairer? I'd like to test that premise. Say you have two identically sized families whose grocery bill each week equals $100. In the first family, assuming the mother and father are each making the state's $6.15 hourly wage over a 40-hour week, they'd have a weekly income of $290. (Truth be told, many employers employ people for less than 40 hours a week to avoid having to pay benefits.) Couple number two earns what the Census Bureau says is the state's median annual household income of $51,332. That comes out to $987.15 per week. Although both families are paying the same amount of taxes on their $100 worth of groceries, $6.15, the impact of that tax on our two families is vastly different. Food taxes represent 2.1 percent of the weekly income of our minimum wage family, compared to .6 percent for the median income family. To put it another way, the effective tax rate on food is three times higher for the lower income family. Does that sound fair? The concept of taking into account of tax rates upon various levels of income is the philosophical basis behind the progressive income tax.  Those who can afford more, pay more. It is also based in the belief that we all are governed by a social contract which holds that in a civil society, the strong help boost the weak. No one is talking about welfare, handouts, or governemnt giveaways. They are talking about a tax system carries an equal effective burden regardless of income levels.  It's all about fairness -- which means it is wrong to try and balance the budget by raising the sales tax. And why is Kansas taxing food, anyway?  Are the basic staples of life considered a luxury? Without bashing anyone's ideology or questioning their personal motives, a progressive income tax is the fairer approach - one that conforms with Judeo-Christian philosophies. Flat taxes, like sales taxes, are regressive and hurt the poorer among us. If our state lawmakers truly want to be fair and show compassion for the less fortunate, lower the sales tax and raise in the income tax. And if you don't believe that is the case, I invite you to do the math. UPDATE: While the legislature did not pass a budget by the 11:59 p.m. deadline, it did pass a stopgap measure to designate all state employees as being "essential," thus staving off a furlough - at least for now.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 19 -- The Kansas House (and Senate) of Horrors
June 1, 2015
x=

The American system of government rests on a foundation of checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. An attempt by any branch to impose its will over another constitutes a threat to our liberty - not that it matters much to the Kansas legislature. The Senate yesterday passed a bill that would take away funding from the Kansas Supreme Court if the court  overturns a 2014 law that takes away the court's power to name chief judges of district courts. A similar "nonservability" clause was included in last year's judicial appropriations bill. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that act is currently pending in a district court. It is my opinion that the court will rule that this intrusion into judicial branch is unconstitutional. I have been consistent in my opposition to efforts to breach the balance of power -- I have opposed the judicial branch's efforts to impose specific spending amounts
on the legislature to cover educational inadequacies. Only the legislative branch has the constitutional authority to write the budget. The Senate's unconstitutional intrusion on the balance of power came on the same day that senators -- already blogged down in the longest legislative session in modern history -- voted to cut $94 million in sales taxes at a time the legislature is trying to fill a $400+ million budget shortfall. They did so in an unrecorded voice vote. After yesterday, one can surmise that the senators have no regard for the state constitution, that they do not understand basic math and that they do not wish to be held accountable for fiscally irresponsible decisions. Meanwhile, in the House, its so-called leadership is so hopelessly bogged down in budget negotiations that it is asking voters in a poll on how they would like to balance the budget. This sounds very democratic - but it really isn't. First, any poll with a self-selecting sample is invalid.  Second, the options are presented without sufficient context for voters to give their considered opinion. Third - and most important - this is classic buck-passing. In a representative democracy, we elect people to make decisions - not to test which way the wind is blowing. This last-minute straw poll strikes me as a cowardly act unworthy of an elected body. After more than 100 days in session, the two houses of the Kansas legislature are tilting at windmills and grasping straws. Lawmakers seem unwilling or unable to make the tough decisions they were elected to make. If we, the people, do not hold their feet to fire, then we have only ourselves to blame for the national laughingstock that Kansas has become.
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 18 -- Memorial Day
May 25, 2015
x=

I've heard more push-back this year on the ill-considered phrase "Happy Memorial Day" than ever before. There are a lot of people who take exception to the apparent lack of differentiation between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day.  The latter was -- appropriately -- created to honor the men and women who honorably served in the armed forces of the United States. It was initiated after the First World War and was, for years, observed as Armistice Day, coinciding with the anniversary of the end of that war on November 11, 1919.  After the Second World War and the Korean War, Congress changed the observance to Veteran's Day to honor all American military veterans. Memorial Day dates back to May 30, 1868, when the first Decoration Day was observed. That was the day set aside to decorate the graves of the soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic who died during the Civil War. Both observances became Monday holidays with the passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971. So, Memorial Day is a time to remember the dead. Veteran's Day is a time to honor the living. And that's why "Happy Memorial Day" is an inappropriate greeting. In fairness, I don't believe anyone intends disrespect by seeing Memorial Day more as a holiday than a remembrance. To many, the date marks the unofficial start of summer and summer is a time for vacations, fun, rest and relaxation. In other words, summertime is a time when many most enjoy their freedoms. There is nothing wrong with that.  And that many equate Memorial Day with a sense of personal freedom is, in and of itself, a lasting tribute to those for whom the date is intended to honor. So, enjoy your Memorial Day. But please take at least a few moments to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and for whom the day has been set aside to honor.
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 17 -- Goodbye, Dave
May 17, 2015
x=

You want to hear something crazy? My mother loved David Letterman. You probably know Dave, but I'm certain that those outside of my immediate family didn't know my mother.  Granted, my mother often displayed a wicked sense of humor but -- we're talking about MY mother. She fell in love of Letterman during his short-lived David Letterman Show, which ran weekday mornings for 90 episodes during the summer and early fall of 1980. There was something about his edgy, off-beat humor that struck a cord with her. Granted, I can understand why people - including my mother - would find David Letterman funny. In fact, the guy who hoped to be the next Johnny Carson was, in some ways, funnier than Carson. Make no mistake: Carson remains as much a hero to me as he was when I wrote about him three years ago this week (Vol. 6, No. 24). Carson's monologues remain the gold standard for late-night television.  But Carson, who professionally grew up during a time when viewers had only three late-night choices, usually reigned in his humor - careful not to alienate his audience. By the time Letterman's career emerged, there were more channel choices and a place for his finely honed rapier wit. But back to my mother.  Because of the traditional generation gap, I could hardly believe that my own mother would enjoy the same off-beat humor as I. That seemed somewhat sacrosanct. We were so far apart on so many other things, especially politics, religion and, well, politics. But now, my mother has been gone 28 years and Dave will be gone in three days.  And it is only now that I have had an epiphany: That maybe I like David Letterman's brand of humor as much as I do because I am my mother's son.  She probably had a much greater influence on my sense of humor than I ever imagined.  So as much as I hate to see Letterman take his final bow, I am sad to see that one of the things that my mother and I shared will soon be gone.
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 16 -- Goodbye, Saigon
April 30, 2015
x=

Forty years ago today, the United States of America suffered its most humiliating defeat and, in a sense, was liberated. The image of 5,000 Americans and their Vietnamese friends fleeing the U.S. Embassy compound by helicopters before the advancing North Vietnamese army is burned into the nation's collective memory. On April 30, 1975, I was 22 years old - young enough that my likelihood of being drafted into the military had diminished with the winding down of the American presence in Southeast Asia, but old enough to identify with my contemporaries who wound up in that quagmire - the popular word of the day for "hell hole." On the day South Vietnam fell, I experienced the many stages of grief: denial ("This can't be happening."), anger ("How could we have let this happen?"), bargaining ("Perhaps this war isn't really over."), depression ("Crap, it really is over.") and acceptance ("Thank God this war is over!"). As noted, I did not serve in the military: A source of relief that my life had been spared from a seemingly needless sacrifice and of a survivor's guilt for the 50,000+ who had not. There are those who want to equate the Vietnam experience with our current miseries in the Middle East. To me, the comparison fails on many levels. The scale is different - there were six times the number of American deaths and causalities in Vietnam than in the Middle East. The Vietnam war was waged against a political ideology that is now dead and buried -- except for in China and North Korea and their time will come. The war we have been waging since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks is a war against religious fanatics who continue to pose a clear and present danger to our way of life. Many will disagree with me on this point: George W. Bush's actions were far more justified than those of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Bush doesn't get a free pass from me -- I believe he interpreted faulty intelligence the way he wanted to see it. He also failed to develop a post-Saddam Hussein strategy for Iraq. I also believe that even JFK and LBJ tried to do what they thought was right. But from where I sit, armed conflict in the Middle East was - and may still be - inevitable. To put it in stark language, those bastards want to kill us. And - to paraphrase Patton - I'd rather they die for their country than we die for ours. To me, that's a important lesson of 40 years past: Vietnam was just the wrong war, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 15 -- It Takes Two To Tangle
April 26, 2015
x=

It has been a bad year for police - and much of it is of their own doing.  When an already incapacitated suspect stops breathing before Baltimore police even consider giving him appropriate medical treatment, someone needs to answer. When an Oklahoma reserve police officer mistakes his gun for his taser and kills an unarmed suspect, people have a right to ask questions -- especially when the reserve officer is the sheriff's good buddy, political contributor and appears to have not been given the required training.  Yes, the people have the right to reign in police who abuse their powers. No one is above the law. But as we place our law enforcement communities under a microscope -- which, by the way, is perfectly acceptable in democratic societies -- let us also remember that it takes two to tangle. Neither of the people I have mentioned who were killed were completely innocent bystanders.  Freddy Gray, the Baltimore victim, was arrested on a weapons charge in a high-crime area. Nor was it his first run-in with the law. Eric Harris, the Tulsa man shot instead of tasered, was being arrested in a gun sting. While it is true that our system of justice is based on the concept of one being innocent until proven guilty, it is also true that people are less likely to end up on the bad side of a police confrontation if they actually are innocent. Community leaders are correct to stand up and rail against unwarranted police harassment and violence against their communities.  But it would also be nice to hear those same leaders stand up and speak with the same fervor against those who commit violence against their own. Frankly, that doesn't happen enough. It would be nice to see the Al Sharptons of the world make a meaningful contribution to a community dialectic than to burnish their own reputations and line their own pockets. And the failure of these communities to take moral responsibility for the horrors they commit against themselves only feeds police paranoia.  Who is the real guilty party: The one who brought the gasoline or the one who lit the match?
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 14 -- Inhumanity
April 15, 2015
x=

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied liberation of Nazi concentration camps, the PBS series Frontline last night rebroadcast "Memory of the Camps." It was an unfinished documentary of the horrors uncovered when Allied forces overran Germany in the final days of the Second World War. The documentary, narrated by actor Trevor Howard, was largely filmed by British, American and Russian combat photographers. For some unexplained reason, the film project was never completed and sat collecting dust in the BBC archives for three decades. In the mid-1980s, the film, script and Howard's narration were discovered and assembled as close as possible to the original producer's intent. Having watched death camp images before, I didn't think I would see anything that would surprise or shock me -- and I was wrong. If anything, this documentary gives one a greater sense of the unimaginable scope of the Nazi regime's atrocities, as well as the Herculean effort of the Allies to bury to the millions of dead and save the thousands of living dead in the days and weeks following liberation. More than an indictment of the Nazi regime, the documentary was an indictment of Germany, itself. Knowing what is happening and doing nothing is as great a sin as perpetrating the crime, itself. The documentary serves as a sad metaphor for the state of humanity. Just as the documentary was forgotten and unfinished, so is the immoral business of genocide. You'd think humanity would have learned the lessons of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen.  However, the Cultural Revolution in China, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the tragedy of Rwanda, and now ISIS provide stark reminders that humanity has learned nothing. Again, the words of Edmund Burke ring true: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 13 -- Pro-Business, Bad Business
April 5, 2015
x=

A headline on the front page of this morning's Lawrence Journal-World tells only half the story. "Pro-business lobby groups wield power" is the headline in question. (Interestingly, the online version of the headline is expanded to attribute this sentiment to Democrats.) That the business community wields inordinate power in a pliant and obedient Kansas legislature is without question. However, I object to the characterization that these lobbying groups are "pro-business." Everything they have done during this year's session have been bad for business. Through a process of double-speak and hocus-pocus, they have encouraged their minions to slash education funding at a time when our state and nation need to ramp it up to remain competitive in a global market. Some school districts are being forced to close their doors early this year because of these ill-considered and short-sighted budget cuts. To finance tax cuts that were neither warranted nor have produced the promised economic benefits, we are gutting the state's infrastructure. Then there's the new law that allows people to carry concealed guns without a license. Whether an exercise of raw political power or an irrational response to crime, our elected reactionaries have made Kansas an infinitely more dangerous place. Don't take my word for it: Just look at what happened in Shawnee, Kansas, last summer. Our governor and secretary of state have repeatedly sent messages to the world that Kansas -- once a place where people journeyed from afar to make a new life in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave -- is now a home for the intolerant and frightened. Not interested in a healthy workforce, lawmakers are slashing funding to health care. And as if to re-energize the patently racist stereotype of welfare recipients driving Cadillacs, the state senate recently passed insulting restrictions on the use of state aid - once again addressing a problem of which there is no hard evidence that it actually exists. Everything our legislators do seems to say "if you aren't white, Christian and conservative, we don't want you." Ironic, considering that the only demographic group to increase its numbers in western Kansas since 2000 is Hispanics/Latinos. I actually consider myself pro-business.  There's nothing wrong with making profits. They are what drives the economy and help people realize their dreams. But good business owners know that the future of their enterprise rests on the maintenance and growth of their markets.  And they know that they have moral responsibility to aid in the health and well-being of the communities in which they live and work. It is in their own best interests. Our allegedly "pro-business" legislature has taken a dangerously short-term approach to governing. And long after this near-sighted crowd has left Topeka, the people of Kansas will experience a harsh reality: short-term politics is nothing more than bad business.
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 12 -- Thomas E. Guth (1948-2015)
March 26, 2015
x=

Tom Guth traveled to the beat of a different drummer. He had a brilliant mind coupled with a wicked sense of humor. My brother was, at times, absolutely amazing. And, at other times, he was totally human.  Tom passed away earlier today at the age of 67, most likely from complications of a massive stroke he suffered a year ago. His last year wasn't a happy one, but in many ways it was his finest. Like anyone in his situation, he had moments of fear and doubt. Strokes are insidious because they often leave their victims painfully aware of the things their bodies and minds can no longer do. However, my big brother, did not give up. Against the odds, he fought back. Ultimately, he lost his struggle. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't honor his courage in the face of long odds. Struggle, in many ways, defined Tom's life story. He often chose the rocky path over the paved road. At times, it cost him dearly. But, in the end, it made him a stronger, better and more liberated person. I give a lot of credit for Tom's victory over adversity to his wife Charlotte, who knew better than anyone how to navigate through the eclectic sensibilities and occasionally eccentric personality that was my brother. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with Tom in the early 1970s in College Park, Maryland, as the beginning of my college life overlapped with the end of his. For a small town kid at a big university, it was comforting to know that one of my big brothers was nearby. Ironically, Tom's death came on the eve of a family reunion of sorts - a surprise 60th birthday party for my brother Howard. Instead, that event now becomes a celebration of two lives and of a family doing what families do best, laughing and loving in the face of tragedy.  I am the sixth of the seven children of Jane Connolly and Evan Carey Guth, both of whom have passed. Tom was preceded in death by Carey, Jr., in 1969 and Charles in 2011.  I am at a loss for words - other than to say brother, I love you and will miss you. May you rest in the peace you deserve and have earned.
x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 11 -- Sam the Sham and the Zeros
March 19, 2015
x=
I
'm pretty certain that the governor of Kansas and his allies in the state legislature believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Wait, maybe not the tooth fairy - that sounds much too gay for our leaders' liking. We know that our governor and his cronies believe the sun is shining in Kansas, even though the state is teetering under a dark cloud of economic disaster. Dubious tax policies have placed the state on the edge of bankruptcy. Jobs are fleeing Kansas to neighboring states and vital state services are facing major cuts. So how have Sam the Sham and the Zeros responded to their self-inflicted disaster? They've pretty much ignored it. They've been in session in Topeka for about two months and this is what they have to show for it: They are refusing to expand Medicaid in Kansas, which means thousands will continue to live without health insurance. Never mind that the federal government will pay for the expansion - returning Kansas tax dollars to Kansans. It's Obamacare, and they want to have nothing to do with it. Although the courts have repeatedly said the state has failed to meet its constitutional responsibility when it comes to providing public education, the focus of Sam the Sham and the Zeros has been on muzzling the judiciary and reworking the school funding formula so the state can continue to take from the poor and give to the rich. Although the legislature has been unable to manage its own budget, it has decided to micro-manage the University of Kansas budget by shifting much-needed resources to places where they are not as greatly needed. If you are a gay state employee, the Governor says you no longer enjoy civil rights protections. Speaking of rights, because of a blind faith in the Second Amendment, the legislature wants to allow anyone to carry concealed firearms anywhere. They say it is our birthright. However, because of an open contempt for the First Amendment, the legislature also wants to mussel college professors who have the gall to criticize elected officials. They say free expression is not our birthright. In short, the Kansas State Capitol has become a haven for Orwellian logic: More guns on the street makes us safer.  Less money in our schools makes us smarter. Free speech equals slavery. One is tempted to say Kansas resembles Oz and that we should pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. But that was a fairy tale - oh, I apologize for using that word again. And unlike the fictitious Mighty and Powerful Wizard, Sam the Sham has real powers that we, the people, gave to him. No, Topeka is not Emerald City. Topeka 2015 increasingly resembles Berlin 1938. And that's a nightmare.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 10 -- Richard Nixon in a Pants Suit
March 15, 2015
x=

How many times does Hillary Rottweiler Clinton have to remind us that she just cannot be trusted?  We first got to know her as the woman who - despite the actions of her sexual predator husband -  said "I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette." That, of course, is exactly what she did. Twice. She made buckets of bucks off the Whitewater land deal while everyone else around her went to jail. She treated the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House as if it was a Motel 6 for Clinton campaign donors. During her first run for the presidency, she unsuccessfully tried to play the race card against the upstart Barrack Obama in the South Carolina primary. Her family foundation raised millions of dollars from shady foreign governments - not while she served as Secretary of State - but just before and just after. (Timing is everything.) She has never accepted any measure of accountability for the inexplicably slow response to the terrorist attack that left an American ambassador and three others dead in Benghazi. (Remember: She was the person who during the 2008 primaries claimed to be the candidate best equipped to handle the "three a.m." telephone call.) And now Hillary wants us to believe that she recklessly -- and possibly illegally -- ran all of her e-mail through a private server while Secretary of State as a matter of convenience. She said she didn't want to manage two cellphones. Never mind that lots of people - including myself - am able to receive e-mails from two e-mail accounts from two servers on the same device. And never mind that she saw the necessity to set up the private e-mail server the same day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its first hearing on her nomination as Secretary of State. And that she says she is the best person to judge which e-mails are public or private -- even though, by law, they all are public. Hillary Rottweiler Clinton's entire public career has been one of skirting over, under, around and through ethical boundaries. And now, she wants to be president. She wants us to trust her. The next time Hillary asks for your vote, just remember that she isn't Eleanor Roosevelt. She isn't even Eleanor Rigby. She is Richard Nixon in a pants suit.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 9 -- Grateful for yesterday
March 7, 2015
x=

Every time I begin to post in this blog, there is a strong temptation to flail away at this world's many injustices. It is an easy time to be a cynic: The tree that is a body politic is filled with rotting fruit ready to be picked. Fortunately, along comes days like yesterday. It was a day which saw two colleagues of whom I have great fondness and respect get well-deserved promotions to associate professor with tenure and a third colleague promoted to full professor. The promotion of that third individual was particularly gratifying, as I remember interviewing him as a candidate for a job with the School of Journalism when I was an associate dean back in 2007. He impressed me then and he continues to do so. In addition to the good news out of the university's Promotions and Tenure Committee, I met with my strategic communication colleagues to select the winners of various student awards. Choosing one student over another for recognition is not easy.  However, it is one of the best parts of my job. The Kansas J-school is blessed to have terrific young women and men who are intellectually, socially and culturally engaged. If anyone wonders why I voluntarily chose a career path where the income ceiling is lower than my other options, these women and men are the reason.  At yesterday's school faculty meeting, I learned that significant strides had been made in two innovative student-experiential programs, the Agency and Media Crossroads. Our school has a reputation for innovation and excellence. The success of those programs reinforces that brand. Yesterday was also the birthday of one of my colleagues, a man whose intellect is eclipsed only by his compassion. He has received a number of accolades over the years - all richly deserved. Best of all, I get to call him my friend.  Yes, yesterday was a good day. It is easy to write about life's horrors. There are so many from which to choose. And some injustices need to be exposed. One doesn't have to scroll very far down this page to see that I am not afraid to tilt at windmills. But that doesn't mean that I am unwilling or unable to appreciate the goodness in people. In fact, it is a lot more fun to write about the good stuff than it is to write about the bad. There's no doubt that I will continue to do the latter.  But I also will continue do the former - even if it requires more effort.  That is why I am grateful for days like yesterday.

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x
Vol. 9 No. 8 -- Shoot it, Jim. Shoot it!
February 24, 2015
x=

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

x
That's it for now. Fear the Turtle.
x

Page views after 31 May 2014:
Web Counter
Web Counter