Political Confrontation: Do the Presidential Debates Actually Matter?

So just this week, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had their very first televised debate.  And as expected, it was a very watched event.  According to CNN, the debate averaged around 80 million viewers over the twelve television channels that aired it.  And these were the Nielsen ratings, which only take into account people who watch traditional television at home.  There were many people who watched the debates at coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and even colleges.  There were also people who watched the debate online via streams on Youtube and the like.  So it’s very likely the debate viewership was much, MUCH higher than 80 million.

It was a record-breaking event, that’s for sure.  Twitter even called it their “most tweeted” debate ever.  But there’s one question that isn’t really asked: do presidential debates even matter?

According to this article, debates are an important source of new information for voters, information they can presumably use when making their decision on who to vote for.  The article also says that debates can “determine which candidates can tap the ever-widening pipeline of money in politics – from small donors kicking in a few dollars to wealthy elites deciding which future president, or super PAC, is the best bet for their millions.”  Yet it also says that the debate format feels outdated in a lot of ways, considering it has changed very little from its debut in the 1960’s.  It hasn’t taken advantage of the digital age, of the new ways that people gather and consume information.

But it is this line near the very end that stuck out to me:

“The report also recommends inviting third-party candidates and getting rid of live audiences, which too often are packed with donors and partisan supporters whose reactions – raucous applause or derisive boos – can make or break a campaign.”

Is that really true?  Can the reactions of these “stacked” audiences actually effect the outcome of a campaign?  Can the debate itself even effect the outcome?  It is true that debates are heavily favored by pundits and commentators because it gives them fodder to talk about in the days following.  But the actual lasting impact of these debates is at best questionable.

Here’s another article I found that takes a look at the findings of political scientists.  And they aren’t favorable to the actual impact of debates.  The article talks about the well-known “gaffes” during political debates, such as George H. W. Bush checking his watch and Al Gore sighing.  While these were widely talked about in the days following the debates, the statistics seem to say that they had little to no impact in the polls.  If anything, the debates only nudged a candidate closer to victory than they already were, usually by a scant 1-3 points.  They could have an impact in an extremely close election, but the article seems to suggest that it isn’t very likely.

So why is this?  Why do the debates not seem to matter?  While they are a great source of new information, it doesn’t seem like this information changes any minds.  People tend to go into the debates with their minds already made up, particularly due to the fact that the debates occur so late in the political season.  Take this most recent debate as an example.  It is only the first between the two major prospective candidates and election day is less than two months away.  So people have already set their minds to hating one or the other or even both of the candidates.  And it isn’t likely that one candidate’s performance in a debate is going to change their mind at this point.

That isn’t to say that it never happens.  I remember I had a friend back in 2008 during the McCain/Obama election season who was initially a McCain supporter.  He actually changed his mind after watching one of the debates (the vice-presidential one I believe) and found that he liked what the other side was saying more.  So it is possible that the new information can sway a voter’s mind, but the actual movement these voters make up is usually so slim as to be inconsequential.  As I said, most people already have their minds made up and aren’t likely to change them this late in the game.

Now the question becomes one of why do these debates exist at all?  Well, more than anything, they seem to provide commentators and pundits with talking points.  In the days after a debate, they’ll break down everything the candidates do or say, fact-check their statements, and weigh in with their opinions on who won and who lost.  Then, with their fifteen minutes of fame up, they probably collect their check and disappear out the door, biding their time until the next big political event.

And for the television stations, the answer is obvious.  Debates equal ratings.  Ratings equal money.  And money makes the world go round.  So by translation, debates equal money which equals the station making a profit.  So I imagine this is why they hype up the debates so much.  They want to attract more people to watch their particular station so that their ratings spike and they make more cash.  Because the television business is just that, a business.

So in the end, debates seem to be less about providing people with useful information and more about giving the “talking heads” something to talk about.


Well that’s all I have for this week.  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.

36 Questions Women Have For Men: The Answers

I’m a bit late to this party, but in January of this year BuzzFeedYellow, a BuzzFeed Youtube channel, posted a video entitled “36 Questions Women Have For Men.”  And honestly, the video comes across as condescending and rather insulting, a thin attempt to disguise man-hating as feminism.

I thought I could have some fun with these by writing some answers to these questions.  So here we go.


How does it feel to be the same sex as Donald Trump?

Well, at least he has great hair.


The magnificent Trump hair.

It looks even better after Jimmy Fallon is done ruffling it.


But in all seriousness, how does it feel to be the same sex as the CEO of Mylan, the company that jacked the price of the Epipen up hundreds of dollars?  Or better yet, how does it feel to be the same sex as Delphine LaLaurie, a wealthy slave owner in the 1800’s who beat, abused, and tortured her slaves?

Bad people exist everywhere, regardless of gender.  Being male doesn’t automatically equal a tendency towards doing bad things.


Why do you hate rom coms?  Or do you just feel like you need to hate them?

I…don’t really?  I mean, out of my preferred choice of movies, romantic comedies are not exactly high on the list.  Most of the time I find them boring.  The plots are predictable and the characters are uninspired.  I’m sure there are good examples of the genre, but I don’t exactly go out of my way to watch them.

So no, I don’t hate rom coms automatically because I’m a man.  Do you hate action movies automatically because you’re a woman?


Everyone likes The Notebook, everyone likes Beyonce.  It’s just a fact.

No it’s not.  Also that’s not a question.  NEXT!


Why do you make women sit around and talk about men in movies when y’all easily just sit around and talk about boobs for hours?

You know, for supposedly being a critique of female stereotypes, this video is certainly feeding into a lot of the male ones.  Not every guy is some dude-bro walking cliché who thinks that sex is the key to being a man.  Now THAT’S just a fact.

You hear that?  That’s the sound of the mic dropping.  I don’t even need to write the rest of this post.  I’m just that good.


Why do you automatically assume that you won’t like TV or movies that star a female lead?

Why do you automatically assume things about people you haven’t even met?


Also your outfit sucks.

Also your outfit sucks.


The original Alien is one of my favorite movies, and it stars a female lead.  I also really like the TV show Fringe.  And guess what?  One of the lead characters is female.

I’m not even sure where this one even comes from.  I have yet to meet the person who’s like “oh a woman has the starring role in that movie?  Well to hell with this, I’m out!”


Why are you surprised when women are funny?

I’m not.  I like Ellen DeGeneres among others.  Enough said.

Also this question is stupid as hell.


I’m probably funnier than you.

This is your third appearance in this video.  So you’re zero for three right now.  Better step up your game.

Again, this is not a question.  NEXT!


Why do you think that we’re obsessed with you when we hook up?

Lady, I don’t even know you.  And after how condescending you were in this video, I don’t think I want to know you.


Why can’t I sleep with as many people as I want to without being judged?

Why would I care?  Our whole evolutionary drive means that we want to spread around our genes as much as possible.  So go nuts if you want.

But seriously, stop reinforcing stupid male stereotypes.


When men do it, they’re congratulated.



Why do you consider a woman a tease if she doesn’t sleep with you after three dates, but a slut if she sleeps with you on the first date?

Damn is there like, a rule book for this now?  I gotta write this down…

(raises hand) Is this going to be on the test next Tuesday?!


In what world does no mean yes?

Opposite World.


Why do you say women are too emotional to be leaders then justify catcalling by saying men just can’t control themselves?

I don’t.  Catcalling is stupid.


Why do you think that just because you’re nice to me, I owe you my body?

It’s nice that you can take a few choice anecdotes and use them to label an entire gender as sexist and perverted.  Really shows your progressive side.


Why would you ever send an unsolicited dick pic?



Why do you feel like it’s okay to harass women or make offensive comments about women but when somebody does it to your sister it’s not okay?

Uh…I don’t have a sister?  And even if I did, are you saying that I shouldn’t be standing up for them if they’re harassed?  That doesn’t make any sense.


How does it feel to interrupt me when I’m in the middle of making a point during a meeting?

I already interrupted you several times by pausing the video.  And let me tell you, it felt good.


Why do you have to sit with your legs so wide open?

Yes hello, I have 36 questions too.  And they’re all “WHY DOES THIS VIDEO SUCK?!”


I get that you have balls, but I don’t stand around with my arms wide open to make room for my boobs.

Your boobs are not the same thing as my balls.  You are not crushing your boobs together by not having you arms wide open.

Also don’t flatter yourself.  Me keeping my legs open has nothing to do with you.  It’s just more comfortable for me that way.


Why are women perceived as the weaker sex even though we literally birth you?

Because women are generally physically weaker than men.  That’s just science.




Why is it so bad to show your emotions?

It isn’t.  Moving on…


Why are you always trying to prove your masculinity to me?


Is that to your expectations milady?


Why the fuck isn’t it ladylike to cuss?  When did words get genders?

Yeah wouldn’t it be funny if like Spanish had masculine and feminine designations for every word in the entire-


Ah crap.


Why is it your first instinct to doubt women who have been sexually violated or raped?

Why is it your first instinct to ask loaded questions?  And isn’t it “innocent until proven guilty”?  Does a man just have to be guilty if a woman accuses him?  Is that what you’re trying to say?

That, my friends, is called a double standard.


Why do you assume a woman’s angry because she’s on her period?

Because the first thing I do when a girl is angry is ask “HEY ARE YOU ON YOUR PERIOD?!”


Why do you think women that wear makeup are false advertising?  We could say the same thing about your dick size.

Wait…I was supposed to be putting makeup on my dick?  Well shit, I’ve been doing this all wrong!


Why isn’t it weird that there’s a bunch of old white men sitting in a room making legislation about what I can and can’t do with my body?

Because family values and Jesus.


Do you have a coochie?

No I don’t.  Do you have a penis?  No you don’t.  But that doesn’t seem to stop you from assuming you know what men are all about does it?


Why are straight guys so obsessed with lesbians?

Sounds like someone’s jealous…


How does it feel to get kicked in the balls?

Like having to watch this vapid excuse for a video.


Do you ever get tired of trying to be manly all the time?

I used to cry a lot as a child.  So no, I don’t get tired of “being manly” because I never made much of an attempt to be manly, whatever the hell that means.


Why are you so afraid of gender equality?

Oh no, women being equal to me is so scary and horrible!  They should just go back to the kitchen and make me more sandwiches!

You know maybe gender equality would have better luck if certain feminists weren’t so busy trying to reinforce bad male stereotypes.


Why do I deserve to be paid less than you?  In what world does 77 cents equal a dollar?  In what world does 68 cents equal a dollar?  How is that fair?

The whole “77 cents on the dollar thing” is brought up a lot when it comes to gender equality in the workplace.  But the problem is that it’s total crap.  They basically just took the average wage for men and the average wage for women, stacked them together, and came to this conclusion without taking into account any other factors like age, experience, time spent working at one particular job, so on and so forth.

If it was actually true, then no it’s not fair.  But we don’t really know that it’s true now do we?


Why are you intimidated by a woman who makes more money than you?

Because women scary, me stupid sexist man!


Why are opinionated women seen as bitches when opinionated men are seen as bosses?

Have you been on the internet in the last five years?  Everybody’s opinionated and nobody likes anybody.


Why aren’t you speaking up when you hear your male friends behind closed doors make jokes that are offensive to women?

Maybe because my male friends aren’t a bunch of raving chauvinists?  And maybe because the whole concept of something being “offensive” has been so twisted around that just disagreeing with someone else can be seen as offensive?  Or maybe it’s because I find the whole concept of being “offended” heinously stupid in the first place?  I mean come on people, that’s why freedom of speech exists, to protect the unpopular ideas from being phased out.  Obviously if you use your free speech to harass someone and negatively impact their life you should be punished, but are we really going to forbid people from making a slightly off-color “dumb blonde” joke?


Why are you so afraid of recognizing your own privilege?  It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, just recognize it and do something about it.

If it doesn’t make me a bad person then why did you spend the entire video trying to make me feel like a bad person?  I recognize that men have had unfair advantages for a long time.  It hasn’t even been a century yet since women were first given the right to vote.  But I’m so sick of this stupid attitude that says I should feel like a terrible human being just because I’m a man.  They claim that “oh it’s okay, just recognize that you’re privileged and work to fix it”.  But disagree with them in the slightest, and you’re a pile of human garbage.


Now look, I recognize that sexism still exists today and that we still have work to do on that front.  But outright male-bashing?  How is that going to solve anything?

I think the key issue with this video is that these questions don’t seem like they were meant to be answered.  They’re extremely loaded and condescending.  They don’t do anything to further the progressive cause but rather end up stifling it.

But there is a happy ending to this story: apparently the Youtube comments section agrees that the video is bad.  So there’s that.


Well that’s all I have for this week.  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.

Ritual Justification: The Lingering Aftermath of 9/11

I’m going to take a stance today.  It’s not a popular stance, I recognize that, but it’s my stance regardless.  So here we go.

I’m sick of 9/11.  I’m sick of the ritual.  I’m sick of the mourning.  I’m sick of people invoking it as a justification for everything that has followed.

Well…now that I’ve lost half of my followers…let’s continue shall we?

Fifteen years have passed since that horrific September morning in 2001.  I barely even remember it to be honest.  It all felt so surreal.  Just the day before, I had gone to my grandfather’s funeral.  And because of that, I wasn’t going to school that day regardless of what occurred.  I can vaguely recall the images on the television: towers of steel and metal wrapped in bright orange flames and grim dark smoke.  I can recall my mother sitting on the couch, enraptured by the television like the other millions of Americans.  It was certainly a day we would never forget.

Nor should we.  I by no means want to downplay the tragedy of the event.  People died that day, people who didn’t need to die.  But the cultural shift that followed has wormed its way through our country for the past fifteen years almost like a poison.

The aftermath of 9/11 changed the way we saw the world.  TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents began taking their place at airport security checkpoints just a couple of years or so later.  The distrust of the government that defined a lot of the 1990’s suddenly gave way to an overzealous patriotism.  After 9/11, you weren’t allowed to criticize the government too harshly or else you would be labeled as “un-American”.

Think I’m exaggerating?  X-Files, a defining show of the 1990’s, thrived in an era of rampant mistrust of government agencies and authority.  And when did the final episode of its original run air?  May 19, 2002, not even a year after the events of 9/11.  Now I can’t conclusively tie the show’s demise to the change in cultural attitude, but I feel like it could have been a factor regardless.

In any case, the aftermath of 9/11 lingers to this day.  Just recently, I read this article by John Hockenberry, a radio show host.  And I have to say I agree with what he says in it.  The 9/11 mourning ritual has had extremely detrimental effects on our society and how we view the world.  For the past fifteen years, we’ve been locked into this idea of us vs. terrorism.  We continue to see ourselves almost as policemen for the entire world.  And a lot of it is thanks to George W. Bush who, in the absence of an answer to our continual cries of “why”, stepped forward and gave us the “they hate freedom” line.

And anyone who dared dissent with that idea?  Ostracized and ridiculed.  Silenced.  Told to “leave the country” if they had problems with it.

We were angry.  And we took that anger and funneled it into the Afghanistan War.  Then we took it and funneled it into the Iraq War, even though it was never proven that they had any ties with 9/11.  It didn’t matter.  George W. Bush told us he had intelligence information that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq and we went with it, even though later we were almost certain that he completely and utterly made that up.

Almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks.  And how many have died in Iraq?  Scientific surveys estimate between 151,000 and over one million Iraqis were killed, and that’s only in the first four years of the war.  Doesn’t that strike you as absurd?  Even the most conservative estimates show that fifty times as many people were killed in Iraq than were killed on 9/11.  And yet, every year we get sad.  We get mad.  We bow our heads and mourn.  Woe is us, again and again and again…

And yet, despite everything, we are far more a victim of domestic terrorism than we are of any foreign extremism.  But you wouldn’t know that if you watched the national news.  They’ve apparently been hell-bent on stoking this fear of the Muslim “others” for the past fifteen years.  Don’t believe me?  You don’t even have to look beyond the past year to see evidence of it.

First off, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting back in November of 2015.  The news covered that for about a day or so.  Once it started coming to light that the shooter was a crazed Christian crusader who was heavily influenced by the videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts (a claim that has since been disproved), they seemed to unanimously decide to drop the story right then and there.  There was no follow-up with that angle.  The story just…vanished.  There was a blurb about the man’s court hearing a month or so later, but that was really it.

Then, San Bernardino happened just a short time later, less than a week later in fact.  Now, it could be argued that the reason the Colorado Springs story didn’t get attention was because the San Bernardino attack was worse (only about one person died in the Planned Parenthood shooting as compared to about fourteen in San Bernardino), but that still doesn’t explain why they didn’t talk about it in the days leading up to San Bernardino.  And with San Bernardino, they went overboard.  They covered that story for over two weeks, even though they had no evidence the shooters were linked to ISIS for at least a week after it happened.  Every single day it was “well we’re still looking into possible connections with ISIS, but we don’t know for sure yet”.  But we still covered it.

And then there was the worst mass shooting in the U.S. by a single shooter, the attack on the nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  Initially, since the shooter himself called in and claimed allegiance to ISIS, the news covered the story religiously.  And I even wrote a post back then talking about it.  But the thing I never could have predicted was how fast the news would stop talking about it.  The coverage lasted for a few days, but then the story was just unceremoniously dropped.  You would think that because of how deadly the shooting was that they would talk about it more than San Bernardino right?  You’d be wrong.  But why is that?  Why did they stop talking about it?

I think I know why.  They couldn’t prove the shooter had any ties to ISIS.  Even the CIA’s investigation couldn’t turn up any evidence.

If it bleeds, it leads.  Indeed.

I think John Hockenberry put it best when he says in his article that “it’s easy and convenient to fear them more than kids with guns who wander into churches to kill.”  Now that might be seen as an oversimplification, but I don’t think it is.  Think about it.  Muslims make up only about one percent of the population in this country, so your chances of actually running into a Muslim-American in your daily life are pretty slim.  It’s easier to fling your ire at them when you don’t have someone who will confront you on it.  And if anyone in the minority dares stand up and say “you’re not being fair…you’re judging us based on the actions of a minority group of extremists”, their voice is quickly drowned out by the mob, quickly silenced by the anger of the general populace.

And then those same people ask why more Muslims in America don’t stand up and denounce terrorism.  The hypocrisy is stunning.

Like I said, I mean no disrespect to the people who died or to the people who lost someone during 9/11.  But it’s become tiring and frustrating how we keep propping it up like we’re the only ones who truly understand suffering (I think this headline from The Onion speaks volumes).  President Obama during a speech this year said that fifteen years is a long time, but that it can seem like yesterday for those who lost someone in the attacks.  And I couldn’t help but think to myself “well of course it can seem like yesterday to them if you remind them about it every single year.”  I wouldn’t assume to speak for them, but I doubt that all of them enjoy the dredging up of those bad memories from that terrible day.  But we keep doing it, year after year after year…

There was a time when the world was with us, when they understood and shared our pain.  That time has passed, and I think it’s time we move on as well.


Thanks for reading.  I would like to take this moment to say that I’m sorry if you think I’m being disrespectful or rude to the memories of those who died.  I have no intention of doing that, but I imagine it could come across that way for some people.  This is just how I feel about these things.  If you don’t like that, then I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.

A Child’s Unfortunate Legacy: The Cultural Impact of Jacob Wetterling

Twenty-seven years is a long time.  This is something the Wetterling family knows all too well.  As of this writing it hasn’t even been a week since the remains of their son, Jacob, were found.  Jacob was abducted at gunpoint in 1989.  He and his younger brother Trevor, along with a friend of theirs, had ridden their bicycles out to a convenience store to rent a video on the night of October 22, 1989.  As they were leaving, a masked gunman came out of a driveway.  He ordered the boys to throw their bikes in the ditch and lie face down on the ground.  After asking their ages, the man picked Jacob and told the other two to run and not look back or else they would be shot.

This was the last time Jacob was ever seen alive.

Fast-forward twenty-seven years and Daniel Heinrich, a prime suspect in the kidnapping even back then (he was questioned and a DNA sample was taken back in 1990), apparently decided to cooperate with authorities and led them to a field about thirty miles away from Jacob’s home.

The remains were discovered on September 1st.

On September 3rd, the world knew.  Jacob had been found.

As of right now a lot of the details surrounding this are still just coming out, so I expect we’ll hear a lot about the story in the coming days and weeks.  But that’s not really what I want to talk about today.

Even those who don’t know the details of the Jacob Wetterling case have likely heard of it.  It’s a story I have had an awareness of for most of my life, even if I didn’t really understand why it was so significant.  Jacob’s abduction made him an unfortunate celebrity, as many people pitched in to help comfort the Wetterling family during the initial painful months following his disappearance as well as assist in the search efforts.  But the question is why.  Why do we remember Jacob Wetterling so well over two decades after his disappearance?  Why were we holding out hope for him for so long?  The answer is simple.

What happened to Jacob Wetterling changed the way we deal with sex offenders in this country.

Four months after his disappearance, Jacob’s parents created the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, an advocacy group for children’s safety.  And in 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Act was passed (full name: Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act), which was the first law to create a state sex-offender registry.  You know how today you can go to certain websites, put in your zip code, and see how many registered sex offenders live in your area?  You know how the news always reports when a sex offender moves in to a new area?  The seeds for this were all planted back in 1989 with Jacob’s kidnapping.

But even more so, Jacob Wetterling changed the way parents raised their children.  He changed the way I was raised.  Jacob was kidnapped in October of 1989.  And almost exactly six months later, in April of 1990, I was born.  I was born into a world still reeling from the pain of Jacob’s disappearance.  So understandably, the dynamics of childhood had dramatically shifted.  Fear was rampant at that time as parents couldn’t help but wonder, “what if it happened to my child?”

I often hear older people and even people among my own generation gripe that parents these days are too overprotective.  And while I think that is true in a lot of ways, it is also understandable.  Think about it.  It was cases like Jacob’s that bred this protectiveness, this concern with children’s safety.  It was the nagging “what if” questions.  It was this sudden awareness that the world has callous and unrepentant people who will snatch away a child without a second thought.  All of this has been in the works since the beginning of the 1990’s.

I remember a news story in the last couple of years about this controversy over a couple of parents.  They were getting flak because they let their children walk a mile from the park to their house by themselves.  You may scoff.  You may shake your head.  You may complain that this attitude is what’s wrong with the country today (along with numerous other things).  But the simple fact of the matter is that unless you were raising a child during that time, unless you have actually been a parent, you don’t truly understand that mindset.  Sure, it’s a little ridiculous to get all bent out of shape over how someone else raises their kid, but unless you’ve been there you run the risk of appearing like an arrogant jerk.  I don’t even truly understand it because by the time I was old enough to grasp how the world can change so suddenly, the Jacob Wetterling case was a mere echo of the past, a story without an ending.

And now, that ending has been written.  Jacob’s parents can finally find some sense of closure.

In the end, all we can really do is face what happened and move forward.  And that’s something the Wetterlings know as well.  They’ve spent the last twenty-seven years fighting to change the world, fighting to ensure that what happened to their son, what happened to them, doesn’t happen to another family.  They created the Jacob Wetterling Foundation.  They advocated for children’s safety.  Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother, even ran for Congress twice: once in 2004, and once in 2006.  She lost both times, but that didn’t dampen her resolve.

Just yesterday, at the news station where I work, we ran an interview with a psychologist who was studying the Jacob Wetterling case and Daniel Heinrich.  And he said that the thing that surprised him the most about it was just how resilient the Wetterlings were, how despite all the pain they had felt and all the old wounds that were being reopened, they still remained as strong as they could.  Their hearts may be broken, but they are not.  And this is what I think is most important to understand about the situation.  We can sit there and gripe about how the world is different from when we were growing up.  We can complain and shake our heads at how people raise their children nowadays, what with the Ipads and the cellphones and all that.  But I think that unless we truly understand the context in which all of these things are happening, then all we have is our outdated ideas of how the world should work.

Things will change.  It’s best to just accept that and try to steer that change in the right direction.  Not just for ourselves, but for those who will come after us.


Well that’s all I have for this week.  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can check out and like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.