New debate format

The Commission on Presidential Debates, about as arcane a group as one might imagine, is going back to the drawing board to add “additional structure” to the debate format “to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.” Yeah, sure. As if lack of “structure” was the problem.

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was a painful, disgusting, cringe-worthy debacle which made me embarrassed to be an American.

There was structure, a set of rules agreed upon by the two candidates. Basically, there were to be alternating two minute responses to questions from the moderator. During each candidate’s two minutes, the other would remain silent. But right from the beginning it was clear that Trump had no intention of abiding by those rules. Trump spent the full 90 minutes aggressively interrupting Biden, making mean-spirited personal attacks, taunting the former Vice President, trying to provoke. From my standpoint, it was a transparent and cruel attempt to cause Biden, who has struggled his whole life to overcome a stutter, to break by interrupting his speech.

Yes, Biden occasionally responded in kind. But for most of the 90 minutes Biden exhibited the Patience of Job. And a few of Biden’s retorts were memorable. “Shut up man” was my favorite. At one point Biden simply asked the audience, “Do you have any idea what this clown is doing?”

CNN’s Jake Tapper called it “A hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.” Tapper does have a way with words.


The moderator, Fox’s Chris Wallace, asked afterwards if Trump had derailed the debate replied, “Well, he certainly didn’t help.”


Which brings us back to the question of the hour. What can the Commission do to restore order? About the only structural change I can see them making is to give the moderator control of each candidate’s microphone. When your two minutes is up, your microphone is turned off. And while one candidate is talking, the other’s microphone is silent. While Biden is naturally soft-spoken, Trump has a big mouth and is known to shout and scream in rage. I think the microphone trick will be of marginal value at best.

Other Ideas – The Hook

I have some other ideas. On some of the amateur hour programs, which originated in the days of vaudeville, and more famously in the cartoons, there was the hook. You bring out the hook, and yank the offending performer right off the stage.

Other Ideas – The Gong

On a more modern incarnation of the amateur hour, television’s, “The Gong Show,” the judges had a large gong they could ring when they had enough of a performer. One solid and loud ring and you were done for the night.

Other Ideas – The Cone of Silence

And then there is my personal favorite. If the debaters get too loud, just drop the Cone of Silence on them. This little gadget from the TV show “Get Smart” was supposed to allow Agent Maxwell Smart and The Chief to talk confidentially without anyone overhearing them. The conceit was that once the device was lowered from the ceiling, they couldn’t hear each other!


We could just give up on the debates.


Updates and tidbits

Back from Space

SpaceX’s Dragon Demo-2 flight has ended with the successful return to earth of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley after spending more than two months on the International Space Station. As I wrote at the time of their launch, this flight marks the return to America of the ability to send humans into space.

After the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2000, Americans who wanted to go the the ISS had to buy a seat on a Russian rocket. NASA began, during the Obama-Biden administration, what is called the “Commercial Crew” program effectively outsourcing this task to private industry. SpaceX is the first to successfully demonstrate this capability. This flight was named “Demo-2.” The first regularly contracted flight of the Crew Dragon is set to take four astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese, to the space station later this year.

As they left the capsule Behnken and Hurley thanks the SpaceX team. The SpaceX communicator said, “Thanks for riding SpaceX.” For America’s space program, a new day has begun.

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apple 1 – eu 0

It was a win for Apple. A loss for the European Union. And a case study for the rest of us.

The news story itself is simple. In 2016, the European Commission ordered Apple to pay Ireland 13 billion euros ($14.9 billion) for ten years of back taxes. The Commission claimed Apple benefited from illegal state aid via two Irish tax rulings that artificially reduced its tax burden for over two decades, to as low as 0.005% in 2014.

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Trump’s gestapo comes to portland

Hard to believe but the fears I raised in my last column have now been realized and the situation is far worse.

The headlines exploded around the world on the morning of July 15th, summed up best by this Oregon PBS report, “Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles to Grab Protestors Off Portland Streets.”

It is positively frightening. And it can happen to you. It can happen to me. It can happen to any one of us.

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Who the hell are these people?

Embed from Getty Images

What would you do if you saw these people advancing on you? What if they ordered you to stand still, or drop to your knees, or put your hands up in the air? One of these thugs, they do remind me of a motorcycle gang, is carrying a shield marked “police.” But you can buy one of those in any army-navy store. These guys have no badges, no insignia, no nametags, no proof they have the authority to order you or anyone else about. I don’t know about you but facing them I’d be scared stiff.

These ghost soldiers confronted residents of our nation’s capital city and it was a sight unseen in modern times. The residents these stormtroopers confronted were almost all peacefully protesting. That is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Actually, calling these guys stormtroopers is unfair to stormtroopers, who in Star Wars wore white. They are more like Robocop, the cyborg created by corporations to enforce their interests in a dystopian comic book future.

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A Clear and Present Danger

I’ve been avoiding this issue for months. I just got tired about writing about Donald J. Trump. Somewhere in the back of my mind was the thought that he simply could not keep up the pace. He could not commit, every single day of his administration, a bigger travesty than the one he had committed the day before.

I was wrong.

So here is the first of what will be a long stretch of blogs on Trump and the nation. The Trump reaction to a week of protests is just the latest manifestation. The groundwork had already been laid and was in the open for everyone to see. Take a look at April 17, 2020, the day a sitting President of these United States incited violent revolution. Here were Trump’s tweets:

Three calls to arms, to “LIBERATE,” one invoking the 2nd Amendment on gun ownership, all directed at states with popularly elected Democratic governors, who just happened to offend Trump in one way or another.

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From Ham to Dragon

Sunday May 31 2:00PM Update

They have arrived! Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley opened the hatch on the Crew Dragon and joined Expedition 63 on the International Space Station at 1:22pm Eastern Time and were greeted by fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The crew will spend several days continuing to test the Dragon, making sure it is fully operational and ready to return crew members to earth. Then they will work with the other members of the space station crew to perform experiments and maintenance on the station, which has been in orbit with a human crew on board since the year 2000.

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