What would the ancient Greek philosophers make of US debates?
I have watched all of the historical US presidential debates up to the Reagan v Carter debate.
What struck me the most over the years was the gentle manners on show from all of the candidates, and the fact that their debates focused on deficits and spending rather than gossip.
I wonder to what extent the abysmal decline in our debating standards can be attributed to the decline of the West (especially if we consider PISA results, in which Hong Kong and Singapore have been consistently beating all Western countries fair and square)?
Recently I've found an unexpected ally in my cultural pessimism - Mr Gerald R Crabtree, professor of pathology and developmental biology at Stanford University.
He writes in 'Our Fragile Intellect': "I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions.
"We would be surprised by our time-visitor's memory, broad range of ideas and clear-sighted view of important issues.
"I would also guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues."
If that's true, can you imagine what he or she would think of the egregious 'Trump v Clinton' soap-opera?
Grzegorz Kolodziej, Bray, Co Wicklow
McWilliams ignores the facts
I wasn't surprised to see David McWilliams jumping on the old bandwagon of public v private (Irish Independent, October 19). He basically said we want taxes to rise so our pay can rise, and we didn't suffer under the Troika. All untrue. He didn't bother with the details of any particular dispute, as this could take from his 'crusade'.
He ignores the fact that public sector workers were made redundant during boom, or forced to retire rather than face penalties. He ignores the onerous public sector pay cuts and the fact there has been almost a decade without a pay increase. Yes, I know some public servants got increments, but teachers have one of the longest pay scales in the public sector (or known to man) and thus a half-a-decade can pass without an increment. Add the increment freeze imposed by various 'deals' and the last time I recall an increase Bertie Ahern was in power.
Mr McWilliams ignores the fact the two-tier pay scales in teaching are manifestly unjust and subsidise the public services he and his family uses. A subsidy that means young teachers can't afford a mortgage.
He ignores the fact the Government is about to offer non-teachers a higher rate of pay than teachers to do supervision and substitution. That will have to be paid by taxpayers. Lastly, he seems to think I (a public servant) pay no tax. Thus, can I give my car tax, VAT bills, PAYE, USC etc to him to pay?
Barry Hazel, Bray, Co Wicklow
OAPs will spend extra €5 on coal
I would like to put some perspective on the increase to the State pension announced in Budget 2017, especially for the '€5 coffee brigade'.
The increase in pension announced in the budget amounts to €260 a year.
Far from buying the €5 cup of coffee (where are they shopping?) quoted by some commentators in the media, the pensioner is far more likely to spend this money on 12 bags of coal, one bag of coal extra a week for the coldest part of the year.
Fuel poverty is a very real concern for the elderly, and any help to alleviate it is to be welcomed.
Joan O'Donovan, Castleconnell, Co Limerick
Bertie's still a waffling entertainer
Bertie Ahern says he is confident Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will lead the party into the next election and "has a very good chance at being Taoiseach".
In 2014, in relation to Martin, he said: "I don't think much of the leader, I'm not going to say anything nice about him."
It reminds me of one of Bertie's famous quotes from 2008 in relation to another matter: "It is not correct, and if I said so, I was not correct - I cannot recall if I said it, but I did not say, or if I did, I did not mean to say it."
Bertie is still waffling but it's great entertainment!
Seamus McLoughlin, Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim
New home for Seanad, please
I believe the Seanad should be allowed to move to the National Museum. And let it stay there, confined to history.
David Cleere, Gorey, Co Wexford
The five benefits of legalisation
It really is so indicative of our self-serving Government that we are still discussing the legalisation of prostitution and marijuana. The only fact in these matters, proven throughout history, is that if we continue to ban them we increase crime. Intelligent people have known that for many years. There are five results of this continuing stupidity.
Firstly, even more Garda time will be wasted on those harmless crimes instead of protecting decent tax-paying citizens from real crime (burglary, assault etc). Secondly, the many good women in prostitution, and the women who have been forced into it, have no protection under law.
Thirdly, many people who could benefit medically from using marijuana will continue to suffer needlessly. Fourth, legalising them will raise standards and thus safety - for the users and the public.
And fifth, can our blinkered TDs not see all the tax revenue would help to cover up their incompetence in the financial area in recent decades?
Richard Barton, Tinahely, Co Wicklow
Bob Dylan's tangled up
Great controversy regarding Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize. All tangled up in hue...and cry?
Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin 9
Embracing climate change
It is inspirational that climate change has come to the fore. Climate change poses a real and present danger to the health of millions, especially to the most vulnerable in society.
It is clear if nothing is done to reverse current climate trends, we will be living in a world bedeviled with food insecurity, severe droughts, hurricanes, melting glaciers, floods, heatwaves, rising sea levels and the spread of infectious diseases. This is not a science fiction but a sober moment in history; a test of our collective will and social solidarity to tackle this grave threat. This becomes more urgent with the refugee crisis, especially in countries like Jordan - the second poorest nation in respect of water resources.
As an African proverb says: "The earth is not ours; it is a treasure we hold in trust for our children and grandchildren."
It is time to tap into potential renewable energies, and bequeath the gift of communal harmony to our world.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London, UK