If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Participate In a Presidential Candidates’ Debate

presidential debate picture

I’m not sure what the mothers of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would say, but my mother would have been appalled at the substance of the most recent Republican presidential candidates’ debate.  She repeated to me ad nauseum as I was growing up, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Given the tenor of the tenth Republican “debate” of this campaign, there would have been a great deal of on air silence if Mom’s directive had been followed.

To call this spectacle a debate is really stretching it.  The dictionary leads us to believe that a debate is a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public forum where opposing arguments are put forth.  Undeniably The Donald, Ted and Marco were speaking publicly as the “debate” was carried live on national TV.  And there was definitely arguing going on.  Was it formal?  Well, there were rules, but the event had more the air of a free for all than a scholarly discussion, including whistling, whooping and cheering from the audience members..  And the topic?  Best I can determine, the topic was what a Bozo an opposing candidate was.

I had friends in high school who were on the debate team.  They were academic types who were capable of presenting reasoned, logical and calm arguments for their position.   These teenagers  strove to make their points with finesse not verbal fists.   Debates in which high school students participate through their schools  are night and day different from those in which the Republican presidential candidates take part. The former are events were order and rules control; the latter are events where chaos and egos are at the wheel.

Apparently there is an art to debate, and basic rules for debating are generally recognized.  Strict rules of conduct are to be followed.  Without exception, the resources I reviewed to bone up on debate all stated that shouting is not a recognized strategy.  One source expressly stated that a debate is “not a shouting match.”  Another site opined that the best debate style was to keep calm and present points in a clear speaking voice and “definitely not to shout.”  Clearly, The Donald, Ted and Marco didn’t read these debate resources or, if they did, in their infinite wisdom chose to thumb their noses at them.  Why have a reasoned discussion when you can shout over each other and trade insults?

Rather than setting forth their  positions on key issues–such as the economy, immigration reform, etc.– the three top candidates spent time attacking each other.  Civilized Dr. Ben Carson was ignored because he didn’t sink to this level.  He did regret the lack of attention and humorously asked, “Can someone attack me please?”

ben-carson-cnn-debate

Regardless of the content of the debate, voters did learn quite a bit.  Here’s what I was able to gather:

–Cruz is a “basket case” per Donald Trump.

–Trump only thinks Palestinians are “a real estate deal” per Cruz.

–Trump repeats himself per Rubio.

–Trump has a history of hiring illegal immigrants per Rubio.

–Rubio has hired “no one” per Trump.

–Cruz is a “liar” per Trump.

–Rubio is a “choke artist” per Trump.

rubio debate

Wow!  Do any of these “debaters” present a presidential image based on such kindergartenlike  exchanges of insults?

Can you imagine if the father of our country had been required to debate a challenger for President?  Do you think George Washington would’ve said, “You know, I cannot tell a lie.  But my opponent is lying through his wooden teeth!”  In 1858 Abraham Lincoln actually did take part in a series of seven debates with opponent Sen. Stephen A Douglas.  Unless I was asleep in history class that day, I don’t recall learning anything about Honest Abe winning the election because he out insulted Sen. Douglas in a debate.  Mr. Lincoln didn’t spew that the “Little Giant” was too short to be president or that Sen. Douglas choked and couldn’t get Mary Todd to marry him much less get elected president.  (Yes, Mary married up, going from dating short Stephen to lofty Lincoln!)

Lincoln debate

Since 1976 general election debates between presidential candidates have been a part of the presidential campaigns.  Perhaps it is time to rethink the value of this activity.  Are these debates really allowing voters to make an informed decision as to who is the man/woman for the job? Or are they just scaring the heck out of us because we know we can’t choose “none of the above”?  Hey!  The question whether debates are a positive contribution to voters in an election campaign would make a great debate topic–for high schoolers who follow strict debate guidelines, don’t yell and take either an affirmative/negative position on the issue itself and not an opposing debater.

And do we really need ten+ debates?  Seeing these candidates so much (overexposure?) may have a negative backlash.  Makes me think of the saying that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” I am not looking forward to yet another “debate” much less four more years of these type antics when the winner occupies the White House.  How many more months of this torture must we endure before the general election puts us out of our negative campaign misery?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debt, Debtor–Don’t!

Kanye debt

We’re all supposed to want to keep up with the Kardashians, right?  Well, maybe not after all.  Who didn’t snicker when Kardashian by marriage Kanye West recently announced that he is $53 million in debt?  Although it might be fun to go on a wild  spending spree, no one wants to keep up with that large amount of debt.

The 38 year old rapper has been dropping tens of millions of dollars into his fashion label leading to the sea of red ink in which he is swimming.  Apparently his high end clothing, including $510 sweat pants, isn’t flying off the racks in sufficient numbers to keep Kanye in the black.  That’s some expensive sweating!

Before you get too concerned from Kim K’s hubby, however, let’s look at his situation objectively.  He earns an estimated $22-$30 million/year and took in approximately $1 million per concert when he hit the stage.  With some smart budgeting and maybe a few extra gigs, Kanye should be back on his feet in no time.

Oh, but golly, he and the missus are trying to put together the perfect mansion for their uniquely named kids.  Budgeting might be difficult with this project underway. No expense can be spared for their little darlings’ nest.  Why have a regular swimming pool when one the size of a small lake can be put in?

This calls for creative financing to resolve Kanye’s debt crisis.   His game plan is to ask for big bucks from Mark Zuckerberg.  Why pay off your own debt through blood, sweat and tears when you can get handouts from others?  I’d suggest he ask the well-heeled Taylor Swift for some cash,, but I think Kanye  torpedoed that financial resource by claiming to be the reason for her success.  Taylor was not impressed and would leave a “Blank Space” in the amount of any check she wrote for Mr. West.

While it is amusing to poke fun at Kanye, perhaps we should look in the mirror first before getting so judgmental.  Sure, most of us don’t have $53 million in debt, but most Americans are indeed in debt.  And, unlike Kanye, we can’t rely on $1 million concert dates to pull us out of the debt pit.

The average American doesn’t have a fashion label like Kanye, but he/she usually has a credit card (or five) in his/her wallet.  (Yes, Jennifer Garner, there’s a credit card in the wallet.)  And of those credit card carrying Americans, 65% of them carry a balance.  The average American between the ages of 18 and 65 has $4,717 of credit card debt.  And that’s just the credit card debt!  For the average American household, an American adult owes $11,244 in student loans, $8,163 on a car and $70,322 on a mortgage.  With the debt fast approaching $100,000 per American adult in an average household, perhaps a better questions is “What’s in your paycheck?”  Obviously not enough to pay off the debt.

Debt carrying

And how did Americans end up in this sad state of financial affairs?  They lack self-discipline.  “Don’t” is not in their vocabulary.  If they want it, they buy it. If they can’t pay for it out of pocket, they simply take out a loan.   Forget how long it may take to repay the loan or even  the actual ability to pay for it.  (Will I be able to pay of $50,000 in student loans having majored in basket weaving?)  Whipping out a credit card or signing on the dotted line of a loan application is an easy way to allow one to enjoy instant gratification. Why drive the old clunker for a bit longer while you save to pay for  new car when you can drive a new car off the lot tomorrow with an auto loan?

There’s one American in particular who really needs to be considered.  He’s the worst one of all when it comes to debt and self-discipline.  I’m talking about, of course, UNCLE SAM.  The total public debt as of February 21, 2016 was a whopping $19,047,126,605,778.92.  In case you are not a math whiz, that’s a number in the trillions.  Uncle Sam doesn’t want you these days since there’s not currently a draft in effect; however, he sure wants your money so he can spend it on some ridiculous project or overpriced item.  All Uncle Sam knows how to do is spend, spend, spend.  Forget maxing out the public credit card; he can just raise the debt limit if need be.

Uncle Sam wants you

Debt is a necessary evil.  And by that I mean it should only be incurred when necessary.  Most individuals cannot pay for college out of their pockets or buy a house with what’s in their savings account.  In some instances  debt must be incurred.  But incurring debt should be a reasoned decision for a worthwhile end.  It should not always be Plan A.  And when it is incurred, there needs to be a reasonable plan for getting it paid off.  Incur debt now and figure out how to pay for it later is not a good plan. Neither is asking Mark Zuckerberg for enough cash to bail you out of financial trouble.   It is a recipe for disaster when debt is recklessly or thoughtlessly incurred.

DEBT makes you a DEBTOR, and you DON’T want to be in that position if at all possible. As massive as Kanye’s debt sounds, my bet is on him to pay his debt off before most Americans in general can pay off theirs and before Uncle Sam in particular can pay off his. Yikes!  Uncle Sam’s debt is in actuality OURS. Sadly, we’re a society of debtors.  All together now, let’s sing (to the tune of “Hi, ho”):  We owe, we owe.  My how our debt does grow..

 

 

 

SCOTUS, POTUS, and US

US_Supreme_Court

The average citizen associates the term “nine lives” with a cat.  With the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this past weekend, the term brings to mind the bodies that sit on the Supreme Court bench, i.e, nine justices.  Filling the now vacant ninth spot is likely to cause a cat fight among politicians.

The Supreme Court of the United States, familiarly known as SCOTUS, is the highest federal court in our land.  And nothing says that you are on top of the court heap like having a cool acronym to be referenced by.  The high court was created by Article III of the U.S. Constitution.   The Constitution is a fairly dry and old historical document, so it doesn’t have a cool acronym like SCOTUS does.   Article III provided for the Supreme Court to have a chief justice and associate justices, but it left it to Congress to fix the number of justices to sit on the court.

Constitution

Initially, the Supreme Court had six justices.  Ultimately, Congress figured out that an odd number of justices might work better to avoid tie votes.  Nine has been the magic number of justices since 1869.  Magic must have something to do with it since the justices are always pictured in flowing black robes like they were professors at Hogwarts.

Supreme_Court_US_2010

To become a Supreme Court Justice is quite the process.  There’s no swimsuit competition like in Miss America, but popularity does have something to do with the winners of both contests.  The POTUS (President Of The United States) gets to nominate a contestant he likes.  The nominee must then be confirmed by the Senate who determines it likes POTUS’ choice.  Confirmation hearings include asking the nominee to answer various questions like the interview portion of the Miss America Pageant.  Instead of saying that he’d use his reign–er, term on SCOTUS–to work for world peace, the SCOTUS nominee universally says that he would uphold the Constitution.  As Richard Dawson would say, “Good answer!”

Unfortunately, this was a really bad time for Justice Scalia to depart this life and require his successor to be chosen.  We’ve got a hotly contested and wide open presidential race going on for heaven’s sake.  Now, on top of determining what rude/vulgar but heartfelt and honest thing Donald Trump will say next and if he and Megyn Kelly will ever kiss and make up, we have to figure out just the right person to be #9 on SCOTUS.

The problem is that Justice Scalia, a 1986 Reagan appointee, was the leading conservative on SCOTUS.  The balance of power on SCOTUS may be drastically altered by the political leanings of his successor.  That’s why there’s a cacophony of talk about when to have an appointment to SCOTUS made.  The Donald, and many others, think that the decision should be delayed so that the new POTUS can make this important decision.  The input of the American people (or at least the pathetic percentage of them who are of voting age, registered to vote, and actually vote) is needed is for this choice.

Such a position should be quite disturbing to US for several reasons.  First, Barack Obama may be a lame duck president, but he is still POTUS.  It’s like being pregnant.  You either are pregnant or you are not.  Barack’s either POTUS with all the responsibilities and powers that entails, or he’s not.  This point is valid regardless of the party affiliation of the sitting POTUS. And by electing him, the American people have already spoken and put the power in his hands until the end of his term.

Barack picture

Second, time and tide waits for no man.  America can’t simply delay crucial decisions until a better future time.  Life happens when it happens convenient or not.  A vacancy has occurred and it needs to be filled.  There is no asterisk in Article III stating “unless the POTUS is a lame duck.”  If the wacko running North Korea takes threatening militaristic action, are we going to send him a note and tell him to hold that thought until a new POTUS is on the scene since significant consequences will result from whatever decision is made?  I think not.

Third, calling for a delay is nothing more than playing a political game.  Justice is supposed to be blind, so trying to make sure that the “right” party gets to make the choice of the SCOTUS nominee makes a mockery of the impartiality the ultimate SCOTUS justice is supposed to display.

Fourth, there will be judicial fallout if no appointment is quickly made.  SCOTUS is in the middle of its current term which runs from the first Monday in October through June or early July.  If only 8 justices participate in these appeals, the dread tie vote might occur.  In that event, the lower court decision merely stands.  Don’t we want a reasoned opinion issued one way or another so at least the important issue which made it all the way to SCOTUS has been determined by that court?

Let’s not forget that even if the sitting POTUS nominates someone, that isn’t a “Go to the bench, go directly to the bench” card.  Confirmation proceedings must occur and Senate blessings bestowed.  Given that the current POTUS is a Democrat and the Senate is Republican-controlled, there will be plenty of opportunity for both parties to influence the ultimate decision.  Barack has to keep in mind that the nominee must have a chance to pass muster on the Hill in order to be confirmed.  This isn’t Obama’s first Supreme Court rodeo.  He’s previously nominated now sitting Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, so he knows how the process works.

confirmation hearings

This situation is a golden opportunity  for US to realize that our government’s operation is an ongoing one of which we need to be aware.  Presidential elections occur only every four years, but the government operates continuously between those main events.  Curiosity might kill the proverbial cat, but it is up to US to ask questions and stay on top of issues affecting how our country is run.  The POTUS and SCOTUS are there to make government work for US.  Government is not working for us when those in charge punt to the next shift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You CAM’t Spell Panthers Without P-A-N-T-S

 

cam-newton-walks-out-during-post-super-bowl-press-conference-03

Even if you aren’t a sports fan, the Super Bowl provided plenty of fodder for conversation.  Topics range from the best commercials aired during the big game to a critique of the musicians performing during half-time, from the incredibly toned ref calling plays to the lack of ability to stay fit after consuming copious snacks while watching the broadcast.  With Lady Gaga singing the National Anthem, one might expect that fashion would be a topic as well.  Nevertheless, she wasn’t front and center for once.  With an edgy red pantsuit and mismatched footwear, Lady Gaga  simply wasn’t a match for the fashion buzz generated by Cam and his pants.

For those readers who are not big sports fans, Cam Newton is the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers.  His team was 14-1 during the regular season, and the oddsmakers predicted Carolina would be the Super Bowl winner.  Cam, an energetic 26 year old who was just named MVP and is a star on the rise, was pitted against a 39 year old quarterback, Peyton Manning,  who has struggled with health issues and deflected rumors of impending retirement this season.  In the face of this opposition, Cam appeared, well, pretty darn confident.  Cue his pants wardrobe.

When I was in college at the University of Georgia years back, a favorite cheer was “You can’t spell Sugar without U-G-A.”  This was pre-BCS days, and the goal of SEC teams was to make it to the Sugar Bowl and an SEC crown.  The cheer is dated, but the idea is not.  Why it still fits today.  Let’s see.  You can’t spell Panthers without P-A-N-T-S.  Yep.  All those letters are found in Cam’s team name.  So exactly what pants are we talking about?  The answer is both literal and figurative.

Literally, Cam is quite a fashionable dresser.  He caused a media storm when arriving in California to prepare for the Super Bowl in an eye catching outfit which included an $800+ pair of wild Versace pants.  I’ve never owned an $800 pair of pants in my life; even if had such a fashion budget, I doubt these pants would be on my shopping list.  The pants did call to mind a wild animal, but–Hey, Cam, you are supposed to play like a panther, not dress like one.

cam-newton-wears-versace-pants-03

Figuratively, I believe pants tell the story of Cam better than a football.  He has tried to charm the pants off of fans by giving touchdown balls to children in the stands.  Who wouldn’t love a guy like that?  He projects a smarty pants image by dressing fashionably in a blazer and capris for a press conference.  His outfit screams that he’s no dumb jock–he’s got athletic prowess and a fashion sense as well.  He exudes confidence and is clearly a team leader; his fellow players know who wears the pants on their team.

cam in capris

But image doesn’t cut it on the playing field.  Cam got caught with his pants down in the big game.  A ball stripped from his hands resulted in a defensive touchdown for the Broncos.  He failed to give it his all and pounce on yet another loose ball in the red zone resulting in a turnover towards the end of the game.  Was overconfidence his downfall?  Did he get too big for his britches?

Based on the post-game press conference, a resounding “YES” is the compelled answer.  Cam sat there in his stained uniform pants and dejectedly sulked.  His negative emotions ate at him like he had ants in his pants.  Finally, he took his marbles and went home.  The report is pending on whether he was holding his breath until he turned a shade of blue to match that on the Panthers’ uniforms.

Really, Cam?  If you play with the big boys, sometimes you lose.  In fact, half the professional teams lose on a weekly basis; that’s the nature of the game.  Seems like it might be time to put on your big boy pants and face the fact that you are not perfect and will sometimes (GASP) lose.  If I were your momma, I’d give you a swift kick in the pants for your childish behavior following the loss.  No matter how much you make or how fancy and expensive the pants you put on, Cam, you still put them on one leg at a time like the rest of us.  Yes, you may be a Panther, but you are also human.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revering The Rodent

Groundhog3

Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s are now behind us and Valentine’s Day is not yet here.  At this point in my life, I am finding a great sense of appreciation for a lesser holiday.  It is one that doesn’t require decorating, present buying, and wearing seasonal clothing; best of all, it isn’t tied to celebrating with food that will expand my waistline.  What holiday is this?  Why it is one where the focus is on nature in general and a rodent specifically.  It is Groundhog Day, celebrated annually on February 2nd.

While groundhogs might be seen as cute by some, these small creatures simply don’t lend themselves to big holiday status.  We don’t decorate for Groundhog Day.  Even if we were supposed to do so, how would that be done?  Gathering around the carcass of a rodent, regardless of how adorable, just isn’t the same as family time around the Christmas tree.  And Groundhog Day activities are not clearly defined beyond watching a celebrity rodent emerge from his burrow.  Since groundhogs hibernate for a few months during winter, perhaps we could pay homage to them by donning a sleep mask and taking a long nap.  Not quite the same as roasting chestnuts on the open fire or creating homemade Valentines but probably much more relaxing.

Food is a hallmark of the big holidays.  We have chocolates at Valentines, eggs at Easter, something grilled on the Fourth, turkey with all the trimmings at Thanksgiving, and cookies at Christmas.  But what do you eat on Groundhog Day?  Certainly not the rodent du jour.  I’d hardly think it a celebration to eat any  dish made with a rodent.  According to my research, groundhogs ARE  edible.  Their meat is reportedly dark but mild-flavored and tender.  Just don’t forget to move the scent glands on their backs and forelegs before cooking your groundhog stew.  YUK!

groundhog stew

While I refuse to eat rodent, I have found some fairly appealing goodies to devour on February 2nd.  One year I made rodent cupcakes, with a miniature candy bar poking out of the cupcake to represent  a groundhog.  This year, I plan to try groundhog pudding.  It is similar to dirt pudding only you have little teddy grahams sticking out of the dirt in place of groundhogs because  cookies in the shape of a groundhog are apparently not available.

groundhog pudding cups

Holiday duds are also a question mark for Groundhog Day.  Other holidays have fairly distinctive clothing–bonnets for Easter (or at least your finest), red clothing for Valentine’s Day, anything red, white and blue for the Fourth,  ugly sweaters for Christmas, and party hats for New Year’s Eve.  Perhaps Groundhog Day should be celebrated in our PJ’s in honor of the rodent’s awakening from hibernation to see if any shadows are about.

groundhog-shadow

Better yet, why don’t we just make Groundhog Day a day to celebrate nature? We can be glad that winter will be behind us at some as yet undetermined point in the near future, and rejoice that spring is ahead of us.  Perhaps we could even learn a little about our rodent friend who serves as the bearer of good or bad tidings depending on what he sees–or doesn’t see.

Wouldn’t it be fun to stock up on information rather than to pile up credit card debt for just one holiday?  I’ll bet it is more fun to learn that a young groundhog is called a chuckling than to look at a hefty bill for holiday purchases.  How about squirreling away the fact that groundhogs are the largest members of the squirrel family rather than having to pack away tons of Christmas decorations?  Instead of decking the halls, dying the eggs, and flying Old Glory, why don’t we marvel at how groundhogs dig complex burrows with several chambers, including a bathroom?

Sometimes simple pleasures are the best.  Holidays can be joyous occasions, but often we don’t get to enjoy them because we are too busy with all the fluff we think must go with them to focus on the reason for the holiday.  I challenge you to sit back, relax, and spend Groundhog Day 2016 merely pondering how much wood the woodchuck (a/k/a a groundhog) would chuck if he could chuck wood. And please–don’t eat the chuckling!