Saturday, December 22, 2012


We weren’t initially intending to write about the spirit of the Christmas season now upon us, rather follow up on the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In doing so, however, we found the spirit of Christmas all around us.   

First, as predicted, the gun debate has, thankfully, once again been refueled by the senseless tragedy in Connecticut. We wonder if a saner and more mature nation would have taken action without this heartbreak. A much more resolute citizenry is now at the fore with it appearing a consensus that some substantive action will follow. We all need to make sure that happens and those efforts aren’t hijacked by special interest groups. At the very least limiting the availability of military style weapons and embracing a more responsible approach to mental health issues needs to happen.

The NRA has proposed the use of armed guards in all our schools though some feel this may turn our society into one big armed camp which may even invite confrontation. We remember 2009 when at Fort Hood (a place with a lot of guns), an Army psychiatrist murdered twelve people and injured 31 others.  Hmmmmmmm… Is it the intent of the NRA to put armed guards in all public places? How about all places of prayer – Sikh temples and Muslim mosques?

We wonder now if we will ever find the motivation – that kernel of hate and insanity – that prompted Lanza to go on his lunatic rampage.  The Connecticut State Police have insinuated that while they have found significant evidence they also revealed that Adam Lanza destroyed the hard drive on his computer.  With no known notes, manifesto or declaration it certainly appears now that Lanza intended his rampage to be an undecipherable action – a riddle that would forever fester and confound.

Newtown, Connecticut continues to memorialize and bury their dead and whatever the season, capturing the attention and hearts of caring and compassionate people all around a grieving world. We especially noted the local 26 random Acts of Kindness (AOK) inspired by NBC's Ann Curry and carried out by the Irving, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) in the memory of the Sandy Hook Elementary School students and staff.  For example, a Lady from Dallas got her cat food paid for at a PETCO store in honor of 6-year-old animal lover Catherine Hubbard.  The Irving CVB's 26th act of kindness was to send a special delivery to Curry, thanking her for inspiring them. That act will honor the memory of 27-year-old teacher Vicki Soto who was an inspiration to all of her students.  We say, well done… but perhaps there should be 27 AOK and maybe we should do this 24/7, 365 days a year?

One good Friend expressed her grief over the senseless Connecticut killings by quoting American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1863 poem "Christmas Bells" that chronicles Longfellow’s despair upon being notified that his eldest son had been severely wounded at the Battle of New Hope Church in the American Civil War.  Longfellow’s depression had also been fueled and rekindled by the loss of his wife who died in an accidental fire. His poem has morphed into the popular Christmas hymn, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

While Longfellow’s first few stanzas relate the Christmas message of the power of love and peace on earth he soon turns to cynicism and despair, "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men." 

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day.
Their old familiar carols play
And loud and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of a Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said
"For hate is strong and it mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Our Friend ended her message prematurely and failed to offer Longfellow’s final stanza which we reminded her of and offered, thusly.  

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead nor does He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

So Longfellow survived like us to realize and recognize the persistence of the spirit of Man in the strength of those Christmas Bells – the victory of Man, where God and Right will always and ultimately prevail. So, when you hear I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, pay attention to the lyrics and remember.

And that’s our message this week and forever.  Do not despair, but with a more resolute demeanor do everything you can to insure that this horror will never happen again.  Just listen to those Christmas Bells. Mourn our loss and remember those who passed but also embrace what one of the world’s greatest social thinkers, John Ruskin, offered in 1866, "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."  So, it’s time to walk the walk- a fitting memorial along with some random Acts of Kindness. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Peace and Love to Newtown.


Ned Buxton

Thursday, December 20, 2012


So, here’s the scenario, taxes are going up for the most wealthy and potentially most everybody else next year no matter what.  The fiscal cliff and “agreement” worked out by Republicans and Democrats that includes massive spending cuts that nobody wants certainly looks like it will be engaged in 2013. All the recent activity in Washington DC has been directed to come up with an agreement that will balance those increases by engaging them for the wealthiest and limiting them for the middle and lower income individuals. All that, say the Republicans, has to be coupled with spending cuts. We agree.  Both parties offer spending cuts though the Republicans still refuse to allow substantive increases for the wealthy even though increases will go through whatever the outcome of their faux deliberations.

After what appears to be less than cordial individual debate between Republican House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama – Boehner came up with what he called his, “Plan B”.  Boehner’s proposal would extend the tax cuts set to expire for most Americans at year’s end though allowing for increases on income over $1 million dollars, well beyond Obama’s initial $250K or $400K concession. This evening the Republican House narrowly passed a plan that would modify and replace the spending cuts set to commence on January 1st 2013. But that was only window dressing and political theater as the White House already stated they would veto the bill and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had already stated he would not bring it to the Senate floor. At this point the issue appears moot and it would take a miracle to revive any substantive debate.

Some call this a Republican gambit (with an emphasis on ruse) to deflect from their inability to even get their own members to sign on to Boehner’s “Plan B”.  The Republicans have absolutely no leverage and an apparent inability to read the current polls that favor the President’s strategies.

We may be wrong (we hope so) but we offer some advice - hang on gang.  Friday could be a wild and bumpy ride for US stocks and our economy if the stock market takes this vote to heart. We hope they don’t and understand that all this could be solved quickly once we take the dive.

I read a thread tonight from a blogger and thought it summed up the opinion of many and potentially a prediction of things to come for the Republicans and an even more contentious political environment. He/she opined,

“However awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge, one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier -- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the center of American politics, it is extremely difficult to enact policies responsive to the country's most pressing challenges.”

Difficult, indeed. Right now is certainly appears that we are going over the fiscal cliff being led by Republican lemmings. The US will experience significant negative economic, employment and social consequences.  The world’s financial markets have already reacted, sensing the impending plunge.  Additional relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy is even being held hostage by the Republicans. The absurdity of the Republican’s mostly philosophical position will certainly weaken the GOP who hoisted on its own petard and further tarnishing their brand; will assure that which they are fighting against - higher taxes for the wealthy. And you know what?  They still don’t even see it…

If you have any assets you want to protect, you probably should have already counseled with your banker and broker.  Tomorrow is December 21, 2012 – Maybe the Maya were right after all… Tomorrow and the next two weeks will be interesting. 


Ned Buxton

Saturday, December 15, 2012


We need note that the Sandy Hook massacre took place only just over 32 hours ago, but the argument (it is just that now) is already raging again over gun control.  We think that any discussion on this topic is in the public good.  If we don’t constructively “Stop, Look & Listen” this time, we may once again and forever lose the opportunity for productive debate.  Ironically, that may even be Adam Lanza’s legacy…

Everybody, please know that we are very early on in this investigation where conflicting information is already surfacing about the shooter and his Mother Nancy - a supposed elementary school teacher at Sandy Hook.  Sources at the school are now saying that they have never heard of her.  There is obviously a lot of work to be done with the truth of it all yet to be determined.

What we do know is that Adam Lanza is the known (not alleged), deranged, “developmentally disabled” killer of 26 people (20 children and 6 adults) at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Lanza is already being analyzed post mortem by neighbors, former fellow students, psychologists, behaviorists and, among many others, this writer.  Few have anything positive to say about Lanza, except that he was a bright kid who excelled in school. It is apparent that he had several tell-tale signs of some kind of mental disorder (one neighbor said he was on medication), yet no alarm bells reportedly ever went off.  Though some state they were nervous around him, he was apparently perceived as benign and non-threatening. We ask, then, where were the school psychologists? Where were the professionals that were supposedly treating him for his mental disorders – whatever/whoever they were?  Maybe that will all come out so we can shore up that system.

The horror and the magnitude of this act demands our attention, now, more than the all too numerous previous mass killings combined.  This is tragically new territory – killing kids/our babies – and should be the proverbial last straw and the one that breaks the camel’s back.  This post is directed to our lawmakers and anyone else who will listen.  The message – we have to finally and inexorably address the issue of gun control as well as the care and treatment for the mentally disabled.

I grew up in the NRA and have shot competitively.  My grandfather was Range Master for the Massasoit Gun Club.  I owned guns and know how to use them. I had a carry permit years ago in Georgia, but no longer.  I do not think, however, that any John or Susan Doe walking off the street or having access to a computer and a credit card should be able to purchase (in-store or on-line) a Remington .223 Bushmaster assault rifle (magazine 30+ rounds) without raising some alarms somewhere.  Having said that, two pistols - a 9 mm Glock (17 round magazine) and a 9 mm Sig Sauer P226 (15 round magazine) were on the scene though the Medical Examiner today related that the Bushmaster apparently was Lanza’s weapon of choice.   

Preliminary reports say those guns (as many as five total?) were legally purchased and registered to Lanza’s Mother Nancy?  We were led to initially believe that Nancy Lanza was a kindergarten teacher hence the incredulity of many wondering why (in God’s name) she would purchase an assault rifle – a weapon designed to do one thing – kill people?  Well, it seems that she collected guns and took her kids target shooting.  Was Nancy Lanza really a “collector” or did she make a straw purchase for Adam?   

We don’t know the answer to those questions yet but have great confidence that Connecticut law enforcement authorities including their forensic teams will figure all that out.  We note that Adam was 20 and you have to be 21 to legally purchase and own any firearm in Connecticut (Federal law though some states have tweaked it).  If the identity of the purchaser of the weapons is not called to question, that begs another whole issue that has to be part of any future gun control legislation.  Why keep firearms around someone who is mentally disturbed?

While I am not a profiler, photos of Adam Lanza show a nerdy-looking, frail and awkward kid that would pique my curiosity and may even set off alarms - if he came into my store or logged onto my web site looking to purchase a Bushmaster assault rifle.  Would I treat him any different?  Probably not, but I would sure as hell check his ID (OK, maybe a little closer) and order the obligatory background investigations.  If Adam Lanza was 21 years of age, he would have had the right to legally try to purchase all those weapons – the purchase ultimately dependent on a background check.     

For those detractors who may complain that profiling in this manner is unfair and subjective, we think you have to start somewhere and geek or not, right or not, who the hell needs an assault rifle?  The Bushmaster assault rifle looks to me like an AR-15 clone and is the same rifle used by the Washington DC sniper several years ago.  The fact that this weapon (or any other military grade device) is still being manufactured and made available to the general public causes great concern.  Yes, the Federal ban on assault weapons lapsed in 2004 and attempts to reinstate it since then have been unsuccessful mainly because of lobbying by the NRA.

For those of us who are asking what made Lanza “snap”?  We need to appreciate that Connecticut law enforcement has indicated that this appears to be a carefully planned and executed act. He was wearing a mask, all black commando gear and a bulletproof vest.  So what happened to Adam Lanza?  Some of the reports on we have seen and heard to date conflict.

The media are in a feeding frenzy with each and every one of the major networks trying to cash in on this tragedy.  It sure appears that some premature and inaccurate reporting has taken place. 

So, it’s time for this writer to shut up.  We need to stop our hypotheticals and listen and see what the Connecticut State Police come up with.  In the meantime, we pray for Newtown, Connecticut and the Families who lost children and Family members in this stupid, senseless act.  Pray also and lobby for a rational approach to gun control including the reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and care for our mentally ill. Failing all this, and we probably shall forget, we will continue to publicly condemn this atrocity though make no provision for a solution and then doomed - repeat it again and again… and so it goes…  Let’s not forget Sandy Hook…or Aurora, Colorado, the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, Virginia Tech or Columbine or…


Ned Buxton

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I’m a loyal customer and strong supporter for my brands.  I’ve shopped many for most of my life – you know, that old Kraft Mac and Cheese thing. I grew up on that product and have purchased it all my life and am doing so now for a member of the newest generation – as well as me.

I was Christmas shopping for my Family on line as I did last year with Brookstone and found an item I wanted to purchase.  It was marked down to $149.00 and with the advertising material received in my e-mail was a coupon with a “promo code” (12BO9I - numbers and letters) that I could use for an additional discount (from $5 to %50 dollars) plus free shipping.  Yikes – what a deal!

I popped onto their site and found the item marked as advertised at the $149.00 price. When I added the item to my cart the purchase price changed before my eyes to $179.00.  I tried several times to process the order but the same inflated number kept popping up.  I finally told myself that price was still $20 below suggested retail so go for it – after all I still had that coupon for an additional discount.

When I entered the “promo code” I was told that it wasn’t valid.  I repeated the process several times with the same results. 

Then, it dawned on me… RIPOFF TIME - bait the customer then change the price.  I wrote Brookstone’s customer service department complaining about my experience and received a generic acknowledgement and a day later an e-mail from "Wendy" asking me to detail my problems.

Against my better judgment I responded and think that will be the end of it – and told them so.  For me it’s not about the money, rather about feeling exploited and manipulated. I went back over on their site and the same item – today - is still being offered at $149.00 and changes to $179 when you cart it.  If they offered me the item – free – I think I would turn it down.  I said - think… 

Well, lo and behold, one “Gary” from Customer Service responds to my reply indicating that the black and blue (colors seem appropriate) versions of the product cost more while the red and gray versions are the ones that are going for $149.00.  As for the coupon that wouldn’t work?  Gary offers that Brookstone’s Customer Service Department, “Would be more than happy to assist you with applying the promo code that you are experiencing issues with.  They can be reached at….” And so it goes. They never indicate on their site that the colors are priced differently and the only way that a shopper would know there was a difference is to wade through each and every color.  One top of that I, yes ME, has to contact the department that I am already communicating with to resolve the coupon/promo code problem. Hello?

Buyer beware and keep your guard up if you think that Brookstone is a square shooter.  My most recent experience reflects otherwise. Please also understand that many retail walk-in stores will be moving to virtual formats in the future. Motivators are less overhead and greater profits where they become warehouses and movers of product and not the builders of dreams and ultimate customer interaction. Customer service exists only where faceless and probably fake monikers engage a call center environment where metrics become the only relevant business indicators. No store with a smile, handshake, greeting and a “How can I help you?” Business has changed and the memory of that neighborhood corner Mom & Pop grocery store will soon fade and the new generation that never received real service won’t know the difference.

Goodbye Brookstone and please (if anybody is listening), expect to be the subject of future posts offered by this writer.  I’ll pay (heavy sigh) full retail before I ever shop you again. By the way, I did buy the item from – Amazon - at the $149.00 price (any color).  Ho, Ho, Ho and Merry Christmas.

Ned Buxton


Please note that this writer traded two more e-mails with Brookstone "Customer Service" before I penned the following final missal.

"Brookstone "Customer Service"

The fact that my initial inquiry and my replies have been handled not by one Customer Service (CS) agent, rather three (Wendy, Gary and Courtney) - shows me part of your problem.  The lack of continuity and consistency in knowledge, approach and demeanor relates a major part of your problem. 

You are running your organization like a call center, queuing up customers by number and first come, first serve and then using preformatted, blueprinted boiler-plated verbiage.  OK, it probably is a call center.  Each and every CS Agent has to refresh themselves and reinvent the event that originally prompted the issue over and over each time they engage that customer.  It will never work as all the data gets more and more stale and diluted as each day passes.  That approach may work in a Dunkin Donuts, and even if you may be counting on that memory loss it will ultimately spell doom for you or any other major retailer pledged to a consistent and positive approach to customer service. 

As a customer I want to talk/communicate to the same person each time and be assured that someone out there really cares enough to handle my situation through from start to finish.  At least I would be assured that my communication really meant something.  In this case, you are chasing a number (*******) without a face or personality or set of needs that you will never ultimately meet.  Life and retail is more than ones and zeros though that's the approach many try and they now occupy the retail dust heap. It's all about establishing business relationships and engaging each customer one-on-one.

You have fallen into a bottomless pit from which you will never extricate yourselves unless you change your approach - and that starts with the way you market your products and how you engage your customers, especially after you screw up... Of course, you first have to admit you have a problem.

And why the heck am I going to this much trouble preaching to a company that probably doesn't even give a damn?  Go figure...


Ned Buxton"

I have not heard from Brookstone "Customer Service" since though it was communicated that my concerns had been forwarded to the appropriate parties... NB   12/19/12

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Yea, yea, who cares about a disgraced Lance Armstrong any more…  Well, Lance surfaced in the news again here in Texas given some of his potential litigation as relates to his doping charges.  Armstrong, who appears far from humiliated, is keeping his head down in Austin and apparently just trying to be a Father to his kids.

While we’ve have never been ardent fans of Lance Armstrong, we’ve never been detractors either - not even now. It’s hard to ignore his presence as a major player in sports, namely cycling, and his still celebrity status in Texas.  With Lance’s fall from grace many wonder what will become of his reputation and ultimate legacy.  While that determination is still being played out we wonder if there is some good that can be mined and passed on.  How about raising-up the indomitable spirit of Man by giving hope to those with cancer?   The conundrum and question that folks are now asking - who is the real Lance Armstrong and is he even worth the effort?  Some say that he’s a narcissistic controlling jerk full of himself (not a nice guy) while many others see a courageous individual who has inspired millions, founded and donated over seven million US dollars to the LIVESTRONG Foundation and motivated the medical community to readdress cancer treatment issues.  Both perspectives speak to us.

Unashamedly, we remain wide-eyed though cautious supporters of Lance Armstrong even with all his faults, foibles and his almost Icarus-like meteoric fall from the sky.  Lance’s successful fight back from adversity and testicular cancer that spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen requiring aggressive surgery and chemotherapy was heroic by anybody’s estimation. The fact that Lance is still alive, let alone had the capacity (drug enhanced or not) to compete with the best in the world at his sport, provides us all with an inspirational message. The supposition and widely held surmise that he cheated doesn’t diminish the fact that he had to work harder than anybody else to win and, most importantly, still lives and breathes among us.  His survival alone gives us pause for reflection and (we’ll say it again) inspiration for millions of cancer patients around the world.

This year the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the International Cycling Union (ICU) stripped Armstrong of all competitive results (win or not) from August 1, 1998 and banned Armstrong from professional cycling for life. The ICU stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005.  Despite that Lance remains in the minds and hearts of many The Champion and the empty record books remain testament to and harken the spirit of a man that probably would never have been defeated those seven years, drug use or not. The empty spaces in the record books will all still say “Lance” to many that follow the sport despite the chest-beating and posturing of former competitors.  Pat McQuaid, ICU President recently opined that Armstrong, “deserves to be forgotten.”  We heartily disagree. We need to remember all – the good and the bad.

Lance has proved that he is but a mere mortal though one who achieved an iconic status with or without the help of drugs. He is my Billy Budd though I find strange and deplorable his mix of sideways personality that embodies the worst arrogance coupled with an earnest willingness to help those less fortunate.  We hope that the LIVESTRONG Foundation prevails and survives unlike Susan G. Komen (SGK) which (despite all their good works) appears to be suffering through a slow, inevitable decline because of their belittling, stupid politics.  Lance, while he deserves his just desserts, just might be worthy of the opportunity to move beyond that.  God, if Michael Vick gets a second shot at life, why not Lance?  

Lance has joined a not so elite fraternity that includes Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Marion Jones, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and Michael Vick, among others who didn’t hesitate to demonstrate their humanity and an incredible lack of common sense.  This lady and gentlemen were stupid to a fault and they got caught.  While Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and Jones deserve an asterisk in the record books we wonder whether any “advantage” gained in the athletic arena would have made a difference as they were so far ahead of us mere mortals.  While they demonstrated bad judgment, we as fans and fellow members of the Human Race share in the blame.  Many offer that we motivated them to do what they did. Our success at any cost approach to life - including cheating - seems to pervade our society today.

We do not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any shape, form or manner though we do mourn the loss of our heroes.  We need to clean house and level the playing field for all athletes but wonder about the pit bull tenacity of those who keep pursuing Armstrong even though the die is cast and he is fallen.  We concede that this is not a black or white issue and remains like the rest of life – varying shades of gray.  If Armstrong cheated and, if we are to believe, brought others down too, then he should be punished.  Having said that we cannot dismiss the good Lance Armstrong has accomplished and encourage compassion and rehabilitation.  That said, Lance will first have to admit he was wrong though no mea maxima culpa appears to be forthcoming.

Award-winning sportswriter Jonathan Horn who has covered the Olympics and the Tour de France has commented, “Armstrong is a true giant of the sport and one of the most significant sportspeople of all time. He offers hope and he brings joy to many lives. But so does Santa Claus. And most of us stopped believing in Santa Claus when we were about five.”

We still believe in the spirit of Santa Claus and, yes, Father Christmas and if Lance wants a lifeline tossed, then we should make that happen.  Acceptance of that opportunity may be Lance’s biggest test and contribution to the world yet – contrition, humility and yet another recovery and miracle.


Ned Buxton

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Today we have a far greater appreciation of that old phrase, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” Whether inspired by Chaucer or Fuller, that statement has motivated generations of readers to achieve success.  For us it signals not only that truism but also a far more immediate consideration and meaning.

It’s late in the year - the start of December and winter 2012 and for the last eight-plus weeks the two mature and majestic live oak trees (30+ years old) in our front yard have been shedding their acorns in an abundance never before seen.  While last year yielded an impressive crop, this year has exceeded all expectations…  Whenever the wind decides to blow (regularly on the Southern Plains), acorns and later their cuplets (the little pointed hat that holds the acorn) decide that now is the time to sail to earth hitting our roof daily and sometimes in great numbers and with an intensity like that worst hail storm two years ago. The sound was (and is) deafening at times with those little missiles hitting the gutters and back patio furniture and cars with that characteristic out-of-tune ping. Another one just cascaded off the east roof and into our secret garden… We’ve been startled and awakened in the middle of the night because of the noise. Though still revered and hallowed, the live oaks have become a nuisance. We’ll deal with it…

The acorns have literally covered the yard, walkway and street posing a hazard for pedestrians and a supposed treat for the dogs in the neighborhood (not really).  We need note that acorns contain a toxin called gallotannin that can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs which can include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal distress.  House Guardian Willa dependent on her own special Hill’s Science Diet is also capable of and eager to consume (she’s proved it!) worms, pine bark mulch, ivy leaves, peas, her own poop and, yes, acorns in the absence of foxes, badgers and rats.  A doggy harness has proved an able ally and restraint for this seemingly, in earnest, omnivore Cairn Terrier.

The acorn mast has provided protein and fat aplenty to our core squirrel population now conservatively numbered in excess of ten in the two live oak trees. They have also found that acorns make effective weapons against dog and human alike.  Recent trips out the front door have resulted in a pelting by the squirrels we optimistically figure intended for the dog – but you can never be sure.  Their aim – admirably – is quite accurate right along with a bright red cardinal this morning that dropped a couple of acorn bombs.

When the House Guardian and this not-as-smart end of the leash returned to home and hearth after a recent morning walk, we were greeted by three mallards (two drakes and a female) feeding on the smorgasbord of acorns in the front yard.  We stopped, gave them a few more minutes to gorge themselves and then proceeded, prompting an airborne evacuation.  We are assured that they will be back as we have seen them before flying low overhead or walking down the middle of the street in the early AM hours. While there are no nearby wetlands, neighborhood cement ponds apparently provide a suitable substitute habitat (no, not ours, please).       

For the last seven plus weeks I have been sweeping and raking sidewalk, walkway and yard though failing miserably to keep up with the onslaught.  From one day to the next there are seemingly more on the ground than I swept/raked up the day before. Yesterday in advance of house guests I swept the sidewalk, turned around and laughed out loud noting about fifteen newly dropped nuts.  Those that don't get bagged and hauled off find their way to the street where with the passage of traffic they are pulverized into a fine dust and then dispersed by Mother Nature.
Arborists educate us that a single mature oak tree can produce over 1,000 pounds of acorns.  Gads! It seems that our live oaks have produced that – and then some. We ponder the added weight and burden on those beautiful meandering limbs and have heard of older heavily burdened tree branches breaking under the additional weight. 

So, today we again have an acorn ground cover in the front yard and the sidewalk needs sweeping. It’s a nice break from the painting… I should’ve taken some photos…  Hope you had a Good Thanksgiving.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Mitt has done it again and some folks (including some forward thinking Republicans) feel that he needs to keep his mouth shut and keep his out of touch thoughts to himself.  On the other hand and on the positive side, we say, keep those comments coming, please. Romney is a veritable treasure trove of gaffs and source of material for Jon Stewart, SNL, journalists and bloggers everywhere.  Romney’s recent post-election remarks validate the results of the 2012 presidential election and should prompt some to ponder the consequences had this man been elected President.  I had naively hoped that Romney and Obama would have been able to collaborate and at least share ideas about how to move forward, but that now seems impossible.  Bottom line: As some have offered - Romney has made himself irrelevant.
Romney and Ryan don’t seem to have a clue why they lost with both deflecting from reality.  Romney in a telephone conference with private donors this week didn’t key on any of his failings as a candidate, rather offered lame and absurd excuses why he didn’t win the election.  He immediately went to the dark side indicating that Obama’s “gifts” to specific demographic groups, such as “forgiveness of college loan interest” to voters under the age of 29, “free health care” to African-Americans, “amnesty” to the children of illegal immigrants  (to lure Latinos) and “free contraceptives” for young, college-age women were the reason he lost the election.  The insinuation was that Obama used these programs to bribe his voting base. Clown Limbaugh characterized Obama as Santa Claus to their lost electorate.

We are confused at this point since these also sounded a lot like issues that Romney embraced during the presidential debates.  For example, he pledged to “make it easier for kids to afford college” touting his record as Governor of Massachusetts though he now characterizes college loan assistance as a bribe.  And my favorite… In the debates Romney stated that, “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”  In his most recent remarks Romney characterizes the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) policy that requires insurance plans to cover birth control for insureds as “free contraceptives” for young women. Romney’s exact quote was, “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women…” Gads! Can’t you just see the line at the polls, one contraceptive-one vote…

Backtracking through time it certainly appears that Romney is now formally re-embracing his “47%” remarks once and for all unmasking himself as an insincere elitist completely out of touch with reality and that means the majority of the electorate.  Oh, and his performance in 2012 vs. McCain’s in 2008?  While he still lost them big, Romney actually picked up a greater percentage of votes among African-Americans, young voters and those contraceptive motivated non-married women.  He did lose ground with Hispanic voters - 67% to 71% though with a margin of error +-3% we can call it close to a statistical draw overall.  We did note what while the Hispanics were 9% of the total vote in 2008 they increased to 10% in 2012.  The overall minority-voter base as a percentage of the overall electorate was twenty-eight percent - 2 percentage points greater than four years ago.  That percentage will only grow in the coming years – a harbinger of an electorate to come.

A very clear and resolute Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal with an eye seemingly focused on 2016 and beyond criticized Romney for his “gifts" remarks, calling them "absolutely wrong."  Jindal continued, "We have got to stop dividing the American voters," and "We need to go after 100% of the vote, not 53%. We need to go after every single vote."  Jindal was commenting as the new Chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) at their meeting in Las Vegas (licking their wounds) where it seems that many party leaders are now predicting that the GOP will lose again if it, “keeps running the same playbook based on platitudes in place of detailed policies.”  It looks some are considering a Republican reboot though that begs the question of their sincerity and the degree that they are they going to reinvent themselves to become more palatable to the electorate.  A now chastened Romney tried that chameleon act and we see the results.

While Karl Rove was not at the RGA meeting, former Mississippi Governor Haley (Hurricane Sandy did it!) Barbour was, casting doubt on the credibility of the body. Then you have Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell who trying to deflect from Washington to the states, offered that enlightened Republican Governors can advance what Washington can’t, stating that, "Washington is broken.” While that certainly fits the obstructionist Republicans, that’s probably not the message he intended to convey.

Though I thought I would never see it, some (not many) Republicans may apparently, “get it,” objectively analyze and learn from their loss, understand and respect the will of the electorate (in many cases their constituents) and craft an agenda that preserves Republican principles and appeals beyond the mostly White, male voters that are its primary base. As the LA Times opined and cautioned, “The hegemony of the straight white male in America is over.” That said, if the Republicans are really serious in their attempts to reform and make themselves palatable, they need to divest themselves of the right wing extremist nuts that populate its ranks to especially include the Tea Party Teavangelicals and many of those who competed in the sideshow for the Republican presidential nomination.  If that splits the party, so be it.

It seems to this writer that however close the margin, the agenda of the new electorate has been assured.  Despite all the significant data generated by exit polls, the never ending media analyses, statistics and proclamations – it would appear that those who voted for Obama also trusted his judgment and leadership abilities more and, frankly, liked him better than Mitt who consistently derided and cast aspersions on many within the winning electorate and lied through his teeth during the campaign. The new electorate has spoken decisively and understanding and alarmed by the mission of the far, far right, refused to let science or their government be held hostage to religious or ideological dogma. Hope you’re listening Rick.

Ah, if the voice of reason projected by Jindal starts to resonate and grow in the GOP and they aren’t just talking to themselves, perhaps I can once again ponder my role as a progressive Republican.  But, then again…


Ned Buxton

Monday, November 12, 2012


Sunday was Veterans Day and sadly remembered without any surviving members of The Great War. The world's last WWI veteran was Florence Green of Great Britain who passed on February 4, 2012, fifteen days shy of 111.  Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I, died on February 27, 2011.  Frank was 110 years old and was identified by the US Senate as, "The last veteran to represent the extraordinary legacy of the World War I veterans".  The passing of Buckles and Green prompted a farewell for not just one man or woman, rather a whole generation, and, indeed, those millions of Allied soldiers who paid for our freedom with their lives.  Buckles was buried with full military honors in Arlington Cemetery in a ceremony presided by President Barack Obama who along with many other dignitaries who came to salute Buckles and his now departed generation.

Another one of those WWI soldiers was my Grandfather, Colonel G. Edward “Ned” Buxton, Jr. who as Commander of the 2nd Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment, of the 82nd Division saw service in key battles in World War I including the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  He was an over the top commander who to the chagrin of General Pershing carried (and used) an American Enfield rifle and served from the trenches like peers Patton and Donovan earning a Purple Heart for his exploits.   Buxton went on to serve with distinction as the Inspector-General of the 82nd Division until he was returned to action as a commander and combatant in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive - the crowning American contribution to WWI that ultimately brought about the Armistice of November 11, 1918.  Many know Buxton (then a Major) as the commanding officer of one Alvin C. York who with Buxton as a “Dutch Uncle” and counselor served with distinction in that conflict. They remained Friends thereafter for life. For the record, we are assured that York carried a Springfield Model 1903 rifle and a Model 1911 .45 caliber APC semi-automatic pistol.

In World War II Buxton was appointed First Assistant Director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and as the OSS Planning Group and Action Director of Strategic Services, was a key figure in all policy as well as operational decisions.  He was tasked with the handling of the procedural and operational aspects of running the OSS and frequently served as Acting Director.  Buxton’s life was dedicated to service from start to finish.  He was an extraordinary leader and soldier-citizen who reflected the best of our greatness and character and the values of our society.

We have many to thank for their service and ultimate sacrifice - those from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and all those conflicts before, in-between and after.  For those who kept the peace and by their service protected our borders and Citizens from harm’s way and for those members of our Armed services who participated in operations we know and many that we do not – we remember and thank you.

In our Family we sincerely thank Brothers David and John, Uncles Richmond and Seabury and all those who came before including Grandfather Buxton all the way back to Capt. James Buxton of the First Massachusetts and Revolutionary War fame. We recognize and salute all their comrades in arms.  We remember a loving Grandfather Alden Llewellyn Littlefield who distributed replicas of the original red Flander's poppy in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in order to raise awareness and monies for Veterans. We say well done...


Ned Buxton

Saturday, November 10, 2012


The pundits are going to be talking about this election for many years and will probably underscore its significance as the end of an era.  This was the great epiphany for The Republican Party and it initially appears that they may not have gotten the message.  I’ve made it no secret that this life-long Republican voted for Barack Obama and in that Tea Party domain they call the State of Texas, voted for many more Democrats.  I feel no great elation or exhilaration with the Democratic victories, rather a somber relief that Obama’s reelection may allow us the potential to further the work of The People in a much more stable and not so strident and vitriolic environment.  Even with a Romney victory our house would have remained absolutely divided. We have no option – no alternative - now but to sit down and do the work of The People.  That charge is especially directed to an obstructionist Republican House of Representatives who up to now were dedicated only to choreographing Obama’s swan song.

The ability of Congress to do the work of The People is predicated on the realization by the Republicans (real or imagined) that they have to rethink and retool many of their cornerstone planks and contemplate collaboration, negotiation and, if necessary, concession (gads!) for the greater good. They have to understand that a platform that included a gobbledygook of unworkable, fictional numbers from an adamant, profit-driven theorist doesn’t work anymore and (like it or not) has been rejected by a majority of the electorate.  They need to grasp the concept that their mostly dogmatic views are out of line with those of most Americans. The window of opportunity for their current agenda is now lost forever as their base continues to dwindle. If they listen to the Tea Party and (according to some), “try a more conservative approach” again in four years, they will surely lose and probably by an even greater margin. 

Ted Cruz’s absurd appeal to “Restore the Constitution” (which is working just fine, thank you), may play in Texas but probably not anywhere else.  The America the Republicans are “trying to preserve” and revive no longer exists and, at the very least won’t tolerate their rhetoric.  They threw a party and not enough folks showed up.  We have evolved well beyond the northern European model and gone global becoming that which we have always preached – a land of Freedom and Opportunity for all. We crafted the invitation and they came. They are us, we are them and that’s been the American mandate from the start.

The issue now primarily revolves around the economy all within the paradigm of changing demographics and the imperative to meet basic societal needs and far from the Bill O'Reilly (47%) absurd assertion that Obama’s electorate voted for him because, “They expect he will give them stuff.”  I guess that includes me and my Social Security and Medicare benefits paid for with a lifetime of work and financial contributions.
The Republicans ultimately set the stage for a kind of class warfare - a “Them vs. Us” where like a dog with a sock they won’t relent and where ultimately in this changing landscape have become a minority party – and exceedingly so.  If the Republicans and, yes, Democrats don’t “get it” now, then they never will.  Having failed that, they will forever put our Republic in jeopardy.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a student of history to see the markers of the inevitable all around us.

Yet, we still hear the Haley Barbours, Karl Roves, Rush Limbaughs, Bill O’Reillys and others of their ilk state with straight faces that nothing has changed (the lipstick on the above pig) with Barbour incredulously opining that it was only Hurricane Sandy that defeated them. Other Republicans have blamed NJ Governor Chris Christie outright for his post-Hurricane Sandy bi-partisan praise for Obama as the reason Republicans didn’t win the Presidency.

Amazing that the Republican hierarchy would tolerate these behaviors but, wait, they are the party.  Again, we thank Haley, Karl, Rush, Bill and The Donald and their legions for allowing the world to see and experience their absurd and divisive behaviors.  How can we forget Donald Trump who with Obama’s reelection assured, maniacally tweeted that the election was a “total sham and a travesty…We are not a democracy” followed up by, “We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.”  In response to Trump’s treasonous rant the distinguished, popular and always incisive NBC News anchor Brian Williams coolly commented, “Donald Trump has driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible.”  Amen… Sounds like an equally appropriate exit for the Republican Party if they don’t distance themselves from statements like that. They haven’t yet though we note Trump’s tweets have been taken down...Donald, you’re fired!

And how about that “rabble of Ole Miss students” who brought dishonor upon The University with their racially motivated, placard burning protest to President Obama’s reelection. There were no riots just a few stupid and probably drunk students.  We have come a long way from the debacle of 1962 and they remind us of an ugly past and behaviors reminiscent of the ignorant sociopaths that ran Mississippi and The South back then.  Those few students disgraced themselves and Ole Miss and have no right to continue any association with The University.  We hope The University can identify every one of them and mete out the appropriate punishment. 

The behavior of those relative few prompted a counter-protest and peace walk where almost 700 students demonstrated against this idiotic display. All this comes after the election and crowning of Courtney Pearson, the first African-American Homecoming Queen in the school’s history.  Sounds like Chancellor Daniel Jones has some work to do… Maybe those students can go work for Donald Trump.  But, back to the adults…OK, you know what we mean.

The Republicans were mostly deep-sixed by the extreme posturing and the absolutely idiotic and insensitive remarks of people like Michele Bachmann or the “dangerously stupid” Todd Akin and the misguided inappropriate offerings of a now discarded and isolated Richard Mourdock.  The latter two probably cost the Republicans the Senate and perhaps even the Presidency. After their incredibly stupid remarks about rape and pregnancy, how could anyone vote for them?  Well, some did and in impressive though insufficient numbers.  Point - If pragmatists and the center of the party can prevail, they can rid themselves of these Neanderthals and embrace a more sensitive agenda that appeals to more than just fat rich old white guys who are fast becoming an anachronism.  OK, let’s restate - many White Guys – fat, skinny, old, young, rich, poor, etc. – not including this writer. 

Results reflect that Romney lost 55% of the Women overall while losing 67% of unmarried Women. Romney lost 71% of the Latinos.  Romney lost 93% of the African-Americans.  Romney lost 73% of Asian-Americans and, frankly, most of the bloc of minority (soon to be majority) voters. Bottom Line: The Republicans did not embrace policies that appealed to a majority of the electorate and failing that – lost the election. The Democrats maintained a much more moderate stance with the above results.

So, while some very public and influential Republicans have convinced themselves that there is nothing wrong with their party or their agenda (Palin is “perplexed”), that they let themselves be seduced by that Mormon guy, damn that hurricane and those unfounded (?) attacks on Romney’s character, ad nauseum, they are not the future of a viable Republican Party.  And all that from some Holier than thou Republicans who patently tried to disenfranchise Democratic leaning voters.  Goes around – comes around

First, the Republicans have to publicly and very quickly admit that what once worked for them is now broke and won’t play anymore.  If they can’t do that then all is lost for the Grand Old Party. They absolutely have to embrace and maintain a more moderate posture that supports realistic and workable core values. The lying and rhetoric has to stop and we as constituents have to hold them to higher standards.  They have to relegate the extreme fringes of their party to their far right domains and fight like Hell to resist any further hijacking. Though they probably won’t admit it, The Republicans won’t win any national elections on the backs of the Evangelical Christians and/or the Tea Party.     

The challenges of the next four years will eclipse even those of the previous four making a purposeful and collaborative, rational approach to government absolutely imperative.  That’s where Mr. Romney and other Republican leaders including House Speaker John Boehner can come in and riding white stallions, be partners in that process.  For Love of Country and for all the right reasons Romney (if he has any credibility or sense of purpose left) can at least try to twist the arms of those Republicans that seem bent on self-destruction and get us back on the right track.  When we realize that (for whatever reason and motivation) he represents almost half of our kicking and screaming electorate, it is nothing short of smart politics and by inclusion, the way to heal the wounds of rejection and tap into some of his good ideas and energy.

Voters have told both parties to forthrightly get on with the business of government.  Democrats need note there is no stunning mandate, rather it’s their clarion call to quickly get on with their work. And do I think that the Republicans received the message and will maturely respond?  No, I don’t.

Then again, aren’t we all happy that Big Bird will continue to be with us a while longer?


Ned Buxton

PS.  Four days after the general election the State of Florida finally announced today that Obama won their 29 Electoral College votes bringing his total to 332 to Romney’s 206.  Obama also won the national popular vote 51% to 48%. Aye, NB