KU, K-State and a Funny

Kansas State, no doubt still basking in the euphoria of beating Kansas, and the Jayhawks, no doubt still stung by the 70-63 loss Monday night, will be at home for Saturday afternoon games.

The Wildcats, obviously a much different team at home, will take on Iowa State, while KU, a team that needs a victory in its fight for the Big 12 Conference championship, will play Texas.

After the loss Monday, KU folks heaped a ton of criticism on K-State officials for the process in trying to control the fans storming the court. Police were called in to search for the guy who allegedly chicken-winged Jamari Traylor near the Jayhawks bench. The student was cited for disorderly conduct. Coach Bill Self chided the lack of security but also noted the team could have taken care of that by playing better down the stretch and winning.

The media joined in the outcry.

Interesting, isn’t it, how a defeated team can take away the joy from the winning team by focusing on a crowd control situation where no one was hurt.

A little more than 30 years ago, I covered the infamous Chair-Throwing Game at Indiana. Purdue won 72-63 with Hoosier Coach Bobby Knight going on a three-technical binge after grabbing a chair and throwing it across the court, sliding near handicapped people in wheelchairs.

Fans became raucous and one threw a penny that hit Coach Gene Keady’s wife just above the eye — the resulting cut needed first-aid attention.

Keady said after the game that he didn’t want that incident to detract from his team’s terrific victory. But it did.

Will KU’s comments ruin K-State’s much-needed victory?

Well, the victory sure helped K-State Coach Bruce Weber. Right after the game, I received a text: That win saved Weber’s job. It certainly kept the wolves at bay; K-Staters love to hate KU and a victory overcomes a lot of grumbling.

Can the Cats keep it going? They have better chances when the opponents don’t have sound guard play. KU lacks leadership and consistency at guard. The Cyclones can shoot treys and they also penetrate so well off the dribble-drive.

KU should bounce back without a problem against the Longhorns, a 6-9 conference team.

Too bad the TV schedule bunches the Big 12 games together.

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Charlie Weis told the South Bend Tribune it was highly doubtful that he would coach again.

Kansas fired Weis in September after posting a 6-22 record in three-plus seasons.

Before taking the Kansas job, Weis was the offensive coordinator for Florida and the Kansas City Chiefs and spent five seasons as head coach at Notre Dame, taking the team to three bowl appearances. He was also the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots’ first three Super Bowl victories before taking the Notre Dame job.

Notre Dame will continue to pay Weis through December, and Kansas owes him around $7 million.

Weis said he wouldn’t miss being in the spotlight, adding that he wasn’t angry at Notre Dame or Kansas, but wished he could have lasted longer with the Irish.

“I do care about that,” he said. “And some of the way I was portrayed was my own fault. Before you start blaming other people, some of it’s your own fault. They can judge my coaching and recruiting however they want. That is their right as fans. But to judge you as a person without knowing who you are, I never thought that was right.”

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A man in a Florida supermarket tried to buy half a head of lettuce.  The young produce assistant told him that they sold only whole heads of lettuce.  But the man persisted and asked to see the manager.  The boy said he would ask his manager about it.

Walking into the back room, the boy said to his manager, “Some asshole wants to buy half a head of lettuce.” Just as he finished his sentence, he turned to find the man standing right behind him,

So he added, “And this gentleman has kindly offered to buy the other half.”

The manager approved the deal, and the man went on his way.

Later the manager said to the boy, “I was impressed with the way you got yourself out of that situation earlier. We like people who think on their feet here. Where are you from, son?”

The boy replied, ” Green Bay , Wisconsin, sir.”

“Well, why did you leave Green Bay ?” the manager asked.

“Sir, there’s nothing but whores and football players up there.”

“Really,” said the manager. “My wife is from Green Bay .”

“No kidding,” replied the boy. “What position did she play?”

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Kansas State wideout Tyler Lockett wowed them at the NFL combine but his teammate, center B.J. Finney, and Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney had mixed reactions, according to scouting reports.

After one of Lockett’s workouts, a scout said, “He killed it today.”

During the gauntlet — a drill in which the receiver is required to catch seven balls from different directions in rapid succession — Lockett had two perfect runs, and caught all 14 balls with his hands. One of the major concerns with Lockett through his career, according to scouts, was his propensity to let balls come into his chest.  During quarterback drills, Lockett also made a spectacular diving catch on a ball Nick Marshall threw off-target.

Lockett was officially measured at 5-10, 182, with 30-inch arms.

He had originally been reported as running a 4.40 and then a 4.41, unofficial hand times. Then ESPN reported a 4.35, and then the NFL web site changed it to 4.35. But when the times were made official, Lockett’s time was again set at 4.40. Only four wideouts — UAB’s J.J. Nelson at 4.28, Miami’s Phillip Dorsett at 4.33 and Georgia’s Chris Conley and West Virginia’s Kevin White at 4.35 — bested Lockett.

On Finney, scouts mainly went with college data. He has a quick snap and set-up with smooth lateral movements off the ball. Moves his feet well to generate movement in the run game. Above-average awareness and vision, sensing and anticipating the action well. Plays like a veteran and isn’t surprised by much. Uses proper mechanics and body angles, playing within himself. Tough in the trenches with a stout body type. Not an easy guy to move from his spot and wrestling background shows. Quick and lively hand usage. Can pull and get to the outside, staying light on his feet with enough mobility to get the job done at the second level. Durable and tough, starting 52 straight games in college.

However, scouts said he played too high and straight-legged off the snap.

Heeney had good college numbers but scouts still wince at his height, 6 feet. To put that in perspective, no Chiefs linebacker comes in under 6-1. Only four linebackers at or under 6-feet were drafted last season. While he has a great motor, one NFC scout, according to NFL.com, said he guessed too much.

O’Reilly Needs Brake Parts

Jane Curtin, host of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update from 1976 to 1980, delivered a just and wonderful line during the show’s 40th anniversary special.

She appeared with former Weekend Update hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and smacked Fox News but good. Curtin reminisced about the good old days of being the Weekend Update host, and compared it to today’s broadcast scene: “Times have changed since I first sat at this desk. For example, I used to be the only pretty blonde woman to read the fake news. Now there’s an entire network devoted to that.”

And with that, Fox News’ logo blared in the top corner of the screen followed by thunderous applause from the audience.

Oh so deserving. What a horrible purveyor of news. But folks sure do watch it and host Bill O’Reilly ranks right up there as the most popular anchor on cable news. Ugh!

I’m so pleased that the bloviating O’Reilly is embroiled in controversy after he embellished and flat-out lied about his war reporting earlier in his career.

O’Reilly is contesting an article in the magazine Mother Jones and subsequent interviews with former journalists at CBS News that accuse him of misrepresenting his coverage of the Falklands war in 1982 as a young correspondent for CBS News.

The central dispute is whether O’Reilly reported from active war zones, as he has repeatedly said on the air and in his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America.

O’Reilly’s efforts to refute the claims by Mother Jones and some former CBS News colleagues have occurred both on the air and off it. During a phone conversation, he told a reporter for The New York Times that there would be repercussions if he felt any of the reporter’s coverage was inappropriate. “I am coming after you with everything I have,” O’Reilly said. “You can take it as a threat.”

David Corn, the lead author on the Mother Jones piece, said that the issue was not whether O’Reilly had reported on a violent protest, but whether he had reported from a war zone.

Corn said, “The question is whether Bill O’Reilly was stating the truth when he repeatedly said that Argentine soldiers used real bullets and fired into the crowd of civilians and many were killed.”

Corn says the Fox News anchor is hiding behind name calling and refusing to account for legitimate discrepancies in his statements.

Corn’s remarks came after O’Reilly called Corn “a liar” and a “despicable guttersnipe” during an interview with On Media. O’Reilly said that Corn’s report was “a piece of garbage.”

In another segment, O’Reilly demeaned the magazine as the “bottom rung of journalism in America” with a “low circulation.”

New allegations have emerged that O’Reilly lied about being present at a suicide in Florida. “He was in Dallas,” Tracy Rowlett, a former colleague of O’Reilly’s at Dallas station WFAA, told liberal watchdog Media Matters. “Bill O’Reilly’s a phony — there’s no other way to put it.”

The Fox host has claimed on several occasions that he heard the gunshot that killed George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of John F. Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Mohrenschildt committed suicide at his daughter’s home in Florida in 1977.

These controversies come after NBC News suspended its anchor, Brian Williams, for six months without pay after he was found to have falsified a story about being on a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq in 2003.

The two networks have taken different approaches in responding to the similar controversies engulfing their biggest stars. After military veterans complained about Williams’ story, NBC News started an internal investigation. Fox News executives have defended O’Reilly.

The viewership of O’Reilly’s show on Fox News drew an average of nearly three million viewers over the last month, compared with the 9.7 million viewers who watched NBC’s “Nightly News,” according to Nielsen data provided by Horizon Media.

There also were different outlooks on O’Reilly’s use of a New York Times article from 1982 reporting on the protests in Buenos Aires. O’Reilly faced criticism for cutting out a key phrase when he read excerpts from the Times article to back up his assertions that he was reporting from a war zone. The article read: “One policeman pulled a pistol, firing five shots over the heads of fleeing demonstrators.” O’Reilly left out that the shots were “over the heads of fleeing demonstrators.”

O’Reilly had invited several former CBS employees to appear on his show, but none did.

Former CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg told the HuffPost Live that O’Reilly was dishonest and irresponsible in recounting his story that he reported in a war zone. Engberg, who worked alongside O’Reilly in Argentina, called O’Reilly completely nutty and asserted that O’Reilly lied when he said he was “out there pretty much by myself, because other CBS News correspondents were hiding in the hotel.”

Engberg was one of these “other CBS News correspondents,” and refuted O’Reilly’s account.

Instead of a war zone, Engberg called it an expense account zone, adding that the correspondents were all in the same, modern hotel and they never saw any troops or casualties.

Engberg offered an explanation for O’Reilly’s harsh words against his former CBS colleagues, saying that O’Reilly was still bitter that CBS News told him weeks after the night in question that O’Reilly “wasn’t going to make it as a correspondent.”

O’Reilly once told his radio listeners about how he would have coaxed information out of an enemy soldier based on his personal experiences in combat: “I tell you what, I’ve been in combat. I’ve seen it. I’ve been close to it. And if my unit is in danger and I got a captured guy and the captured guy knows where the enemy is and I’m looking him in the eye, the guy better tell me. That’s all I’m gonna tell you. If it’s life or death, he’s going first.”

Ccontrary to the statement, O’Reilly has never been in combat. Consequently, he has never commanded a unit or had to contemplate how he would deal with an enemy prisoner.

O’Reilly, often described as a rude, arrogant bully, ended one of his rants in defense of the allegations by saying the criticism of his claims about the war reminded him of a time years ago when Senator. Al Franken, Democrat-Minnesota, questioned his working-class upbringing. O’Reilly called Franken “perhaps the biggest liar I have ever known,” and a “dishonest smear merchant.”

Corn asked about O’Reilly: “Will he responsibly respond to all the questions or will he continue to rely upon invective and bombast?”

Mixed Bag of Goodies for You

Jeb Bush probably will run for President but he sure showed rust in his political presentation during a a speech recently on national security Wednesday.

Seeking to differentiate himself from his father and brother, both former presidents, the former governor of Florida asserted, “I am my own man.”

But the man who emerged on stage at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs did not sound well-versed in foreign policy.

Speaking of the extremist group based in Nigeria that had killed thousands of civilians, Bush referred to Boko Haram as “Beau-coup Haram.” Bush also referred to Iraq when he meant to refer to Iran.

Further, Bush misrepresented the strength of ISIS, saying it had some 200,000 men, which is far greater than what National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen pegged — between 20,000 and 31,500.

Referring to the leader of the so-called Islamic State, Bush referred to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “the guy that’s the supreme leader or whatever his new title is—head of the caliphate.”

Bush was also short on describing how he might combat the threat of ISIS. “Taking them out” in partnership with regional allies was about as specific as he got.

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Last fall, Illinois GOP candidate Bruce Rauner spent $63.9 million — $27.3 million of his own money — to buy the right to occupy the Illinois Governor’s mansion.

Now that he’s in office his first moves have confirmed that he’s the poster boy for the War on the Middle Class.

Early in the GOP primary, Rauner made it clear that he wanted to reduce Illinois’ minimum wage — and at one point even indicated he wanted it abolished entirely. Yet last year Rauner himself made more than $25,000 per hour — $52 million per year. That’s more than an average minimum wage worker makes all year long. Rauner has grudgingly agreed to support an increase of 25 cents an hour per year over seven years. That’s barely more than the rate of inflation.

Much like Romney, Rauner made his money as an investor and speculator. After he bought many of those businesses, he bled them of cash. His companies moved over 4,000 jobs abroad. One of Rauner’s companies, Trans Healthcare Inc., owned more than 200 nursing homes. The firm had judgments issued against it for more $2 billion for patient neglect. Rather than fix the problems and pay the claims, Rauner’s investment firm sold Trans Healthcare to a company that then declared bankruptcy and dodged paying the claims of the abused residents.

Now that he is governor, Rauner has proposed draconian limits on the collective bargaining rights of unions representing state employees, cutting back on their pay, prohibiting workers from being able to negotiate over wages and benefits and transferring all future state pension benefits into risky 401(k) plans.

Blogger Robert Creamer supplied the information for this note.

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Judy Walkman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California , was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Senator Harry Reid’s great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory:

On the back of the picture, Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: “Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.”

Judy e-mailed the senator for information about their great-great uncle. His staff sent this back:

Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

Now, that’s spin.

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Creative geniuses, athletes and politicians have always had great affinity for beer. Just take a look:

  • Babe Ruth. Sometimes, after playing golf, I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and I think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, “It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.”
  • Winston Churchill. I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”
  • Paul Hornung. When I read about the evils of drinking after golfing, I gave up reading.”
  • Cliff Clavin and Norm Peterson. One night on Cheers, Clavin said, “Well, ya see, Norm, it’s like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members! In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alocohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliniates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine!. That’s why you always feel smarter after a few beers.”
  • H.L. Mencken. “24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.”
  • George Bernard Shaw. When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. So, let’s all get drunk and go to heaven!”
  • Leo Durocher. ugly To some it’s a six-pack. To me it’s a support group. Salvation in a can!
  • W.C. Fields. Beer: Helping ugly people have sex since 3000 BC!

GOP Smitten With Obamathropy

The Republicans continue to spew venom at President Obama. The harsh words, the cutting emails, the nasty cartoons reek of pathological hysteria.

Psychologists and philosophers could call all this outpouring of bile: Obamathropy. It is misanthropy dipped in ebony.

White men going after a black President must draw descriptions of racism. No, no, the Republican males say. It is about policy.

Baloney. Pounds and pounds of baloney. Obama pushes policies that reflect what these Republicans supported. As soon as he comes out with the same type of offer, they turn and face another direction. Whatever he espouses, they detest.

This latest verbal salvo from the likes of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is simply an extension of the acrimony, the bitterness tossed toward Obama ever since he was elected in 2008.

Giuliani piles on the diatribe and the loathing. He has repeated his thoughts that he believes the President has no love for his country. It’s just another line of attack Republicans have been employing for years.

Giuliani told the New York Daily News that Obama grew up in a white family so whatever he learned you could attribute to the influence of communism and socialism than his being African-American. See, those are “isms” while rationalizing racism.

Love. Interesting. His thesis on love should be interesting because he been married three times, once to a second cousin. The second cousin has been quoted: “Another factor in our divorce was that he was disappointed I wasn’t a first cousin.”

Giuliani made his lack-of-love comment about Obama at a private group dinner at the swank 21 Club in New York City featuring Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and about 60 right-leaning business executives and conservative media types.

Giuliani challenged Obama’s patriotism, discussing what he called weak foreign policy decisions and questionable public remarks when confronting terrorists.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said, according to press reports. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

So how was Obama brought up, huh! Now they bash the ways of his mom and grandparents.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, chided Giuliani and his fellow Republicans: “I rarely agreed with President Bush, but I never questioned his love for our country.”

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said, “It was a horrible thing to say.”

Terrible or not, Giuliani, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, used that same phrase a little later, Politico reported. Then during a Fox News appearance, he said he wasn’t impugning Obama’s patriotism, only his comments about the United States.

“He’s a patriot, I’m sure,” the former mayor said. “What I’m saying is that, in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear him say the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things I used to hear Bill Clinton say, about how much he loves America. I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents.”

A liberal website, Politicus, said, “Essentially, Giuliani invoked birtherism and the crazy conspiratorial rants of Dinesh D’Souza with his remarks during the dinner … and afterward in an interview with Politico. Based on his comments, Giuliani is selling Obama as an ‘other’ who views America as a colonial empire and it is his job to weaken the country.”

Giuliani is philosophically wrong and factually mistaken.

A review of Obama’s public remarks provides multiple examples of what he has said positively. The New York Times found them easily enough.

In 2008, when he was still a presidential candidate,. Obama uttered the magic words in Berlin, during a speech to thousands: “I also know how much I love America.”

He did it again that same year during his speech at the Democratic National Convention, observing that “I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.”

Obama used a similar construction, as President, in 2011, during a town hall meeting in Illinois, when he recalled “why I love this country so much.”

Walker, a leading Republican contender for the White House in 2016, told the Associated Press that he didn’t know whether Obama loved his country. Oh, really. Later he said he didn’t know whether Obama was a Christian, despite evidence that he is.

Wonder whether Walker ever listens to what the President says.

Democrats have assailed Giuliani for questioning Obama’s love of country and urged the potential field of Republican presidential candidates to rebuke Giuliani for his comments.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence, another possible 2016 candidate, said questioning the President’s patriotism or motives didn’t help. Pence said Giuliani was a great American, who was understandably frustrated with a president who lectured Americans on the Crusades, but seemed incapable of calling radical Islamic violence by name. Pence certainly is a politician, saying on the one hand that certain criticism doesn’t help and then poking the President’s policies.

The Los Angeles Times begs to differ with Pence’s assertion, quoting Obama: “Al Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State) and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders — holy warriors in defense of Islam. (They) do draw, selectively, from the Islamic texts. They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith.”

The newspaper said Obama’s main point was: “We are not at war with Islam.”

During a White House meeting on “violent extremism,” the President said the words “Islam,” “Islamic” or “Muslim” 49 times in 34 minutes, and the words “terrorism” or “terrorist” 30 times. Anyone who thinks he’s ignoring the Islamic part of the problem isn’t paying attention — or else just trying to score political points, the LA Times story said.

It’s true, the newspaper said, that Obama and his aides have walked on semantic eggshells to avoid the word “Islamic” when they denounce Islamic State. But there are good reasons for that. Muslims are important in the struggle against the Islamic State. To win this war, the United States needs help from Muslim-led governments in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and from ordinary Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Obama has not shied from criticizing the United States for what he sees as its historical shortcomings, an approach that has angered conservatives like Giuliani for years.

Right before Obama declared his love for America in Berlin, he had this to say: “I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions. But I also know how much I love America.”

KU and K-State — the Non-Rivalry Game

Kansas and Kansas State will hook up tonight at Manhattan in what many seasons ago was a basketball rivalry. A look at KU Coach Bill Self’s 22-4 record against the Wildcats lets you know what this series has become.

This season? Well, the Jayhawks have talent but may not be as good as recent teams. But they will be facing a team going downhill faster than skier Lindsey Vonn.

While KU is 11-3 in the Big 12 and 22-5 overall, K-State is 6-9 and 13-15, losing seven of their eight games. A semi-bright spot for the Cats? They’re 5-2 at home in the conference.

What in the world is going on with K-State? Why are there stories of apathy among the team members? What manifests to throw Marcus Foster into Coach Bruce Weber’s doghouse? No one at K-State wants to point to definitive answers. A wispy, hazy picture of the troubles and travails is all the fans receive.

But let’s not be surprised by all this. Questions, numerous questions, existed when Athletic Director John Currie hired Weber in 2012. In the last six seasons of Weber’s nine-year tenure at Illinois, he was 55-66 in Big Ten action — 6-12 in the 2011-12 season.

He replaced Frank Martin, who left for South Carolina amidst rumors of discontent with Currie. A question may be raised, which of the two will be fired after next season if records don’t improve? Martin has had a difficult time with the Gamecocks, standing 4-10 in the SEC and 13-13 overall this season.

The Illini faithful shed few tears when Weber left. Fans grumbled that he couldn’t even recruit talent-rich Chicago. The KC Star had quotes from former K-State star Jacob Pullen, a Chicago prep standout, professing that Currie could have done much better in replacing Martin. Pullen added this killer quote: “Bruce didn’t think I was good enough to play at Illinois and I don’t think he is good enough to coach at Kansas State.”

Recently, Weber has had some whiny post-game press briefings. He had some of those at Illinois. In a late-season 2012 loss to Purdue, Weber harped on his players and praised opposing players. He said,  “Instead of creating toughness and developing a team, I coached not to lose all year. And that’s really sad.”

Does that sound familiar? How can a coach admit that he couldn’t create a culture of winning — his players were undeserving and the opposing players were so praise-worthy.

As Weber found soon after his hiring at K-State, he faced the same negative vibes when hired in 2003 at Illinois. Many Illini fans saw him as a downgrade from Self, who left for Kansas. In Weber’s first season at Illinois, he wore black and held a mock funeral for Self after hearing the comparisons too often.

In nine seasons, he posted a 210-101 record and took the Illini to second place in the 2005 NCAAs, losing to North Carolina 75-70 in the finals. In his first three seasons there, he went 26-7, 37-2 and 26-7. It was double-digit losses the last six seasons.

Before Illinois and K-State, Weber coached at mid-major Southern Illinois, going 103-54 and making it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2002 with a 28-8 record.

He went 27-8 in his first season at K-State, basically with players that Martin recruited.

This team is coming off a 20-13 record overall and a fifth-place 10-8 finish in the conference last season. New recruits received high praise. Then there was the return of projected good players, including much-hyped Foster. You look at Foster’s body language now and you don’t have to be a profiler to see he’s not a happy player.

Geez, did Will Spradling and Shane Southwell mean that much! They’re the main ones lost off last season’s team.

Does this team have talent? Well, the Cats played Arizona tough before losing 72-68. They have victories over Texas A&M 71-64, Oklahoma twice 66-63 and 59-56, Baylor 63-61 (the same team they lost to by 27 on Saturday) and Oklahoma State 63-53.

All season long the Cats have lacked the ability to make that key defensive play, that key shot. While at times they appear solid on defense, look closely at you’ll see weak-side attention disappear and an unguarded three-point shot results. Check out how they defend players off the dribble. Lousy.

Inside offensive play has been, well, just say bad. The guards can’t make entry passes; the post players have hands of stone; and at-the-rim shots either clank or lack energy.

An there’s Weber after the games with the whiny statements: “I just want guys that care. That is all I want, guys that care and want to play for K-State and want to play to win and will play hard.

“It’s pretty simple. I’m not a genius, by no means. But I have coached a long time and I know what is right and what is wrong. When guys won’t compete and battle and come to practice every day … You can’t just come once in a while and think you are going to be a great college player. You have to bring it every day.”

He praised a couple of reserves who were giving their all, saying he wanted players who hustled and paid attention in practice. That sounds great. But watch some of those reserves and they can’t shoot; they can’t pass. Of course, the starters have trouble with fundamentals, too. Jevon Thomas should have very little playing time at point guard; he lacks court savvy and his shot is flawed.

Simply because KU is the foe, the K-State fans will go bonkers tonight. KU is easy for them to hate.

The Jayhawks haven’t played in a comfort zone for most of the season, but they have already posted another 20-win record, including a 68-57 victory over the Cats in Lawrence.

The veteran, Perry Ellis, and the new guy, Devonté Graham, are coming off strong performances in the 82-71 victory Saturday over TCU in Lawrence. Ellis scored 23 points on 9 of 10 shooting — he added a game-high seven rebounds. The two of them hit 10 of 10 shots in the second half with Graham scoring 20 points for the game.

KU shot 58 percent from the field and has posted a 52 percent mark in the last four games.

And, ho-hum, Self improved to 347-74 while at KU.

Reagan’s History Will Prove to Be No Epic

I’ve often said that history will not be kind to Ronald Reagan. I stand by that today.

Just as his acting role as George Gipp in the Knute Rockne Story, he turned in an acting performance as President.

Everything about Gipp is a myth, a sports tale woven by overzealous Hollywood promoters and gullible sportswriters.

Reagan ran the President’s office  according to script. His fiction extended into real life.

At a speech in 1940 during a Notre Dame alumni rally in Los Angeles, he displayed his talents as an actor in a fictional situation. He bragged to the alumni group that he had an occasion to talk to Gipp. Slight problem. Reagan was 9 years old when Gipp died.

Independent Senator Bernie Saunders of Vermont recently took to the Senate floor and offered a stunning chart that showed just how poorly most Americans have fared during economic recoveries since the advent of Reaganomics. The chart started by showing that in the decades after World War II, the bottom 90 percent of the country captured most of the growth in income during rebounds from tough times. But then came the Reagan era, and what George H. W. Bush once dubbed “voodoo economics.” After Reagan implemented his policies, the top 10 percent grabbed nearly 80 percent of the growth in incomes coming out of the oil crises of the late ’70s.

“Whoa! What happens in 1982?” Sanders said, noting the dramatic reversal in his diagram. “Well, Ronald Reagan is president.” And trickle-down economics went into effect.

The Republicans deal in considerable Reagan-speak. They adore him. What they don’t talk about are his many downsides in office.

  • As governor of California, Reagan signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up till then. State spending nearly doubled. As president, he raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office.
  • During the Reagan presidency, the debt increased to nearly $3 trillion, roughly three timesas much as the first 80 years of the century had done altogether.  The government went deeper into debt and he had to raise taxes just a year after he enacted his tax cut. Despite ten more tax hikes on everything from gasoline to corporate income, Reagan was never able to get the deficit under control.
  • Unemployment jumped to 10.8 during his presidency. Income inequality exploded. Despite the myth that he presided over an era of unmatched economic boom for all Americans, he disproportionately taxedthe poor and middle class, but the economic growth of the 1980s did little to help them.
  • Women especially have been hit hard because of the continued use of Reagan policies. He advocated a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother.
  • Reagan signed into law a bill that made any immigrant who had entered the country before 1982 eligible for amnesty. The tough sanctions on employers who hired undocumented immigrants were removed before final passage. The bill helped 3 million people and millions more family members togain American residency.
  • Many conservatives saber-rattle when discussing Iran. Well, Reagan and other senior U.S. officials secretly sold arms to officials in Iran in exchange for American hostages. The infamous Iran-Contra scandal ensued.
  • In 1982. Reagan sent peace-keeping forces to Beirut, Lebanon. The next year, 241 U.S. service personnel, including 220 Marines, were killed by a truck bomb at the compound there. In 1984, Reagan pulled the troops out.

Those are Reagan realities.

Political insiders believe he was suffering from Alzheimer’s in the late stages of his presidency. Others believe he simply followed the script provided by a conservative brain trust. Jokesters said he made the decisions based on his wife Nancy’s astrology charts.

He was an actor who made good in politics.

His acting career began in 1937 with Warner Brothers. In World War II, he served in the Army Air Force assigned to a film production unit. His early movies included Dark Victory, Kings Row and Bedtime for Bonzo.

What a perfect part for him in the Rockne movie. Gipp was nothing like he was pictured. Win One for the Gipper. Yeah, right. Gipp’s legend as a former Notre Dame star halfback ranks right up there in sports fiction.

There was Pat O’Brien, playing Rockne, leaning over the death bed of Gipp, who was explaining he wasn’t afraid to die: “Some time, Rock, when the team’s up against it; when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys — tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.” Never happened in real life. Well, of course, in the movie the Fighting Irish stormed to the field and won with Gipp’s inspiring words.

Let’s take a little longer look at Gipp. His life was made into a lie and Reagan capitalized on it.

Gipp’s beginnings were humble. He grew up in the rough mining area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, spending most of his time shooting pool and playing semi-pro baseball. On weekends, he drove a taxi, shuttling drunken copper miners to the local whorehouse. Three years after he dropped out of high school, Gipp was offered a baseball scholarship to Notre Dame and was accepted as a “conditional freshman.” Gipp’s exceptional athletic abilities became immediately apparent as he starred in both baseball and football, eventually becoming Notre Dame’s first football All-American.

His talents in the classroom were less spectacular. In two of his four years at Notre Dame —  he died during his fifth year — he received no grades whatsoever.

In 1920, school President Father Burns expelled Gipp for cutting too many classes. Pressure mounted, however, and Father Burns relented and allowed Gipp return.

The scholarship wasn’t full-funding so  Gipp earned money shooting pool in downtown South Bend. His wagering became so lucrative that he quit the waiter’s job after one semester. Eventually, he moved off campus to South Bend’s Oliver Hotel, a luxury spot known for its high stakes gambling. He would periodically travel to Elkhart, Indiana, to beat railroad workers out of their paychecks through either pool or poker. Keep in perspective that these hustling trips occurred in the middle of a glamorous headline-grabbing college career.

Gipp also bet on his own football games.

Gipp’s deathbed was where the real myth-making began. First off, he was never called “The Gipper.” Second, although Rockne had visited Gipp at the hospital, Rockne was not at the deathbed. The inspirational words were never whispered in Rockne’s ears. Rockne never even mentioned Gipp’s supposed deathbed request until eight years later in 1928 at the Army game.

The Gipper speech didn’t enter mainstream American culture until the 1940 Warner Brothers film. Reagan campaigned heavily for the George Gipp role and the “Win One for the Gipper” line eventually became his successful political battle-cry.

When film roles began to dwindle in the late 1950s, Reagan turned to television, where he hosted and acted in a number of programs, most notably the General Electric Theater. He was fired by General Electric in 1962 in response to his reference to the TVA as one of the problems of “big government.” In 1964, Reagan took over as host of Death Valley Days and also appeared in acting roles.

His acting career ended in 1965, and he entered politics, being elected to two terms as Governor of California, then serving two terms as President.

As a politician, he was a so-so actor.

Is D.C. Business a Bribe or Just Lobbying?

Maybe you can say it’s all about semantics when you discuss the ramifications of doing the nation’s business in Washington, D.C. — it seems more like dirty influence peddling instead of clean lobbying.

In 1983, Teamster President Roy Williams, a man long associated with Kansas City, was sentenced to 55 years in prison after being found guilty of trying to bribe Nevada Senator Howard Cannon. According to the charges, Williams and four others offered Cannon exclusive rights to buy Teamster-owned land at a reduced price in return for his help in scuttling a trucking deregulation bill, the Motor Carrier Regular Reform and Modernization Act of 1980. Cannon was not charged.

Earlier this year, the 114th Congress made the Keystone Pipeline bill the No. 1 priority out of the legislative chute. You could infer the reason was the lobbying efforts of the Koch brothers, who hold extensive lease rights to tar sands reservoirs in Canada.

One is a bribe. The other is congressional procedure.

Is the difference nuanced? Why is one legal and the other not? Do congressmen receive trips to plush golf resorts from lobbyists in exchange for support of a particular bill? How about piles of cash to campaign?

Oh yes, indeed, lots of money.

Ever since the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC, lobbyists and political action groups have heaped donations on the those running for office. Do you think the donors want something in return?

The Supreme Court ruling in 2010 opened the vaults. In the run-up to the 2008 election, the Federal Elections Commission blocked the conservative nonprofit Citizens United from airing a film about Hillary Clinton based on a law barring companies from using their funds for “electioneering communications” within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. The organization sued, arguing that, because people’s campaign donations are a protected form of speech and corporations and people enjoy the same legal rights, the government can’t limit a corporation’s independent political donations. The Supreme Court agreed.

So corporations are people. Well, as people, corporations suck. These affluent companies can pour tons of money into a pet project. You and I, as real people, can’t afford the plunge.

The American Petroleum Institute spent more than $7 million lobbying federal officials in 2012 and paying $85.5 million to four public relations and advertising firms to, in effect, lobby the public. From 2008 through 2012, annual tax filings show, the API paid public relations firm Edelman $327.4 million.

Then there’s the goody-goody BP ads. In 2012, just 20 months after its massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP pushed a slick nationwide public relations campaign to persuade Americans that the Gulf now sports sparkling beaches, booming businesses, smiling fishermen and waters bursting with seafood. It was propaganda, pure and simple.

Business associations — led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — paid PR and advertising firms at least $214.9 million from 2008 through 2012. The U.S. Chamber, the nation’s biggest lobby and a prolific spender on political ads, paid $173.5 million to its top advertising firms during the five-year period.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the finance, insurance and real estate sector contracts with advertising and PR agencies paid $184.5 million to contractors. The sector was led by the National Association of Realtors and America’s Health Insurance Plans.

The food and beverage industry paid out $104.5 million from 2008-2012. Big spenders included the American Beverage Association, which has been shelling out millions to try and keep cities and states from taxing sugary drinks.

Edelman, the country’s largest independent public relations firm with $747 million in fee income in 2013, employs more than 5,000 workers. And they work over the legislative process.

The company is known for its at-times controversial tactics. In 2006, the firm was forced to apologize for creating a misleading grassroots campaign for Wal-Mart. To polish the company’s reputation, the agency had created “Working Families for Wal-Mart,” for which a couple drove across the country blogging positive accounts of the retail giant’s employees and customers — initially without disclosing that they were compensated. The campaign, which launched amid bad press about the company’s employment practices, sought to portray Wal-Mart workers as happy middle-class families.

The steady rise in public relations worldwide spending has been accompanied by an overall drop in lobbying spending, beyond the trade group sector. That would seem to erode the power status of lobbying in D.C. Well, it shouldn’t. The change may indicate a shift toward “soft lobbying,” a strategy that enables groups to influence public policy not only with public relations, but through think tanks, nonprofit organizations and grassroots units that aren’t subject to federal disclosure rules.

It’s lobbying, in the true sense. Or maybe you would consider to call it simply, influence peddling.

In D.C., lobbying expenditures peaked in 2010, when special interests spent $3.6 billion on lobbying federal lawmakers. Think about that figure — that’s billion not million. While you wouldn’t know it with all the offices on K Street in D.C., the number of registered lobbyists has also dropped.

The golden age for PR has coincided with the decline of mainstream journalism, especially newspapers, which have suffered from plummeting ad revenue that has necessitated layoffs in newsrooms across the country.

Journalism schools, including the one at the University of Missouri, place less emphasis on mainstream journalism and more on the public relations sequence.

Not only are PR professionals outnumbering journalists by a ratio of 4.6 to 1, but also the salary gap between the two occupations has grown to almost $20,000 a year, according to the Pew Research Center. The widening employment and income disparities have left journalists underpaid, overworked and increasingly unable to undertake independent, in-depth reporting.

And that frees up more public relations firms to muddy the stream of facts.

Williams did go to prison for his influence peddling. Well, so did a big-time lobbyist and his cohorts. Jack Abramoff was at the center of an extensive corruption investigation that led to his conviction and to 21 persons either pleading guilty or being found guilty, including White House officials J. Steven Griles and David Safavian, U.S. Representative Bob Ney and nine lobbyists and Congressional aides.

A grassroots Republican, Abramoff served on the board of directors of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. From 1994 to 2001, he was a top lobbyist for  Preston Gates & Ellis and then until march 2004 for Greenberg Traurig. He became a wheeler and dealer, connecting with influential GOP hierarchy, including Tom DeLay, house majority leader from 2003 to 2005.

Executives of Naftasib, a Russian energy company, funneled almost $3.4 million to Abramoff and DeLay advisor Ed Buckham between 1997 and 2005. About $60,000 was spent on a trip to Russia in 1997 for DeLay, Buckham and Abramoff. In 1998, $1 million was sent to Buckham through his organization U.S. Family Network to “influence DeLay’s vote in 1998 on legislation that helped make it possible for the International Monetary Fund to bail out the faltering Russian economy.” DeLay voted for the legislation.

After a guilty plea in his dealings with SanCruz Casinos in January 2006, Abramoff was sentenced to six years in federal prison for mail fraud, conspiracy to bribe public officials and tax evasion. He served 43 months before being released on December 3, 2010. After his release from prison, he wrote an autobiographical book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist, which was published in November 2011.

So you wonder why progressives decry the GOP declaration that corporations are people. All that money, all that temptation. It’s just a crime what they can do.

Snow in Boston More Than Just About Data

Kansans historians recall the blizzard of 1886. Missouri weathermen talk with disdain about the snow storm that raked through the state in 1989. Many area residents remember how bad the snow and cold were in 2013.

Well, let me tell you something, the folks in Boston are experiencing one helluva snow disaster. A transplanted Kansan, who has seen the snowstorms sweep across the prairie, has lived in Boston for some time now and she will tell you the records are all about data but they don’t measure the discomforts that storms of this nature create.

Phyllis Miller, my wife’s aunt, writes beautifully, even when the words describe how snow can create a scenic yet ugly landscape. Her essay, Boston Winter 2015, written Monday, follows:

 

We’ve just had our fourth snowstorm in three weeks. We knew the storm was coming. We have known when all the storms were coming. The advance information is excellent. Stay indoors, no traffic on the streets, the “T” will suspend service, snow plows will be working through night and day. We have been prepared with food, flashlights and other emergency items. What we haven’t been prepared for is the toll the storms have been taking on our sanity.

Some places have had 6 feet of snow, some have had more. Records have been broken or are about to be broken. I see huge piles of snow outside my window, one lane cleared on my street, people shoveling with no place to put the snow. There is more snow than we can remember. It is piled higher than our heads along the sidewalks. Icicles hanging down from roofs are 3-4 feet long. We have frigid temperatures and there is no sign of melting any time soon. And—there is going to be more snow in the next two days.

On an ordinary day, after I finish my exercises and yoga, I like to take a walk, usually on my way to run an errand, but sometimes just to enjoy the season—take a stroll along the river, maybe stop to watch the ducks swimming or the leaves falling or the people enjoying the day. It’s been a long time since I’ve had an ordinary day. Now I walk a fine line between trying to do as much of my normal routine as possible, and just giving up and crawling into my burrow.

Today the sun is shining. The temperature is plus 16 degrees, but feels like minus 16. I have to dress warmly. It’s not like a pleasant walk along the Charles River. The wind coming across the river is brutal. The snow is deep although walkways are mostly cleared. At the corners the snow might be shoveled—but most likely, not. Everyone has to shovel the snow in front of their house—but no one lives on the corner so no one shovels the corner. It’s a one-foot path made by people trying to cross the street.

There is just too much snow. Cars are buried. If you manage to shovel out your car you can leave lawn chairs or other items to save your space. But do you really want to shovel out your car? Where will you put the snow? Where do you really want to go? If you must go to work it is not easy. The “T” is scrambling to clear the tracks and get back on a regular schedule. It will take time. Trying to drive to work takes time—a long time.

On my walk I checked on my car. It is not buried but it is surrounded by 3-4 feet of snow. I could not get in and drive anywhere even if I wanted to. I feel as if I am in the middle of a very long winter and maybe spring is not coming after all. Spring, with the magnolia trees in blossom, the birds building nests, the crocuses and tulips blooming, the river making its way to the sea . . .

 

You can imagine the woes of those suffering through the problems. But can you truly feel the impact? You can imagine the pall of loneliness living by yourself in a sea of whiteness. But can you truly feel the effects?

We in the Midwest generally snicker when the Big Media of the East concentrate on certain news items that we often face and are ignored — like snowstorms, like cold, like racial tensions, like financial strife. However, this is one time that we can feel empathy.

We can read about the blizzard of 1886 that still ranks as the granddaddy of blizzards in Kansas. But can we really identify. That January storm produced 40 mph winds, killed dozens of people, thousands of cattle and left drifts as high as the trains stranded out on the plains. It took more than a week to dig out and more than a month to survey the damage. Hardest hit were the folks in western Kansas. Many of them lived in dugouts or crudely constructed sheds that offered no protection against the freezing temperatures and blowing snow. Once stranded in their homes, many ran out of fuel and food.

Will history chronicle the Boston Snowstorm of 2015 with such graphic results? Obviously, time will tell.

Sunday’s blizzard shut down the region once again, costing state and city governments additional millions of dollars in cleanup costs and depriving the local economy of millions more in lost holiday weekend revenue, as weather-weary residents learned with dread that another possible storm loomed midweek, and yet another next weekend.

For some residents who took to the roads, by car and on foot, there were disastrous results. Massachusetts State Police reported a pileup of more than 20 cars on Interstate 95 South.

Roof and building collapses were reported to police and fire departments.

The Grim Reaper may be hovering over the wintery landscape but so far it’s Boston 1, The Snowy Grim Reaper 0.

Funny Money Sways Keystone Cops

With all the needs of the country, why in the world would the 114th Congress make the Keystone Pipeline the No. 1 bill to consider? Most folks don’t seem to give a damn about the whole issue. Congressmen sure do. So why?

I pondered the question. Then I overheard a discussion on TV — just catching the last piece of a statement. “… the Koch brothers are the largest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands.”

Sure. Of course. They stand to make millions of dollars off the drilling with added transportation in place.

No wonder, huh. The Koch lobbyists have the ears of their congressional minions and with all that money for campaigns and such, well, the legislative system is ready to deliver.

As it turns out, there’s some dispute about just who has more leases. But that should be of little matter because the Kochs hold a lot of them. One estimate says they own 2 million acres.

It’s difficult calculating the exact amount because big companies frequently use brokers or private affiliates to quietly buy rights without triggering a scramble for nearby acreage.

Two Canadian energy companies, Cenovus Energy and Athabasca Corporation, may own just a bit more than the Kochs.

The point is, however, that Republicans in Congress jumped on this bill and rode it hard — with Koch money acting as the prod. The Senate and House approved the 1,179-mile pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, but President Obama has vowed to veto the measure. It would be just the third veto of Obama’s presidency.

Environmentalists have many concerns, from spills to carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

However, you talk to many folks in the neighborhood, at the diner or at the next desk and they shrug, wondering what all the fuss is about. Those who have a little knowledge of the pipeline say railroads already are carrying the tar sands crude over hill and dale. That’s right. But do you want more chances for accidents by adding a pipeline?

Here’s a big-time litigant problem, one that I think should in itself keep Keystone from becoming a reality: The pipeline owners would have no liability in a massive spill. Oh these big oil advocates are sneaky. You may have heard that the bill that passed addresses the issue of TransCanada’s liability. It does, indeed. In a cleverly crafted way. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, put forth a “sense of the Senate” amendment that all types of oil companies should be required to pay a per-barrel tax that goes into a government fund for oil spill cleanup. That allows those voting for the bill to say, “Oh, yeah, we have something in there about TransCanada having to pay.”

The amendment passed 75-23. A “sense of the Senate” is hollow with no enforcement mechanisms. Senators could have approved two other amendments that actually would have imposed authority to collect the tax,  but they did not.

So you say railroads already are carrying oil across land and creating danger. You’re right. A big accident occurred yesterday. A CSX freight train jumped the tracks and burst into flames in Fayette County, West Virginia, forcing the evacuation of at least 2,400 residents of nearby towns. Several of the cars fell into the Kanawha River after 25 cars of the 109-car freighter derailed. At least 14 oil tankers were burning, the Associated Press reported. Witnesses said the fireball went 300 feet into the air.

In the river. Can you imagine the clean-up problems! Yes, transportation of oil is dangerous. That’s why more emphasis should be placed on alternative energy sources, why all forms of shipping should be limited. More safety is needed.

Who pays for the damage in railroad derailments? State tort laws may apply. Liability insurance may apply. The affected communities will pay one way or another. According to several reports, the railroads don’t have the sweetheart liability deal legislatively struck by Congress for Keystone.

Tar sands crude is so difficult to clean up after a spill. Residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, are still suffering as millions and millions of dollars are being poured in to clean up tar sands discharges. The spill in Kalamazoo was five years ago, the one in Mayflower two years ago. Still cleaning it up. At huge costs.

And that doesn’t even count the problems of polluting the air. The Keystone pipeline, if in operation, would carry 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands daily. Right, daily. The climate-damaging emissions would be equal to more than 5.6 million new cars on U.S. roads. Think about it.

Well, many don’t, even though the pipeline would cross major rivers — including the Missouri — and the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies so much clean water to so many.

Disinterest? Last Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate’s version of a bill to approve the construction of the pipeline. The television network coverage?  ABC’s World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News chose to ignore the story. NBC Nightly News made it the second topic covered on its broadcast; the news brief lasted only 11 seconds.

Several Democrats, ones expected to protect the rights of the common folks against the big guys, voted for the measure. Missouri Senator Claire McKaskill was one of them.

This is not a jobs bill — only 35 people are needed to run the pipeline once it would be built and in operation. But it is a bill that will create danger for many, many folks.

TransCandada is trying to buy up land for the pipeline through eminent domain. Some landowners are holding out, declining the huge offers of money. They know what destruction a leak in this pipeline would wreak.

Environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council oppose the project. Five years ago, the council stated that “the Keystone XL Pipeline undermines the U.S. commitment to a clean energy economy, instead delivering dirty fuel at high costs”.

James Hansen, NASA climate climate scientist, said in 2013 that “moving to tar sands, one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet” is a step in exactly the wrong direction, “indicating either that governments don’t understand the situation or that they just don’t give a damn.”

But knowing that the Koch brothers own so many leases should at least explain why there is so much interest in Congress. Just think: The No. 1 bill taken up by Congress is one that can pollute so much of the country with just one accident.

Shouldn’t you ask why? Shouldn’t your elected officials vote against it? Guess it’s money talking again.

Religion and Politics Mix — Explosively

It has nothing to do with the cold or the snow or the fact it’s Presidents Day. I’m irritated because of the way Republicans continually go against President Obama, no matter what it is. Here was politician and pundit Mike Huckabee twisting statements by President Obama in reference to the Crusades and the Inquisition.

Anyone who believes religion hasn’t played a role in war and terrorism is overlooking Matthew 10:34.

Through history, religious followers have engaged in battle and are doing so today. Recent times reflect a religious bent for violence. The Ku Klux Klan certainly invoked Christianity as its members intimidated Jews and blacks. The Tuskegee Institute archives show that from 1882 to 1964, 3,445 blacks were lynched. How much of that can you blame the Klan? I would say quite a bit.

How about the violence outside Planned Parenthood centers? The Army of God and Operation Rescue identify with Christian principles. The Army of God is described as an  underground terrorist organization responsible for a substantial amount of anti-abortion violence. In addition to numerous property crimes, the group has committed acts of kidnapping, attempted murder and murder. Operation Rescue is a right-wing anti-abortion group  with a history of advocating, encouraging and employing aggressive and outright violent tactics to combat abortion.

There’s no question that anti-abortion  violence is a form of terrorism.

In Obama’s comments recently at the National Prayer Breakfast, he condemned violence in the name of religion and pointed to religious groups other than the Islamic State that had perpetrated acts of terror.

“Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place,” the President said, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

The President criticized those who resort to twisting and distorting religion, noting incidents of sectarian war and violence in Syria, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, as well as a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe.

Obama noted at the breakfast, “In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.”

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue called the President’s intertwining of religions as an attempt to deflect guilt from Muslim madmen and argued that Christian crusaders were merely defending themselves against hostile Muslim neighbors. Donohue simply revised history with his argument.

Huckabee made the strongest charges — maybe preaching to his base for a possible run for the presidency in 2016. He called Obama’s words nothing short of shocking. Then he said Obama was against  Christians and Jews in Israel, and that Muslims were the “one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support.” Which, of course, Obama doesn’t.

Huckabee added, “How on earth he could go back a thousand years in history and pick up something that Christians did in response to Muslim aggression and somehow blame Christians for the burning of a Jordanian pilot, for the cutting off of the heads of children who are Christians, it’s just absolutely stunning to me.”

The man of cloth speaks with forked tongue. Obama never blamed Christians for the burning of the Jordanian pilot or the beheadings. Obama, who focused his speech on humanity’s struggle to reconcile the good and evil that has been done in the name of religion, said religious fanatics “throughout human history” have “distorted their faith.” He said this perversion of religion is “not unique to … one religion.”

Huckabee also claimed that Obama “never said these people are a perversion of Islam.” Obama didn’t use the word “perversion” but he did say “we … see faith being twisted and distorted” and that ISIS and its supporters “professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it.”

Brooks Jackson, director emeritus of FactCheck.org, wrote that Huckabee also was wrong when he said Obama brought in Jim Crow laws as if Christians were responsible for racism in America. What Obama did say was: “Slavery and Jim Crow all too often were justified in the name of Christ.” And that’s true.

Duke University has an extensive collection of the Ku Klux Klan’s existence from 1916 to 1987. The documents describe the group during this period as a 20th Century secret fraternal group held to confine its membership to American-born white Protestant Christians. The Constitution and Laws of the Knights of the Klan says members must be “white male Gentile person” and “a believer in the tenets of the Christian Religion.”

The Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution at its convention in 1995 regarding slavery: “Many of our Southern Baptist forbears defended the right to own slaves, and either participated in, supported, or acquiesced in the particularly inhumane nature of American slavery.”

Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister. He should know that.

As for Jews in Israel, Jackson noted that the most recent Pew Global Attitudes Project survey from last spring found 71 percent of Israelis had either “some” or “a lot” of confidence that Obama would “do the right thing regarding world affairs.”

Furthermore, the same poll showed that most people in several Muslim countries didn’t reflect Huckabee’s opinion about support for Obama. In Egypt, only 19 percent had any confidence that Obama would do right. In Tunisia it was 27 percent, in Turkey 24 percent, in the Palestinian territories 13 percent and in Pakistan it was just 7 percent.

“Opinions are one thing,” Jackson said, “even if poorly supported by facts. But bearing false witness about another person’s own words is another. Reverend Huckabee could do better.”

But, of course, politicians continue to proselytize during campaigns. It’s to their base of evangelicals.

What is intriguing to me is that so many who commit to Jesus Christ spend so much time trying to get the government to promote their particular religion — posting the Ten Commandments in city halls, seeking biblical teachings in the public schools and professing that the country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. The country was not. The founders were deists.

Look, the United States has total freedom of religion. Why do they spend so much time fighting the existence of other denominations? Maybe they should do a better job in their churches. Maybe they should acknowledge peace and good will toward men with more fervor. Maybe then they wouldn’t have to spend so much time selling their religion.