NDT 2016 Like No Other

At least not like the last seven years.  For starters, a team from Northwestern or Georgetown did not make it to finals. The last year that didn’t happen was 2009; ironically, the last year a Kansas team won the NDT.  Congratulations to Kansas RB and Harvard HS for advancing to the last round. Though both schools have excellent credentials for debate, neither school has had a team in the finals since the aforementioned 2009 and remarkably, as competitive as Harvard teams have been over the years under Sherry and Dallas, the last time Harvard made it to finals was in 1995 when they placed second and the last time they won it all was 26 years ago.  Congratulations to Harvard HS for bringing glory back to Harvard and to Hemanth Sanjeev for his 3rd speaker finish.

No, the 2016 NDT is not like any another.  For the first time in history, probably, although I don’t know for sure, a freshman made it to the finals – Sion Bell, who debated at the TOC last year. In fact, I would guess the Kansas freshman/sophomore tandem of Bell and Robinson (Robinson earned the 6th speaker award) are the youngest team to ever reach finals at the NDT.  And it was a young final round.  Harvard’s Sanjeev himself is only a sophomore. In fact, there were quite a number of teams this year with freshman reps who won a number of rounds and a respectable number of ballots, including Emory FL, an all freshman team with 5 wins and 17 ballots.  Based on TOC records from 2015, there were at least 13 teams with freshmen debaters at the 2016 NDT.

This NDT was the one with the first team to make it to finals who did not get a first round bid.  And if Kansas BR, the team in reference, had won, it would have been an enormous upset after they dropped all 6 rounds in previous tournaments during the season to Harvard HS, who ranked as the top team of the year and won the Copeland Award.

Congratulations to Sherry Hall, the 2016 Unger Award Winner and to her team Harvard HS (David Herman and Hemanth…

Posted by National Debate Tournament (NDT) on Saturday, April 2, 2016 

And though Kansas lost on a 5-0, it was a good round watched by a number of debate enthusiasts from around the country – nearly 1,000 watched the stream on debate vision.

This NDT is the one in which the Kentucky squad made a splash with three teams who won 16 prelim rounds and 50 ballots.  Only one 3 team squad had more wins and ballots – Emory with 17 wins and 51 ballots.  Both Emory and Kentucky had teams advance to the Elim rounds.  Kentucky GN made it to Quarters – Grasse earned 9th speaker; impressively, all three Emory teams made it to Doubles; KS to Octos.

One could argue that the best two team delegation was UC Berkeley with 12 prelim wins and 37 ballots, more wins than Baylor’s three team slate and more ballots than the Texas trio.  In fairness, both squads had Freshmen debaters, who with their partners each won 3 rounds, which is nothing to be ashamed of – Baylor BC earned 12 ballots. Berkeley SM reached Octos and SW, Quarters.  John Spurlock took the top speaker award; Srinidhi Muppalla earned the 18th speaker; Sergent-Leventhal and Wimsatt earned the 4th and 13th speakers respectively.

The strongest 1 team slate would go to Vermont BL with 6 prelim wins and 17 ballots going into Doubles. Taylor Brough earned 2nd speaker.

Congratulations to all the debaters at the 2016 NDT.  Well-done!  Now, go get some rest.



Hillary needs Bernie’s support


I am a Hillary Clinton supporter but have been impressed with Bernie Sanders’ campaign.  Amazingly, he continues to pile up victory after victory, most recently sweeping Hawaii, Alaska and Washington on a Saturday when most Americans were watching the Elite 8 NCAA tournament games.  And while he clearly has the momentum, he is still trailing in the delegate count and has practically no chance to win the nomination even if he wins the rest of the democratic races, unless Hillary Clinton drops out.

As a Hillary Clinton supporter, I am concerned about her performance and worry that her wins to date have been mostly in states that typically vote for the Republican candidate in the General election.  Bernie seems to be winning the states that Hillary needs to carry in the General to have a chance at victory.  My fear is that Bernie supporters in the states he’s won so far that went to the Democrats in 2012: WA, MI, MN, VT, ME, NH, HI, and CO will refuse to back her, or only do so if she adopts positions that he supports.  In fact, Bernie has indicated that he won’t campaign for her without getting something in return. The problem is that if she does turn sharply to the left in the general, she will lose and lose badly.  And she may lose anyway, even if Bernie accepts defeat with humility because so many of BS supporters simply do not like her, thanks to Bernie’s portrayal of her as an establishment hawk  wedded to Wall Street, wealthy donors, and Obamacare that Bernie and the Republicans reject, the very health care system that allows many of the Millenials, who make up a large portion of his supporters, to stay on their parent’s health care plan until they reach 26 years of age.  This same Obamacare has provided coverage for many people in the U.S. who formerly had no insurance at all.  Unfortunately, BS supporters don’t seem to understand that if BS loses (and he inevitably will) Trump or Cruz could be their (my, our) next President.  BS supporters, I know it will be difficult for you to embrace HC, but I urge you to read up on what a Cruz or Trump presidency would look like.

Not all is gloom and doom for HC.  While Bernie has won states that vote Dem. in the General, so too has Hillary.  In fact, for comparison sake, if the contest were a General election between Bernie and Hillary, she’d have won the equivalent of 103 electoral votes in Blue states to date, while BS would have won just 57.  She’s won the big ones that went DEM in 2012:  IL, OH, and FL.  He’s been winning the smaller Blue states (Blue in 2012) like HI, VT and NH.  He’d have to nearly run the table of the remaining Blue states to best her in electoral votes (taking all the Red States out of the equation) meaning Bernie would need to win NY, NJ, CA, CT, PA, DC, OR, RI, NM, MD and DE, a highly unlikely scenario.

If Hillary wins the nomination, as she’s on pace to do despite Bernie’s momentum, she will need to win most of the Blue states that President Obama won in 2012, including the blue states that Bernie has already won which include: WA, HI, VT, CO, MN, MI, NH and ME.  He and his supporters HAVE to deliver these states to HC in the General.  I know cooperation is not in Bernie’s DNA.  For the record, he is notorious for rarely compromising in Congress which is the basis for governance in a democracy.  He is as well known for his failure to seek or attract bipartisan support for legislation he has put forth or to support moderate legislation.  In fact, he and Cruz are on opposite extremes of the ideological spectrum and have done very little in their careers to help break the gridlock on capital hill and have actually, in many ways, contributed to it with purist and angry views.  The truth is, ideologues have a hard time uniting people and governing.

BS supporters, take a close look at HC.  Whether you like her not, she WILL appoint a supreme court judge who WON’T take us back to the stone age; she’ll protect Obamacare and try to expand it; she BELIEVES in climate change and science; she’ll protect Social Security (expanding it is a pipe dream, sorry) and won’t raise the retirement age to 96; she’ll work to address the issues of racism, including prison and police reform and will challenge states who insist on suppressing the vote;  she’ll support an INCREASE in minimum wage; she’ll support women’s rights; she’ll support the LGBT community; she’ll fight for sensible gun control laws; she’ll fight ISIS intelligently; she’ll continue to improve relationships with our allies, which is vital in a global community – we cannot allow the U.S. to become an isolationist nation, nor to promote protectionism which will spark a trade war and kill the economy.

An HC presidency would be infinitely preferable to a Trump or Cruz regime.  With all due respect to BS and to his supporters, he can’t win – the delegate math is against him.  After the convention, when Bernie’s defeat becomes official, please support and more importantly, VOTE for HC in the General.  Your future – OUR future is at stake.


Likely NDT 2016 National Champion

March Madness of Another Kind


In the East, watch out for Kentucky and Michigan; in the  Midwest, Michigan State is a lock.  Over in the South, I like Cal’s chances and in the West, well, if pressed, I’d say Baylor, who last won the championship in, is due, but don’t count Texas out just yet. The last time one of these teams won a National Championship was back in 2008, when two speedy tacticians, Jacob Polin and Michael Burshteyn smoked the field.  The tandem of Spurlock and Muppala aim to bring back the glory.

Yes, it’s March madness, but not that one in Houston.  I’m talking about the one in Binghamton.  Haven’t you heard?  The 2016 National Debate Tournament.  And it looks to be a good one.  I actually don’t know which teams will ultimately compete, but most of the schools listed have teams that were issued first round at large bids which means they qualified for the tournament. Last year, Northwestern took the prize, as they’ve done quite often over the past few decades, but this year, they will face stiff competition from the likes of Harvard, Michigan State, Kansas, Georgetown, Emory and Vermont.  Yes, Vermont feels the Bern, or I should say the Brough and Lee.

Kansas, Baylor, Michigan St., Kentucky, Cal, Texas, Gonzaga, Iowa, Oklahoma, Weber St., Indiana, USC,  and Michigan all have teams in the NCAA tournament and most will also have delegations competing at the NDT.  Wouldn’t it be something if a school brought home two nationals championships during March Madness?  And it could happen.  My prediction:  Michigan State.

Clinton Should Focus on Trump Not Bernie

Heifer International 001 (11)

Secretary Clinton is not doing herself a favor by going after Bernie Sanders.  All she’s doing is ticking off Bernie supporters who she will need supporting her when she becomes the nominee.  Now I’m not writing off Bernie.  He’ll win some more states and do very well in others collecting a number of delegates in the process.  Notwithstanding his success, the delegate math is stacked against him.  He knows this.  And Hillary should too.  What she needs to do is start showing Bernie more respect.  Her gaffe about Bernie not standing with her in her fight for health care when she was first lady, when in fact he was standing behind her, and had received her praise, came across as another desperate lie.  I don’t think she misspoke as much as she selectively forgot.  As with the earlier comments about the Reagans being leaders in the discussion of HIV/Aids – they were anything but leaders – Nancy was famously the woman who preached abstinence and is best known for her “just say no” campaign – Clinton risks further credibility problems by reaching into the past to say something clever.  I hate to say it because it is what so many don’t like about her, but she needs to stick to the script.  The problem is, she and Bernie are both held to a much higher standard than Trump when it comes to public statements.   When they misspeak or misremember, the press trounces on them.  When Trump lies, taunts, bullies and makes some of the most vile remarks, he gets a pass.  And when he is critiqued, he simply says that the liberal media is out to get him and his faithful madly cheer seething with hatred and ready to do whatever Trump calls on them to do.  So what Clinton needs to do is explain how she plans to beat Trump, without arguing that she is better suited to beat him than Bernie, even though she is. Bernie can only defeat Trump if Trump self-implodes, which is a possibility.  Trump might not even win the nomination. But if he does, Hillary will need all of Bernie’s supporters to turn out.  If they don’t, game over.

Clinton Wins Dems in Red States

Partriotic Cow

Hillary Clinton may win the delegate count with the help of super delegates, but she hasn’t been able to defeat Bernie Sanders in very many states that typically vote blue in general elections.  So far, Bernie has taken the blue states of CO, MI, MN and VT.  Clinton, on the other hand, has won mostly in states that go for Republicans, the so called red states. Giving the delegate math, Bernie is not likely to win the nomination.  And if his supporters in Dem. strongholds do not turn out in November to support Clinton, she is not likely to win the presidency.  I can guarantee this:  them southern states ain’ta turnin blue, that’s for sure – although North Carolina and Florida could be up for grabs.  The same could be said for Virginia, a blue state in 2012 that could turn blood red in November.

The problem for the Clinton campaign has been drumming up enthusiasm for her vision, which is not terribly attractive to younger voters.  Her platform has been mostly to assure the public that she’ll continue President Obama’s legacy.  That’s just not enough for young voters who are saddled with debt and fear the future, even though the President has managed to accomplish quite a lot – things that have benefited the young and old alike, despite Republican obstructionism. The thing is, Bernie has a vision – a laudable but unrealistic one in my judgement – of a country where Wall Street is taken down a notch and corporate America willingly pays taxes; a vision where Congress suddenly decides that a single payer health care system makes sense as an alternative to the Obama care that they have tried repeatedly to repeal and replace. Can you see the legislature supporting free tuition and student loan forgiveness for all in debt?  I would like for Wall Street to forgive my credit card debt and my home loan and pay back all the student loans I paid in my day, and I am sure Bernie has a plan for that on his website.  Simply put, BS is full of promises that he cannot possibly deliver, and young people have blindly bought into the rhetoric, just as voters have bought into Trump’s slick and self-funding con job. When BS loses the nomination, as he most assuredly will, will his idealistic young fans rally behind Hillary Clinton?  Sadly, I don’t think they will.

That is, young people will not turn out for Clinton unless she scares the shit of them with the prospects of a Trump presidency.  Are the young idealists capable of grasping reality? Can’t they see that Trump would be an absolute disaster for them and the country?  Do they care?  Would they prefer to have fun at protests for the next four years? I guess it would keep activists employed.   I know that I am being cynical, but the stakes are high.  We can’t lose 4 years to a egomaniac who seems to have no core beliefs except the belief in himself.  Trump essentially wants to lower taxes for the wealthy, give corporate welfare to entice American businesses to come back home, build up a bloated military, which is always good for big business, and get rid of environmental protections, ignoring climate change in the process. He’d somehow deport the undocumented (would he bring back Trump airlines for this?) ban Muslims from entering the country and close mosques, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Trump might have to knock down Lady Liberty and build a giant Trump wall on Ellis Island. Trump’s biggest supporters, the white middle class and the “poorly educated” had better brace to pay more for everything as a result of protectionism, which would spark trade wars.  You like your Honda Civic?  How about paying $50,000 for one.  Might I offer you a Chevy Spark instead?  How about a Dodge Dart? (of course you will need to buy the engine warmer if you live in a cold climate) The bailout was a good idea, but it’s time America make a better car, and only competition can make that happen, that is if you believe in free and fair trade.

And I am only getting started.  If you think the U.S. is a divided nation now, imagine a Trump presidency, full of ego and little regard for civility, a free press, peace, human rights, the environment and democratic institutions.  Congress is not a board of directors and the American people are not simply reality show TV fans.  Hostile takeovers and hardball diplomacy will not gain the U.S. standing in the world or make it any safer.  Imagine Carl Icahn negotiating peace between Israel and the Middle East. And get this, if Trump is elected, can you imagine Ted Cruz as the next Supreme Court justice?  We’d be one step closer to a heavily armed theocracy in this country. It could happen.  I’m serious. If Clinton is unsuccessful in scaring the crap out of young Bernie supporters so that they turnout in November, Trump wins handily and the next 4 years will be an absolute disaster for us all, Trump supporters included.

Numbered Lakes an E-book

JP Pond

I finally finished and published Numbered Lakes as an e-book.  Check it out, won’t you?  For details, see the Numbered Lakes tab on this website or follow the link below to  preview on Amazon.

Numbered Lakes Preview


Ted Cruz To the Right of the Right


I’ve written enough about Donald Trump, and though he is still leading in the polls, he won’t win the GOP nomination.  Prospective GOP voters love to flirt with trash talking demagogues, but will eventually come to their senses and go with a more mainstream candidate.  Trump’s star faded a little when Dr. Ben Carson began to connect with evangelicals in Iowa and elsewhere.  But after the terror attacks in Paris, Carson’s lack of foreign policy knowledge has proven costly in the polls.  By contrast, Trump’s hawkish talking rhetoric on how to deal with terrorism and his general disdain for foreigner’s, chiefly immigrants and refugees, has helped him regain some of the support he had lost to Ben Carson, but only some of it because another candidate is now surging in the polls; another  demagogue who is more politically savvy than Trump and Carson and just as dangerous, if not more; his name: Rafael, Edward “Ted” Cruz, the Canadian born, Texas Senator and son of a Cuban refugee.

Watch out for this tough talking, televangelist type demagogue who has considerable oratorical skills.  His popularity among evangelicals and tea party extremists is on the rise. And while Americans think very little of the “do nothing” Congress, Cruz has positioned himself as an outsider who has tried to shake things up in the Senate.  He hasn’t succeeded in doing much except political grandstanding and pissing off the GOP leadership who have frankly had enough of him.  Remember, he spearheaded a government shutdown over funding for Obamacare and then more recently threatened a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood. No one wants a government shutdown.

If you think Trump and Carson are extreme, wait until you look at Cruz a little more closely.  He makes the outsiders look moderate by comparison.  A little known fact is that the Texas Senator is tied with Utah Senator Mike Lee as the most conservative member of Congress as rated by the Heritage Action, a conservative outfit associated with the Heritage Foundation.  Cruz and Lee scored 100% on the Heritage Action Scorecard which tabulates how conservative the 535 members of Congress are.  I think this qualifies as extreme given that Cruz is to the right of 533 of the 535 members of Congress whose average score is about 64%.  Rand Paul, the libertarian leaning candidate rates at 88%, and Marco Rubio, who many have argued would be more of a mainstream alternative to the “outsiders” is actually much more conservative than many think at 94%.  For comparison sake, John McCain, the party’s nominee in 2008, scores on the moderate side at 51%.

So what does Ted Cruz believe?  That’s hard to say.  Actually, it is easier to articulate the many things he does not believe in including:

the federal government, fair taxation, educational standards, affordable health care, a women’s right to choose, marriage equality, climate change, allowing the undocumented to stay in the country, allowing Syrian refugees into the country, the nuclear deal with Iran, sending ground troops to fight ISIS, tax credits for wind production, high speed rail, paid sick leave, unions, gun control, reducing military spending, the separation of church and state, infrastructure spending and compromise.

What we do know is that he favors the death penalty, shutting down the government when he can’t get his way, and a balanced budget. It is not clear how he plans to balance the budget, while increasing military spending and decreasing taxes, but I guess this doesn’t matter as long as big business prospers and the interest of the 1% remain safe and sound.

Cruz may seem to some like a reasonable alternative to the “outsiders”, but what is clear is that when you get a closer look, his viewpoints are shockingly extreme.


Why the U.S. Should Accept Refugees


An NPR article reminded me that even though the U.S. has been a “beacon” for immigrants and refugees, it has not always welcomed them and this goes back all the way to the first Americans who were  suspicious of the white “settlers” who they knew were not interested in just settling. As such, that 54% of Americans are opposed to accepting Syrian and Iraqi refugees comes as no surprise.  As the article points out, the majority of Americans polled at various times in the past, opposed granting safe haven for immigrants fleeing danger including German Jews during and after War World II, Vietnamese “boat people” after the fall of Saigon, Cuban exiles in the 80’s leaving Castro’s dictatorship and a disastrous economy thanks to an American embargo, and Haitians escaping a country devastated by the earthquake of 2010.  And I would point out that Americans, particularly those on the right, want to secure the border, which is code for keeping Latinos out.  Not only is anti-immigrant sentiment fierce and politically motivated during election years and particularly this year, it is, at its core, an expression of racism and fear, not so much of the individual, but the threat that changing demographics pose to the system of white supremacy.  And the billionaire reality host who has benefited more than most from the system, one Donald Trump, has perfectly exploited and stoked the flames of racism giving him a huge lead in the GOP race for the U.S. Presidency. And while his anti-immigrant campaign may appeal to the base of the GOP, it is ultimately a losing strategy because people of color do and will vote in the 2016 election, even as the GOP tries to create barriers to prevent them from doing so.

So what about the Syrian refugees?  For starters, our shameful Congress that voted to put a pause on processing Syrian refugees should be reminded that the vetting process is already rigorous, much more rigorous than in Europe and that it would take up to two years for any of them to be resettled in the U.S.  The bi-partisan bill would effectively make it nearly impossible for the U.S. to be helpful in dealing with the humanitarian crisis.  In fact, the U.S. Congress has essentially told our allies in Europe that “it’s your problem, deal with it.” Morally speaking, it is the world’s problem. The U.S. has more capacity than most other countries to resettle refugees, but unfortunately, not the will.  31 U.S. Governors, all but 1 Republican, including Massachusetts’s Governor Charlie Baker, have gone on record as saying they would not allow Syrian refugees into their states.   Since refugee resettlement is a federal question, it is not clear whether states have the authority to reject them, but clearly, their knee jerk reactions have sent the message to the rest of the world that the U.S. is motivated by fear, racism, xenophobia and ignorance.  It should be stressed that the refugees are fleeing the very terrorism that most people fear; refugees are not jihadists, far from it; in fact, they are victims.  And once again, America, the “beacon of liberty,” has turned her back.

The organized Islamic terrorist cells of Isis, as we now know, are homegrown.  Those who committed the atrocities in Paris, were born in Europe and radicalized there.  We should be more worried about the visa waiver program that allows Europeans to travel freely in the U.S. and intelligence gathering capabilities than desperate refugees.  We should be at least as worried about homegrown terrorism here rooted in racism and extreme Christian views that promote hatred and incite violence and murder as we should be of sleeper radical Islamic terrorist cells.  We should be more concerned about passing sensible gun control measures to prevent mass shootings than absorbing 10,000 Syrian refugees.  As a nation, we should be disturbed by the inflammatory rhetoric and general demagoguery coming from the right with its cries for the suspension of constitutional rights that would have us living in a police state and allow the government to round up “enemies” such as was done to Japanese Americans during World Word II.  We should be worried about the creation of a federal database to track Muslims, as Trump has called for in a country known as the “land of the free.”

If we object to refugee resettlement; if we don’t lift a hand to help; if we blame the Syrians and Iraqi’s for their own plight and give in to fear, we are a shallow, and spineless people who have lost our moral compass. As President Obama said “slamming the door on immigrants would betray our deepest values,” and hand a decisive victory to the terrorists.

Mainstream Moisturizers and Tumors


Breaking news which I saw on my Facebook feed, which actually broke back in 2008: Moisturizers cause cancer in mice.  Yes, the moisturizers we all know and presumably trust, the mainstream brands that keep us from shriveling up like raisins and moulting, do not appear to offer mice any health benefits. Scientists slathered the rodents with copious amounts of Eucerin and Vanicream daily for 17 weeks with disastrous results.  These poor mice developed 69% more tumors than mice not “hydrated” with the moisturizers.  There are three aspects to the study, that were glossed over by the outraged anti-moisturizer activists who published a Portlandia type article in some off the grid journal devoted to convincing readers that we modern day humans are doomed.  One, unlike humans, mice don’t need moisturizers.  Though I am not a scientist and do not claim to have any knowledge of science except that climate change and evolution are real, common sense would dictate that rodents produce natural skin oils that render creams redundant.  Two, Eucerin and the like are not made for mice.  Three, the mice that developed tumors were already at risk for cancers because the researchers had been subjecting them to high amounts of ultraviolet rays, if I understood the study correctly – the mice subjects were known as UVB-pretreated high-risk mice.

I am not defending the petroleum industry, but I am suggesting that extrapolating results of tests on mice to humans is dubious. The amount of lotion those suffering rodents must have received each day would probably have been the human equivalent to 32 ounces rubbed all over our bodies daily, head to toe, over a lifetime. You’d likely drown in the stuff before you developed a tumor, and even if you were a good swimmer, you’d probably end up dying of cancer eventually anyway, as many of us unfortunately will.  The fact remains, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and no doubt the leading cause of death among laboratory rats. A little dab of Eucerin or Neutrogena is not likely to do us in. And because I secretly read this off the grid journal and have drawn my own conclusions,  I believe that what we should be more worried about are pesticides, GMOs, bourbon because its made with GMO corn, breakfast cereal, homogenized milk, preservatives, meat of any kind, soda, flouride in toothpaste and drinking water, energy drinks, mercury from light bulbs (and all that mercury us older folks played with when the family thermometer broke), white bread, the sun, sunscreen, air pollution, climate change, bedding material, rugs, mosquitoes, ticks, rabid raccoons, asbestos, lead paint, air freshner, laminate floors, bug spray, bug propellant, pesticides, nuclear waste, bottled water and so on.  As they say in New Hampshire, “Live Free and Die anyway or something like that.


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