November 25, 2015

Happy Thangksiving

I thought about doing an all-new Thanksgiving post again this year, but in the end I decided against it. Not because I have nothing to say - like that will ever happen! -- but because there are thousands of bloggers who will be posting millions of words  today and tomorrow, and ultimately we're all probably going to write about the same themes.

You know: family and loved ones (those still here and those who have passed); memories of holidays back in the day; lists of things for which they are thankful; and the obligatory pictures of cooking, dinner tables, and the aftermath, the men sprawled on various couches in various states of turkey- and carb-induced torpor. Buzzfeed has some examples if you need a chuckle. Slate also chimes in on this.

Instead, I took another look at posts I had done for Thanksgivings past.

In 2013, I relived the story of Thanksgiving 1978, when I was an insecure college dropout traveling to my six-years-older-boyfriend's family gathering, something for which I was hopelessly ill-equipped, but which didn't kill me. And you know what they say about things that don't kill you: they make you stronger. And more appreciative of things. Here's an excerpt:
I remember being dropped at the bus station, and wondering if I was doing the right thing, not being home for Thanksgiving. I remember getting a small floral arrangement, a peace offering for his mother, And holding it on the bus from Syracuse to Jersey, trying hard not to spill it (it spilled). And it seemed so puny once I handed it over to her.
Last year, the post was a little different; it fell nicely into my Wondering on Wednesday theme, which (note to self) I just noticed I haven't been keeping up to date. Rather than the nostalgic musings of the year before, this post was full of pressing questions, such as:
If a male turkey's name is Tom, what's the female's name?  
Nobody answered me on that, so if know the answer or you've got a good guess or a suggestion, drop me a comment.

This year, I'm not cooking Thanksgiving dinner -- for the first time in 20 year or so, maybe even 25 years. I'm struggling a little - it's just always been 'my holiday', if you know what I mean. The special platter, and the special candles, and special dishes, and the little $5 antique potato masher that my Sweet Baboo - my now husband - loves so much.

But it will be fine, and it will be fun, and we will make new memories, just as we would if I had been the one slaving in the kitchen for days. Hmm... maybe I have the theme for next year's post?

Happy Thanksgiving - safe travels, wonderful memories, and well wishes.   

Politically Incorrect? Or Just Rude?

Have you seen this one yet?

This is the sign that a the owner of a bakery in Springfield OH put up, alerting potential customers to his self-proclaimed politically incorrect beliefs.

Now, we all know that the store itself is not politically incorrect. It's just a bakery after all, with a nice tile floor and a pretty sign on the door. Stores don't have beliefs, after all.

And you know what? I don't think the owners are politically incorrect, either. They're just exercising their First Amendment rights, which would be politically correct, wouldn't it?

Now, some people are getting all up in arms about this, for example pointing out that there are 30-some-odd celebrations in December, and over 4000 religions in the world, and how being Christian is not the only one that matters or the best one, and so on -- keeping the focus on the religious aspect of this.

My first reaction?  Seems pretty rude to pretend that it's not possible to love our country and be thankful for those who serve without also being a Christian or having 'Merry Christmas' as the December greeting of choice. These are not mutually inclusive, or mutually exclusive; I presume the bakery owner knows that and opted for self-persecution and rudeness as way to express frustration with (or, in the case of some political candidates, support for) the current state of religion in general and (supposedly, per Fox News) on Christians in particular.

On the slim chance that he's truly unaware, I can assure him that people of many faiths (or without one) can and do love America, and serve in the military or as first responders; they die for our country on foreign soil and right here at home, right next to the Christians who do the same.

They buy doughnuts. They run for office, teach school, drive trucks, process insurance claims, bag groceries, wait tables, lead companies, build homes and skyscrapers, deliver babies, cure diseases, act in movies, sing their hearts out, own guns, vote, give to charity, write poetry, create great art, go into space, pay taxes, serve on school boards, take care of their homes, raise their families, and so on, right smack dab in the middle of all the Christians. They're Muslims and Buddhists and Satanists and Jews and atheists and Sikhs and tribalists and whatever else -  and they are Americans.

They pledge allegiance to the flag (maybe skipping the 'under God' part) and spend money just like Christians do - even when the money says In God We Trust, and when they don't believe a word of it.

Here, people can have religious beliefs, and can express them as they choose. They can also not have religious beliefs, and express or not express that, as they choose. Equally, people can choose to be rude, and can choose to think that there's only one way to love America.

Me? I'm a Happy Holidays kind of gal, for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which are that it's easier, and that I don't really think about it all that much. I'm not religious but I love America just as much as the guy who put up this sign wants us to believe he loves America.

I also respect those who currently serve, and those who have served in the military, and respect police and firemen and people in all different professions and religions, even though some folks, regardless of profession or faith, have shown they're not worthy of that respect. They -- as individuals -- no longer get mine, but I don't stop respecting the whole kit and caboodle of them.

The best part? As an American, I get to pick and choose where I'm going to buy baked goods -- and if I were in Springfield, I'd hope there was another bakery, because I would not patronize this one. Not because he appears to be a Christian and I'm not religious, but because I  think he doesn't want my business, and I don't want to offend him by patronizing his shop.

I do appreciate that he puts his attitude on the door, though -- that'll save me a trip.

November 24, 2015

Has Christie Lost His Cojones?

Donald Trump shot his mouth off about watching thousand and thousands of people in New Jersey cheering when the twin towers of the World Trade Center came down on September 11th.

The way Trump  initially said it, in a speech in Alabama, you would have thought he was actually in Jersey City on 9/11 with these alleged celebrants, not watching them on television, which is what he clarified for various media outlets.

I really wanted to hear New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tell Donald Trump to get the hell of the news shows and stop badmouthing Jersey, like he told tourists and residents alike to get the hell off the beach when Hurricane Irene was taking aim at Asbury Park.

Instead, Christie wimped and mamby-pambied and wishy-washed and chose his words oh so very carefully:
I do not remember that, and so it's not something that was part of my recollection. I think if it had happened, I would remember it, but, you know, there could be things I forget, too.
Really?  That's all you've got, Governor?

Are you the same man who got in a shouting match with a former Navy SEAL?
If you decide what you want to do is put on a show today, let me tell you something, I can go back and forth with you as much as you want. And let me tell you something, after you graduate from law school, you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end's gonna get thrown in jail, idiot."
Or the guy who shouted at a teacher to "do her job", or who said that
You can treat bullies in one of two ways. You can either sidle up to them, or you can punch them in the face. I like to punch them in the face.
Maybe Christie was that guy when he was only the governor of New Jersey. Now that he's fighting an uphill battle to remain (become?) a viable candidate for the presidency, it seems he's lost his punch.

Even former NY Governor George Pataki responded more strongly than Christie, for heaven's sake.

The R's are all about being strong in the fight against terrorism -- but it seems they are uninterested in or unwilling to take that same approach when addressing things their fellow candidates say - even when it's something as outrageous as this.

While it's now clear that candidate Chris Christie doesn't remember what happened in New Jersey on 9/11, there is no way that Governor Chris Christie would have forgotten it had thousands and thousands of residents of his state, regardless of their nationality, had cheered the terrorism of  9/11. He would not have forgotten if it was only hundreds, or merely dozens of people.

Those actions would be etched in his brain, and in his heart, as the governor of a state that lost 674 residents that day. And you could be sure that if anyone was going to call out Jersey City residents for their behavior, it would have been Christie, and there would have been film.

Candidate Christie? His response was a kiss on the cheek of Donald Trump, and a slap in the face to the people of the state he currently represents.

Tuesday's Number: $219,165

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

This week, there were

·         14 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers, totaling $230,706
·         two satisfied judgments for $11,541 and
·         no bankruptcies

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:

·         Crouse had three, totaling $423, after the credit for the satisfied judgments was applied
·         St Joe’s had five totaling $76,042
·         SUNY Upstate had seven, for $136,434

A local dentist filed the remaining judgment for $6,266. 

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

November 22, 2015

Point/Counterpoint: Syrian Refugees

Below are a number of comments made by various presidential candidates regarding Syrian refugees. Not surprisingly, there are a wide range of opinions, which allows me to classify this as a Point/Counterpoint post.

Can you match the contender with the statement? Answers at the end of the post - no cheating!

Here we go:
(a) We have welcomed refugees, the tired, huddled masses for centuries, that's been the history of the United States. We should continue to do so. We have to continue to be vigilant to make sure those coming are not affiliated with the terrorists, but we can do that. 
(b) I support the call from humanitarian and refugee organizations for the United States to accept at least 65,000 Syrian refugees next year. If Germany - a country with one-fourth our population - can accept 800,000 refugees this year, certainly we - the nation of immigrants and refugees - can do more. 
(c) You have the refugee organizations that are overwhelmed; I think it's in our national security interests to try and get ahead of this problem. My goal is to make sure they don't have to flee their country... They're not coming here because they want to. People leaving Syria are fleeing tyranny, not to get jobs. 
(d) We're facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II and I think the United States has to do more I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in.  
(e) I'd sit down with our allies and figure out how we can help, because America is a compassionate country. We saw the image of that four-year-old little boy drowned in Syria (sic) and we can't have those kinds of things. I can't come up with an exact number. You'd have to sit with our allies and work together.
(f) We should take our fair share. We are good people. I don't think the average American has any idea what it's like to live in the Middle East right now. I don't see how you can lead the free world and turn your back on people who are seeking it... 
(g) I'm putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they're going back. They're going back. 
(h) Are they really escaping tyranny, are they escaping poverty, or are they really just coming because we've got cable TV? I don't mean to be trite, I'm just saying we don't know. 
(i) Send them back to a hell hole? That's not the proper policy for the United States and it's certainly not an exhibition of leadership. 
(j) I think it's impossible to give a proper number until we understand the dimensions of the problem. People are leaving Iraq, they're leaving Syria, with just the clothes on their backs. The world has got to respond. The United States should be part of the response. 
(k) We've always been a country that's been willing to accept people who have been displaced, and I would be open to that if it can be done in a way that allows us to ensure that among them are not...people who were, you know, part of a terrorist organization that are using this crisis. 
(l) We are a welcoming nation, and we have accepted a lot of refugees, and I think we will continue to to do. But we also can't accept the whole world, so there are some limits. 
(m) The United States, I believe, has done it's fair share in terms of humanitarian aid...I think the United States honestly, sadly, cannot relax our entrance criteria. We are having to be very careful about who we let enter this country from these war-torn countries to be sure terrorists are not coming.  
How'd you do? Were you able to tell then apart?

Kudos, I think, to those who have maintained consistency in their positions and who have not jumped on the bandwagon simply to stay in the game. For those who previously said one thing and are now, post-Paris, saying something else, do you think they remember where they used to stand on this only a couple of months ago?

And, perhaps more importantly, do you think any reporters are going to call them on it where they're being inconsistent?

(a)  Ted Cruz  (b) Martin O'Malley (c) Lindsey Graham (d) Hillary Clinton (e) Chris Christie (f) Graham (g) Donald Trump (h) Mike Huckabee (i) Jeb! Bush (j) Bernie Sanders (k) Marco Rubio (l) Rand Paul (m) Carly Fiorina

November 21, 2015

The Update Desk: Double Dipping

Earlier this week, in my Grains of Salt (v3) post, I talked about the chief law enforcement officer of Onondaga County who, it appeared, had broken a campaign promise to not take both his taxpayer-paid pension and his taxpayer-paid salary.

Gene Conway, the double-dipper, was the Town of Dewitt police chief before being elected Onondaga County sheriff in 2014; before that, he worked in the sheriff's department for over 20 years, which is where he earned the pension that is the subject of the double-dip.

As police chief in Dewitt, he legally collected his pension in addition to his salary. When he ran for sheriff, he told us that he wanted to set an example, and that he would not take take his pension if elected.

As I noted the other day, reporters for the Syracuse Media Group (which includes the Post-Standard and discovered that Conway did collect a pension this year, from January to April, and that he received additional pension payments covering April through October after the reporters investigated with the state.

Conway wrote a letter to the Post-Standard in response to the earlier article, trying to explain how he had in fact kept his campaign promise not to take his pension. In the letter he stated
(That) is why I see it as vital to add several major corrections to the stories published on regarding the allegation that I broke my promise to forgo my pension while sheriff.
Here's one his those "major corrections" from Conway
As a member of the New York State Employees Retirement System, I am guided by the regulations of the Retirement and Social Security Law.  After taking office earlier this year, I notified the system of my intention to suspend my pension benefits, based on my campaign pledge. This was verified by a copy of that correspondence contained in the story.
It is true that he asked for his pension to be suspended, but it had nothing to do with the campaign pledge. His letter stated in part
On or about April 10, 2015 I will reach the limit of $30,000 in earnings. Therefore I am requesting that my pension be suspended at the time it reflects my earned income limit.  
He doesn't point out in the letter to the newspaper his intention to resume his pension again next year, but he did include it in the letter to the retirement system.
I understand and request that my earned benefit will again resume as of January 1, 2016.
We now know that Conway can't have his pension suspended; that opportunity is not available to an elected official (something his opponent, Toby Shelley, seemed to know). But it's not his lack of knowledge on the pension laws that the issue here -- it's his contention that suspending his pension is what he promised during the campaign.

In a live chat facilitated by back in 2014, the following exchange occurred. In reference to the double dipping Conway was doing at the time, a person asked
If it's wrong then why is it not wrong now and why don't you stop now? 
Conway responded
I currently receive a waiver to collect my pension. That waiver is legal and is actually applied for by the employer, which is the Town. It allows them not to have to pay 25% of my salary to the pension system. I have stated that I will not seek a pension as sheriff for two reasons - because I will be trying to set an example and there would be no savings to the county as I was previously employed there.
This was not the only time Conway vowed that he would not collect both his pension and his salary if elected.  Here's an excerpt from an interview published in the Eagle News Online, in which he was given the opportunity to tell voters about his plans regarding double dipping:
I presently collect a salary from the town of Dewitt as their police chief  I also collect my pension. I would not collect both as sheriff
And there's also this article, again from the Syracuse Media Groups outlets, specifically addressing the pension and salary issue:
Conway said he has already decided he would stop taking his pension if elected sheriff because he did not want it to become a political issue in the campaign. 
He also noted in another conversation with local reporters
I do not want it to be a factor for people in the community. I don't want it to be an issue in the campaign. This job is that important to me. 
And here's one last reference, from an interview with Dan Cummings on Newsmakers, where he was asked (just before the 14-minute mark) whether he would continue to draw the pension or do something else with it:
I've already stated publicly and consistently from the beginning that I will not seek that pension. Dan, straight out I won't take that pension. No double-dipping.
Nowhere do I see -- except in the letter to the editor -- any comment about suspending the pension. All of his statements are about not taking the pension.

Straight out Gene, I don't believe that saying you broke your promise is "misleading, unfair and incorrect" nor do I believe that your statement today "brings clarity to the matter at hand."

Clarity will come when you take yourself out of the retirement system until you fully retire, when you apologize to the Onondaga County community for breaking your repeated, consistent promises to not double-dip.

November 17, 2015

Grains of Salt (v3): Two Scoops, Please

It's hard to imagine that it's been almost a year since I did a post on a local elected official here in the Syracuse area double-dipping, taking both a taxpayer pension from a previous position and a taxpayer salary from their current position.

Last time, it was state Senator John DeFrancisco, who had resisted the urge to double dip as long as he could stand to, and then, in our best interests, decided that two scoops are better than one. He didn't mention it during his last campaign, mind you; rather he dropped it on us towards the end of the year well after he won re-election.
Granted, I could simply retire and not serve any longer. However, now that Republicans have regained control of the State Senate, Central New York would be better served by my returning to my senate seat, as a majority member and chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
Ah how sweet the taste...

This time around, it's Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway, who replaced notorious double-dipper Kevin Walsh. Walsh blamed us for not knowing he was going to double dip - because we didn't ask him if he was going to, silly us.

Conway won election last year as Onondaga County Sheriff in a reasonably close race against Toby Shelley who had promised that he would not collect both his pension and salary, or that he would donate his pension to charity if he won election. John Balloni, who lost to Conway in a primary, admitted during the campaign that he'd take both.

Conway, aware of the controversy with his predecessor, told us he would not take both.
I have stated that I will not seek a pension as sheriff for two reasons, because I will be trying to set an example and there would be no savings to the county as I was previously employed there. 
And yet, seek a pension he did. He took steps to suspend his pension once his sheriff's salary reached $30,000, which is allowable under the rules as long as the pensioner is not an elected official. But since he is an elected official, the state had to pay him for the missed payments from April through October.  And, going forward, he'll get both, unless he leaves the pension system, according to a State Comptroller's office employee.

"I will be trying to set an example," Conway told us; he might have tried, but he did not succeed. He also hasn't had much to say on the issue, when contacted by the media.

Time will tell if he'll take the necessary steps to actually become the example we expected.

Tuesday's Number: $552,544

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

This week, there were

·         24 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers, totaling $525,314
·         two satisfied judgments for $15,455 and
·         two bankruptcies, for $42,685

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:

·         Crouse had three, with a net credit of $4,215
·         SUNY Upstate had eighteen, totaling $458,509

A local rehab center (six filings, $90,451) and Catskills area hospital ($7,799) accounted for the other $23,250. Crouse had the net negative because the two satisfied judgments were greater than the single open judgement filed this week.

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

November 16, 2015

Point/Counterpoint: Christians and Muslims

Words of wisdom, or something: from two who want to lead the greatest democracy in the history of the world, and from one who plays a game for a living.

Jeb Bush notes that, while we should be making it safe for people to stay in Syria and not have to leave the country and flood Europe and the US, and we need to secure our borders,
original photo Jeb!2016
There are a lot of Christians in Syria that have no place now. They'll be either executed or imprisoned, either by Assad or ISIS. And I think we should have - we should focus our efforts as it relates to the Christians that are being slaughtered. 

Donald Trump, meanwhile, echoed comments that folks such as Britain's PM David Cameron had made earlier this year, and that some in the French government have made more recently, regarding closing some mosques:
I would hate to do it but it's something you're going to have to strongly consider. Some of the absolute hatred is coming from those areas. You're going to have to watch and study the mosques because a lot of talking is going on at the mosques.
Not surprisingly, there were no calls from His Hairness, or the rest of the Republican candidates, to shut down Christian churches when there was so much vitriol and hate spread from the pulpits about marriage equality or contraception. Or for calls to shut down Catholic churches during the time of the terrorist pedophile priests.

Anyway -- moving on.

After a jerk yelled "Muslims suck!" during a moment of silence at the start of the Green Bay Packers - Detroit Lions football game on Sunday, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers minced no words:
I must admit I was very disappointed with whoever the fan was who made the comment. I thought it was really inappropriate during the moment of silence. It's that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we're in today as a world.
Lead from where you are, they say. One of these three did exactly that.

November 14, 2015

Each Time

Each time a person says Islam is a terrorist religion
I will say Catholicism is pedophile religion.

Each time a person says All Muslims are terrorists
I will say All priests are pedophiles.

Each time a person says All Muslims should be shot
I will say All priests should be shot

Each time a person says We should destroy a mosque
I will say We should destroy a church.

Each time a person says Muslims only want to destroy America
I will say Catholics only want to destroy America. 

Each time a person says We should bomb the Muslims,
 I will say We should bomb the Catholics.

Each time a person says Terrorists attacked Paris
I will say 
Thank you for not painting an entire religion with a brush of hate

November 10, 2015

Tuesday's Number: $183,816

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

This week, there were

·         nine new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers, totaling $185,058
·         three satisfied judgments for $19,199 and
·         one bankruptcy, for $17,957

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:

·         Crouse had seven, totaling $41,449
·         St Joe’s had one, totaling $9,839
·         SUNY Upstate had two, totaling $98,969
·         Community (a part of Upstate) got the last, for $9,779

Two medical practices accounted for the other $23,780.  Crouse and SUNY Upstate shared the credits for the satisfied judgments. 

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

November 3, 2015

Tuesday's Number: $297,246

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

This week, there were
  • 18 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers, totaling $302,746
  • one satisfied judgment, for $5,500 
  • and no bankruptcies.

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:
  • Crouse had one, for $5,844
  • St Joe's added one, for $5,766
  • SUNY Upstate had 17, totaling $258,636, which included the $5,500 credit

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

November 2, 2015

The Election Eve Post 2015

It's that time again - the night before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. That means it's Election Eve, and time for me to do my darnedest to encourage you to vote.

We don't have a Presidential race this year; we know that’s coming next year. As of today, there are three candidates on the Dem side: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders; there are fourteen wanna-bes on the Rep side, I think: Jeb! Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump. I hope I haven’t left any out (and I sincerely can't wait until there are fewer of them to track).

In my neck of the woods this year, there’s a lot of nonsense happening at the county level, where allegations of threats and infighting have been rampant for months surrounding the County Executive race. Republican Joanie Mahoney is running for her third term; she’s got a huge bankroll, an underfunded opponent, and of course she got the endorsement of our less-than-popular Democratic governor, one of the least surprising announcements of support in recent memory. Mahoney is only the third county exec we’ve had, so if history holds, the job will be hers when well before we go to bed Tuesday night.

Perhaps the most important choice we have to make here in Syracuse is for school board.  The superintendent has had a very rocky tenure; we have 18 schools that are in local receivership at this time; and we've recently learned that the graduation rate may actually creep up to a disappointing 60%. Obviously, there's a lot at stake in the Board of Ed races. We don’t have kids, but we have skin in the game, because this -  Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York - is our home. 

Yes, I’ll be voting.  And I want you to vote, too. Not because I say it's important; you should vote because it IS important. 

As I do every year, I offer the following motivation, in case you need it: 

After some thought, “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” (1) Actually “The idea of an election is much more interesting to me than the election itself…the act of voting is in itself the defining moment.” (2) And why is it that “When the political columnists say ‘every thinking man’ they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to ‘every intelligent voter’ they mean everyone who is going to vote for them”? (3) 

We know it’s true that “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who didn’t vote” (4), and that “A citizen of American will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” (5) Do we still not realize, after all these years, that “lower voter participation is a silent threat to our democracy… it under-represents young people, the poor, the disabled, those with little education, minorities and you and me”? (6) 

After all, “the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men” (7) and “to make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not just observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” (8) And complain we do, after every election, when the wrong guy wins. If only people who actually voted complained, it’d likely be a lot less noisy. 

Some folks may not vote because they don’t know how to pick the right person. There are a couple different schools of thought on that. On the one hand, some might think that “politics is the art of the possible” (9) while others may subscribe to the thinking that “politics is not the art of the possible, it consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. And it is true that, the great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter the chance to do something stupid.” (10) 

Said another way, a “Vote (is) the instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.” (11) But that’s OK – “personally, I believe that our American system works as long as you participate in it. You must vote and make your voice heard; otherwise you will be left out.” (12) 

It’s generally true that if you “ask a man which way he’s going to vote and he’ll  probably tell you. Ask him, however, why – and vagueness is all.” (13) But voting’s really easy; and “all voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong.” (14) And just about everyone likes to play a game every now and then, right? 

The bottom line is, “voting is simply a way of determining which side is the stronger without putting it to the test of fighting;” (15) “voting is a civic sacrament;” (16) and “the future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.” (17) If all of that seems like too much pressure, you have an out: “Vote for the man who promises least. He’ll be the least disappointing.” (18) 

Please, vote. It really does matter, this year and every year. If you need information on where to vote, or other assistance, visit or contact your local Board of Elections. 

(Thanks to these folks for their words of wisdom: 1 - Charles DeGaulle; 2 – Jeff Melvoin; 3 – Franklin P Adams; 4 and 13 – Andrew Lack; 5 - Bill Vaughan; 6 - Nancy Neuman; 7 - Lyndon B Johnson; 8 - Louis L’Amour; 9 – Otto Von Bismarck; 10 – Art Spander; 11 – Ambrose Bierce; 12 - Mari-Luci Jaramillo; 14 – Henry David Thoreau; 15 – H.L. Mencken; 16—Theodore Hesburgh; 17 – Dwight D. Eisenhower; 18 – Bernard Baruch)

November 1, 2015

Point/Counterpoint: The Comic Book Debate

Not unexpectedly, reaction to the CNBC GOP debate was fast and furious. Or maybe, it was furious and fast.

During the debate, the candidates themselves were quick to pounce on the moderators; a few of those reactions I included in yesterday's post, but I did save a couple.

The first is from Ted Cruz:
You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media. This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions - "Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain?" "Ben Carson, can you do math?" "John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?" "Marco Rubio, why don't you resign?" "Jeb! Bush why have your numbers fallen?" How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about? 
And this, from Chris Christie:
Carl, are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football?  We have -- wait a second -- we have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us.  And we're talking about fantasy football  Can we stop?
The official response from the party came via a letter from RNC head Reince Priebus to Andrew Lack head of NBC, advising
I write to inform you that pending further discussion between the Republican National Committee (RNC) and our presidential campaigns, we are suspending the partnership with NBC News for the Republican primary debate at the University of Houston on February 26, 2016...
CNBC billed the debate as one that would focus on "the key issues that matter to all voters - job growth, taxes, technology, retirement and the health of our national economy." That was not the case. Before the debate, the candidates were promised an opening question on economic or financial matters. That was not the case. Candidates were promised that speaking time would be carefully monitored to ensure fairness. That was not the case.  Questions were inaccurate or downright offensive...
What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates' policies and ideas... 
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, The Networks of NBC.

Elsewhere, the view was a little different.

John Harwood, he of the "comic book version" question to Trump, defended the way he asked the question in an appearance on On Point, a radio show from WBUR and NPR.  When asked by host Tom Ashbrook if he went "a bridge too far" with the question, here was his response (you can listen to the audio here):
No. Look, there is nobody - including the candidates on that stage - the day before John Kasich had given a speech and he said "we've got somebody who's promising to send 10 or 11 million people out of the country. That's just crazy. That is fantasy."  There is no one on that stage who actually believes that you can send those 11 million people out of the country. There is no economist who believes that you can cut taxes $10T without increasing the deficit. It is simply a set of discussions that is not connected to the real world we live in. And I felt and feel at this moment that it's appropriate to pose that to Donald Trump in that way. 
CNBC's Brian Steel, VP of communications, allowed as how
People who want to be president of the United States should be able to answer tough questions. 
Writing in the Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby noted, in reference to Cruz's "brutal takedown," that
It was a good night for Cruz and Rubio; a bad night for Bush. But the biggest loser in Boulder wasn't a candidate. It was the media.
And here's Helaine Olen, author of a couple of books on personal finance who also writes for Slate; she also arrived at the conclusion that CNBC was the biggest loser.
The main moderators  (Harwood, Quick, Quintanilla) appeared to be in a different time zone from Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli, who pitched in with a few questions. Although, come to think of it, Quintanilla may have been in a different time zone from everyone.. Were there tough questions? Sure there were more than a few... But mostly, CNBC's debate was a mess.
Olen's take on it was a bit different - she noted that regular viewers would have seen a "familiar" mess which is not exactly a confidence builder.  She also recollected Quintanilla has had other less than shining moments, such as this one:
...his performance managed to remind me almost at once that his finest moment as a journalist was when he got an interview with soon-to-be-indicted $8B Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford and asked him "Is it fun being a billionaire?"
Hmm.  Now I have to wonder, were my expectations too high to begin with?

Back to Priebus, before we go. His letter to NBC News also noted that
The RNC's sole role in the primary debate process is to ensure that our candidates are given a full and fair opportunity to lay our their vision for America's future. We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns.
That  'consultation' is going to occur tonight, with a high-powered Republican attorney facilitating things, according to the New York Times.

The article points out that there are different opinions from the camps on how to proceed, illustrating again that while it's relatively easy to rally against the media as a common enemy, it may prove harder to change something that - good, bad, or indifferent - benefits some of the candidates just as much as it marginalizes others.

Stay tuned.