Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Current Events" discussion for Thursday, August 6 in the Northbrook Library Pollak Room

In what ways would America rejecting the Iran deal stop Iran from moving forward immediately to develop the Bomb?

What kind of trouble is Hillary finding herself in with dropping poll numbers and the re-ignited email controversy?

VP Biden is taking a more serious look at running for President. What do you think would happen if Joe takes a serious run? What would be his chances for winning the nomination and winning the White House?

What does high--and growing--GOP interest in Trump say about the Republican slate and the Party itself? If Trump doesn't win the nomination with his run, which candidate does Trump help the most? What Trump issues are resonating most with GOP voters? What are the chances that Trump will run as an Independent?

What do you expect to happen at the Thursday's GOP debate? The four GOP candidates now in double digits are Trump, Bush,Walker, and Carson. The RNC is limiting the number of persons allowed to debate, based on poll numbers. Given 16 announced candidates, 6 will not be heard.

What are thoughts regarding Ohio Gov. Kasich's run?

Gov. Christie says he would change Social Security and Medicare to make them more solvent for the long term. He would raise the retirement age by two years over the next 25 years to improve Social Security’s balance sheet; trim Social Security benefits for the ultrawealthy; and raise the Medicare eligibility age and premiums for wealthy retirees. Is anybody else willing to buy into those ideas—or offer alternatives?

Sen. Rubio suggests we use the American military to protect economic interests. In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, Rubio argued that the U.S. should use its military might to protect the global economy as much as its own national security. “As president, I will use American power to oppose any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space,” he said. “This includes the economic disruptions caused when one country invades another, as well as the chaos caused by disruptions in choke points such as the South China Sea or the Strait of Hormuz.” Is that a use of American power for the global good, or an overreach that would make the U.S. the world’s cop all the way into outer space?

Hillary Clinton suggests changing capital-gains taxes to spur more long-term investments. Clinton dove into an important and interesting debate over whether corporate America is too fixated on pleasing investors with short-term profits at the expense of more beneficial long-term investments—and whether government policies encourage that kind of unproductive behavior. So she proposed raising capital-gains taxes for investments held by the highest earners for less than two years, and then lowering them over time, to encourage long-term investing by both shareholders and corporations. And she would take regulatory steps to reduce the impact of activist investors seeking quick gains. Even some on Wall Street have said such steps would address a chronic under-investment problem. Do any Republicans agree, or do they see only unwarranted interference with markets here?

Jeb Bush calls for a balanced-budget amendment and line-item veto. Yes, both ideas are well-worn. But Bush made a point of citing them as integral parts of a broader plan to change the way Washington works. He argued that such steps are necessary because only the chief executive can exert the kind of power needed to overcome the Washington temptation to succumb to special-interest pleading for extra government spending. But would a balanced-budget amendment really be a good idea when, as the country saw during the excruciating 2007-08 recession, the government may need the flexibility to inject funds into a frozen economy? And is a line-item veto an example of executive-branch overreach, something Republicans usually oppose?

Rick Perry’s suggests that banks again be required to separate commercial lending and investment banking. Did the elimination of the traditional wall between banks’ traditional lending and their investment of money on their own behalf invite risky behavior that, if it didn’t cause the financial collapse in 2008, at least made it worse? Perry seems to think so. He has suggested reimposing the legal separation, or perhaps making large banks hold a bigger capital cushion to offset their trading activities. If that happens, he said, big banks’ shareholders “just might convince them to break up into smaller units on their own”—a kind of market-based reaction to big-is-bad sentiment. Good idea?

Gov. Walker: "It's very possible, God forbid that this would happen, but very possible, that the next president could be called to take aggressive actions, including military actions, on their very first day in office." Does this statement help Walker more than it does Bush? Does it help Hillary more than either?

What is the significance that since 9/11 more Americans have been killed by non-Muslim extremists than by jihadists...and thousands more persons killed by handguns than all of the above?

Jeb Bush said we ought to phase out Medicare. "We need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that are receiving the benefits," Bush said. "But we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they're not going to have anything." Your thoughts.

Would it be a good strategy for the GOP/Congress to agree with the President and pass a minimum wage of $10 an hour and let the states and cities if they desire, increase it more? This would take the item off the table for discussion in the upcoming federal election campaign. Also, the Administration is suggesting a change in who should qualify for overtime pay.

Support is growing for the repeal of the Nixon era ban on crude oil exports. Seems logical now that prices are down and creating layoffs in the oil sector that this would be a good idea. There is opposition from the Green Lobby, which does not want any incentives for more domestic drilling. Is this a good enough reason to not export our excess crude?

President Obama will impose steeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants across the country than previously expected, in what the president called the most significant step the U.S. has ever taken to fight global warming. Can we afford to do this?

Should we simmer down regarding Cecil, the Lion and that dentist?

So...what NOW with Blago?

The Chicago Pension Plan is unconstitutional. The implications menace governments statewide, who promised too many retirement dollars to their employees. Now those governments are learning that they'll have to impose draconian changes — higher taxes, fewer services, much more outsourcing, concentration on core responsibilities, or anything they can do to slash costs. All because politicians gave away too much future tax revenue to too many workers — and then didn't properly fund their pension systems. What now?

Sen. Paul is trying to force a vote to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood, following the release of videos showing group officials discussing how they provide fetal organs for research. Republicans are betting the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past. What do you think?

"Black lives matter" vs. "All lives matter". Your thoughts.

What do you make of Turkey's actions vs. ISIS?

Your thoughts regarding a 10% sales tax in Cook County.

This time, will the Charleston killings lead to any kind of gun control measures?

One ISIS beheading shocks the nation. 30 shootings on the South Side of Chicago hardly makes the news longer than a couple days. What does this say about us?

What is the status of the "BDS Movement"? Is it grounded only in prejudice...or is it in any way a valid criticism of Israel?

Republicans, in particular, are deeply critical of Obama’s handling of events in the Middle East. What more are critics saying should be done, or done differently? Is the World better off because America got deeply involved and eliminated Arab dictators? Or does Democracy not work in the Middle East, and only dictators can rule effectively? In short, what should America’s role be in the Middle East?

Rand Paul endorsed a flat income tax of 14.5% on incomes over $50,000 after a few deductions . He also endorsed the elimination of the estate and gift tax. Good idea?

The FDA has banned all trans fats. Your thoughts.

America is becoming less religious. Are we becoming less moral?

What are the pro’s and con’s of developing more Low Income Housing on the North Shore?

Most Americans do not support late-term abortions. Should reproductive rights be strictly decided by a woman and her doctor…or should they be guided by federal law?

Ten years ago America was judged 4th in the world in addressing infrastructure problems--today we are 24th. China invests 9% of GDP on infrastructure, India 8%...while we spend 2%. What is stopping us from moving forward?

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Great Ideas: Israeli History" on Thursday, August 13 in the Northbrook Library Pollak Room

Here are two links that will allow you to review, download and print the slides we show and discuss at each session: 

Israeli History: Zionism through 1967: http://www.northbrook.info/sites/default/files/Zionism-Israeli%20History%20thru%201967.pdf

Israeli History: Post-1967: http://www.northbrook.info/sites/default/files/Israeli%20History%20Post%201967.pdf

For the next session we will examine the decisions that Israel and Arab states faced immediately after the 1967 6 day war, the Arab summit conference at Khartoum and U.N. Resolution 242.
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
  • “Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of A Mass Murder” by Bettina Stangneth
  • "Jaffa Beach" by Fedora Horowitz

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Important Information About Our Discussions

"Current Events" and "Great Ideas" are back at the library!
We meet in Pollak Rooms A & B--with a capacity of 90-100 people.  You can bring in covered cups, mugs, etc. with coffee. Food is not allowed. There are vending machines in the lobby area right outside the Pollak Room if you wish to purchase a beverage. The library will not be providing coffee.


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.

3/19/15 "Current Events"  During discussion of Race , Mike Hamblet suggested this very informative piece from The Economist on Hispanic population increases in America: 


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.