Thursday, January 22, 2015

"American Politics" discussion for Monday, January 26, 2015 at the North Shore Senior Center

President Obama emphasizes the "logic" of his careful foreign policy approach that puts greater focus on negotiations and building coalitions vs. focus on our military might. Republicans say Obama is a weak leader who created the "power vacuum" that has led to Middle East turmoil, Putin's rise, and America's loss of stature in the world. They say Obama is wrong to be "leading from behind". What are the advantages of "leading from the front"? 

Is it in America's best interest to treat Middle East turmoil as "our war against ISIS"...vs. positioning conflicts as an internal war between competing Muslim factions?  Sen. McCain says, unpopular as it may be, we need boots on the ground against ISIS.  Is he right?

What would a "stronger" President do differently? Does America need--and want--a "bolder" foreign policy leader, similar to the way Putin acts boldly for Russia? Of all the 2016 hopefuls in both Parties, which potential candidates may have the better foreign policy credentials?

Republicans invited Israel's Netanyahu to speak to Congress without advising the White House. Is it right for Republicans to, in effect, shape America's foreign policy vs. deferring to the President? How should Obama and Democrat leaders respond? How does this action affect Israel?

Is Obama handling Iran correctly? Republicans are pushing for greater sanctions, in spite of Obama's request to hold off until current talks play out.

Your thoughts about the passing of Cubs legend, Ernie Banks

Speeches and political posturing aside, bottom line, what IS the "state of the Union" today?

What did Obama's speech accomplish? Did it offer a path for both Parties to try to work together, or did it just put Republicans on the defensive? Since the GOP owns Congress, how should they respond?

Obama, and the Democrats, suffered a significant defeat in the Mid-Term elections, losing the Senate, many House seats, and several Governors and state Houses. Why does Obama appear to be dismissing these defeats, and acting more as though Democrats WON the November elections?

What are your thoughts regarding Sen. Joni Ernst's official GOP response?

One main point in the GOP response was vowing to "repeal and replace Obamacare". What are Republicans offering to "replace Obamacare"?

Obama's "middle class economics" major tax initiative is considered dead in the water in a Republican Congress. What kind of tax reform might receive significant bi-partisan support? How do Republicans want to address the issue of stagnant wages and growing inequality between "haves and have nots"?

America supports Obama's proposal that two years of community college be free, same as high school. How do Republicans address this proposal, given that Obama doesn't spell out how we pay for this?

Democrat leaders are looking at a "Financial Transaction Tax". What's the plus/minus?

What do you make of "Inflategate" pre-Super Bowl?

Police can now use an electronic device to "sense" who might be inside a building. While this is a great tool for seeking bad guys who are use of this device a violation of search without warrant?

Regarding the environment and climate change: who is more “unreasonable”—those who deny that climate change is “real”…or those who want us to spend a zillion dollars that we don’t have to make what might be just a minimal difference? Is the biggest concern to our environment public apathy?Many Western European nations have very Liberal (socialistic?) welfare policies. Does America facilitate this by essentially being the Defense "safety net" for these nations? Can they plow more resources into welfare and not defense, while counting on America to "cover their back"?

Looking at freedom of speech, what are your thoughts regarding colleges “dis-inviting” certain campus speakers because of their extreme positions?

Can Republicans govern effectively without reconciling conflict between “establishment” and “tea-party” Conservatives?

How much of a plus or a minus will it be if Hillary has no serious competition for the nomination and win via "coronation" vs. competing in hard-fought primaries as the presumed GOP candidate will do?

When looking at Presidential Candidates, how important is it to look at what kind of “friends” the winner brings to the table?

How important a role will foreign policy play in the 2016 campaign?

House Republicans voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security, but with the requirement that millions of undocumented young people, parents and others be put back at risk of deportation. Your thoughts.

How does unemployment having dropped to 5.6% affect the political landscape?

Your thoughts regarding Obama's "free junior college" idea.

What are the pluses and minuses of "small-government conservatism" championed by Republican Congressional leaders?

Only 46% of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Your thoughts.

Krugman: "Soaring incomes at the top have been achieved, in large part, by squeezing those below: by cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions, and diverting a rising share of national resources to financial wheeling and dealing." Is Krugman correct? If so, how can it be addressed?

Is Health Care a right or a privilege?

Is "BiBi" a plus or a minus for Israel?

How can we put more income in the hands of Middle/Low-income workers--who are likely to spend it and help drive the economy? Higher minimum wage can't be the only answer.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Great Ideas" is discussing "Zionism--Implementation in Israel" on Thursday, January 29, 2015. We meet at the Northbrook Village Hall.

Here is a link that will allow you to review, download and print the slides we will show and discuss at each session: IsraeliHistory

On Thursday, January 29, we begin with Day 1 of the 1967 Six Day War on Slide 354.

Below is a list of books mentioned during our sessions:

  • "The Making of Modern Israel 1948-1967" by Leslie Stein
  • "Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict" by Charles D. Smith
  • “The Iron Wall: Israel & The Arab World” by Avi Shlaim
  • “Transformative Justice: Israeli Identity on Trial” by Leora Bilsky
  • "Six Days of War : June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East" by Michael Oren
  • “The Secret War Against The Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People” by John Loftus and Mark Aarons
  • “A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel” by Allis Radosh and Ronald Rados
  • "Truman" by David McCullough
  • “Louis D. Brandeis: A Life” by Melvin Urofsky
  • “The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership” by Yehuda Avner
  • “George C. Marshall” by Forest Pogue (a 4 volume work- the most definitive biography)
  • “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War” by Benny Morris
  • “Woodrow Wilson: A Biography” by John Milton Cooper, Jr
  • “A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East” by David Fromkin
  • "Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews": A History by James Carroll
  • “In the Garden of the Beasts” by Erik Larson
  • “My Promised Land - The Triumph & Tragedy of Israel” by Ari Shavit
  • "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide" by Samantha Power
  • "The Physician" by Noah Gordon
  • "Start-up Nation: the Story of Israel's Economic Miracle" by Dan Senor and Saul Singer
  • "Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of Evil" by Hannah Arendt
  • "The Eichmann Trial" by Deborah Lipstadt
  • "The House on Garibaldi Street" by Isser Harrel
  • "Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices" by Mosab Hassan Yousef

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Important Information About Our Discussions


  • Renovation of Northbrook library meeting rooms began in March 2014 and will continue for approximately one year. The Library will remain open during this renovation.

  • Click this link to visit the Northbrook Library website, take a short "virtual tour" and see details about the renovation:

  • During this time, "Current Events" and "Great Ideas" will be held next door at the Northbrook Village Hall at the usual 10-11:30am time.
  • We meet in the Village Hall Board Room on the first floor
  • Please do NOT park in front of Village Hall. Park at the Library or across the street If you have a handicap sticker you can park in the south lot in back of Village hall for better access to the board room.
  • Coffee will NOT be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own in a covered cup


    March 26 - No "Great Ideas" - Early Voting in Village Hall

    April 2 - No "Current Events" - Early Voting in Village Hall


    At times, during discussions, participants mention an internet article of interest. This page will list such links. Contact Ron Mantegna if you want to suggest a link appropriate to a specific discussion topic.

    11/20/14 "Current Events" - When we were discussing Immigration, Bill Domm said the following link gives a good, balanced description of what "undocumented person" means.