Thursday, June 23, 2016

"American Politics" discussion topics for Monday, June 27 at the North Shore Senior Center

How does Brexit affect our election?  Older, angry, White working-class voters voted to leave the EU, primarily driven by anti-immigration fears.  The U.S. is more diverse--Great Britain is 85% White. Yet Right Wing immigration issues are playing out globally.

Will Brexit ultimately hurt Trump? Trump praises Brits for "taking back their country" and asks America to do the same. But Brexit is likely to create many negative consequences.

“On a world level, the situation that affects many countries is economic stagnation and the arrival of immigrants,” says Robert O. Paxton, a professor emeritus at Columbia University and one of the most prominent scholars of fascism. “That’s a one-two punch that democratic governments are having enormous trouble in meeting.”  Is America experiencing the same concern? Virtually all of us owe our citizenship to our immigrant ancestors. But has this become irrelevant—and now we want an “America for Americans”?

Young people voted strongly to Stay--older Brits voted to Leave. How might Brexit affect Hillary's choice of VP?  Does she now need Sen. Warren--or even Bernie--to attract more of Bernie's unhappy supporters?

The Supreme Court, by its 4-4 tie, blocks Obama from implementing his executive action on immigration affecting millions.  How does this affect the Presidential election and Supreme Court slot? Who is helped or hurt the most--Trump or Hillary?

House Democrats conducted a sit-in calling attention to Republicans blocking a vote on stricter gun controls. Speaker Ryan called the sit-in a "a stunt just for the publicity", saying that Terrorism and not "restricting Constitutional Rights" are the real problem.  Which side is winning this argument with the American people?

What’s the bigger risk to America—Islamic Terrorism, or our reaction to Terrorism?

How big an issue is it that Trump's campaign has virtually no organizational and fund-raising structure? - Trump says he can self-fund his campaign if he needs to.  How would doing so affect the "down-ticket" Republicans counting on Trump to lead fund-raising for the Party?

Your thoughts on the Republican's plan to replace Obamacare?

How likely is it that a delegate revolt will deny Trump the nomination?  Trump wants those critical of him to “get over it” and unite behind him. Will they? How will Trump’s 14 million supporters react if a serious attempt is made to disregard the nomination process?

Trump’s bigoted comments are rejected by leaders in both Parties.  But how much are they helping him with those wanting an “outsider”?  

If you think it's helpful to call killers motivated by perverted definitions of Islam "Islamic terrorists" — then do we need to call out the Jews, the Christians, the Mormons whose faiths also have been twisted by a few?  Would anything less be an exercise in political correctness?
Was the Justice Department wrong to release an edited transcript of the Orlando killer's phone conversations saying it didn't want to give Terrorists a recruiting tool--but then release the full transcript after severe criticism?

Non-partisan State Department professionals sent Obama a letter critical of administration "non-action" against  Assad in Syria.  Obama isn't budging. Should we bomb Assad factions?

Is ISIS and Radical Islamic Terrorism the root cause of the Orlando mass killing? Or was it a hate crime? Or was this a man conflicted by his sexuality?  What do we know for sure?  

How would restricting Muslim immigration reduce the risk of domestic terrorist attacks?

Is it smart politics to wage war on the Media?  Is America in need of an “Edward R. Murrow” moment?  Has Trump been treated fairly? 

What’s the chance Sen. Warren will be Hillary's VP choice and an all-women ticket? 

All Democrat leaders now fully support Hillary, except Bernie. What will Bernie and his supporters do?
  Half of Bernie's supports say they won't support Hillary.  Will this hold?

What’s the chance that Hillary’s email problems will cause her to suspend her campaign?

Is Bill a net “plus” or a net “minus” for Hillary? Hillary says Bill will help her on the economy.

Who is a better friend of Israel: Trump or Hillary?  Who is a better friend of Netanyahu?

What is Rauner and Speaker Madigan's agenda? What does each want to accomplish? What about Forest Claypoole’s threat to not open schools without a budget?

Criminal Justice - Obama commuted sentences of some federal prisoners convicted of low-level crimes. Critics say this is wrong and we can’t be soft on crime. Yet states experience show: (1) long sentences don’t deter crime; (2) community supervision is often safer, cheaper and more effective than prison for low-level crimes (3) the path to full participation in society is blocked by post-imprisonment penalties that make it hard to establish a law-abiding life. Your thoughts.

How does raising the decades old Vince Foster "murder" conspiracy affect the race?  Email hoaxes have flooded the internet--so-called "proven facts" that live for months--sometimes years--passing from each believing recipient to all their contacts.  Truth is irrelevant: if the claim "sounds right" and supports MY belief, it gets forwarded instantly without confirmation. Is Trump counting on this behavior with his tweets--dropping "rumor-bombs" that have been discredited? Hoaxes work well with a devoted base.  But how might this "truth-free zone" play with Independent voters? 

David Brooks, referring to Yuval Levin’s new book “The Fractured Republic”: "Levin says our politics and much of our thinking is drenched in nostalgia for the 50’s and early 60’s.  The Left is nostalgic for the relative economic equality of that era. The Right is nostalgic for the cultural cohesion. The postwar era has become our unconscious ideal of what successful America looks like—an age of cohesion and consolidation.  But we have now moved to an age of decentralization and fragmentation." How might this affect the 2016 Presidential Election?

The Republican-led House Rules Committee stripped a provision from the annual defense policy bill that would have required women between the ages of 18 and 25 to sign up for a military draft. Should women register for the draft as required by men and also be drafted?

California is increasing tobacco/nicotine purchase age to 21.  Good idea for the country?

We are at least talking as if increased isolationism can make our problems better. Some talk of raising tariffs to that we can resume making stuff in this country that won’t be undercut by imports. Is this possible? What would be the result?

Do Liberals reject the idea of America's exceptionalism?  What is meant by this term?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"Great Ideas: Israeli History" on Thursday, June 30 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:

Israeli History: Post 1967:

On June 30 we will continue our discussion of Israeli history  in 1972 with the prelude to the Yom Kippur War.

FOR FUTURE DISCUSSION….May 14, 1948 Israel set a course into the future, based in part upon the following words etched into the country’s Declaration of Independence:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Which of these objectives is Israel well on its way to realizing? Which of them have proved most elusive?
  • What elements are part and parcel of a country that has been “developed for the benefit of all its inhabitants?”
  • How would you define “freedom of conscience?”
  • If you were to have the chance to revise this paragraph in 2016, would you make any additions? Would you take anything out?

Below is a list of books mentioned during our sessions:

  • "The Arab-Israeli Wars" by Chaim Herzog
  • "Kissinger and the Yom Kippur War" by David Morse
  • "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
  • "Operation Thunderbolt:  Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the most Audacious Hostage Rescue in History", by Saul David
  • "Abba Eban", A Biography by Asaf Siniver
  • "Jerusalem: The Biography" by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"Current Events" discussion topics for Thursday, July 7 at the Northbrook Library

On July 7, Alan Minoff will lead our discussion.  Alan's topics will be posted several days before we meet.  

Here is the Northbrook Library Discussion Groups schedule for the next few weeks:

June 30             Great Ideas – Israeli History             Led by Mark Gelfeld

July 7                  Current Events                              Led by Alan Minoff

July 14             Current Events – not Great Ideas     Led by Ron Mantegna

July 21             Current Events                              Led by Ron Mantegna

July 28            Great Ideas – Israeli History              Led by Mark Gelfeld

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Important Information About Our Discussions

"Current Events" and "Great Ideas" meet at the Northbrook 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.