Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Current Events"

Upcoming Discussion Sessions:

9:30am Wednesday, January 18 at the JCC

1:30pm Wednesday, January 18 at "The Lodge"

10am Thursday, January 19 at the Northbrook Library

9am Monday, January 23 at the North Shore Senior Center

Newest Current Events Topics of Interest

What do you make of the Putin/Trump "bromance"?

The FBI is investigating unconfirmed claims that Trump was compromised by the Russians with sexual and financial misdoings.   Was it wrong for CNN to even report this? Is it news, or "fake news"? How will allegations like this affect Trump's Presidency? 

Is Trump "triangulating" China by cozying up to Russia and revisiting America's current "One China Policy"? At the World Economic Forum China's President hyped Beijing's efforts to negotiate new types of regional trade deals without US influence. Is this the start of China's new role as a leader in promoting globalization as Western countries turn to "isolationist self-centeredness".

How important is public opinion when it comes to developing policy in Washington? Does it matter that Republicans rule…yet public opinion doesn’t support some key GOP issues?

Trump vows "insurance for all". Yet Congressional Republicans want to repeal Obamacare and "replace" over time. Can Trump chart his own course? How Conservative is Trump?

Trump's approvals have dropped well below 50% since his election, especially with Independents. Can Trump govern effectively while being perceived by most Americans as President only for those who supported him? On the other hand, why is this any different from Conservatives perceiving that Obama only supported Liberals during his 8 years?

Was Rep. John Lewis "irresponsible" in saying Trump's Presidency "isn't legitimate"? Is this "pay-back" for Trump claiming, for years, that Obama wasn't born in America? Are Dem's who boycott the inauguration showing "sour grapes" and should simply move on?

During confirmation hearings,  it's clear that key Trump appointees differ withTrump on Iran policy, Immigration, torture, and more. Trump says it's fine that they have a "mind of their own".   How would this work when a Secretary says one thing, and the President another?

Is NATO obsolete?

Has Trump separated himself sufficiently from his business interests by setting up his two sons to run his empire?  From a practical standpoint, what more could he do? 

Trump says many things that aren’t true. Trump surrogates have a hard time defending him, coming up with creative explanations in the hopes of rationalizing Trump’s penchant for not being truthful. Kellyanne says we should look into his heart, not at his words. Trump voters say we should take what he says seriously, but not literally…and that the Media is wrong to take his words literally, but not seriously.  Your thoughts.

Is it the responsibility of Media to call out false statements made by key news figures?  How do you think Trump's contentious approach to the Press will play out?

How important is demeanor and "style" to the office of President? Does Trump risk devaluing his Presidency by attacking issues that appear to be petty? Will we see his demeanor change to be a more "traditional" President? In short, are we likely to see Trump change the Presidency, or will the office change him? After all, he won "being Trump". 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Presidential “tweeting”?

Trump is a strong supporter of Netanyahu and his position on settlements. Does that mean no two-state solution?  What kind of country do you envision Israel eventually becoming?  

Your thoughts about President Obama's "Farewell Speech"? His job approval is at 58%--yet History, not polls, will ultimately judge him. Republicans refer to "Obama's disastrous presidency". What facts support failed Presidential actions and policies vs. "poor P.R.", as Obama laments? Where will History will rank President Obama among his peers?                 

Is the calling back of all current ambassadors on January 20 in the best interests of America? This leaves our country without top delegates around the world until Trump's replacements are confirmed by the senate.

Trump wants to build "The Wall" now with American tax dollars, saying Mexico will reimburse American taxpayers for a new border wall and that U.S. money spent will be for the "sake of speed."  Your thoughts.

Would Obama have beaten Trump if he could have had a third run? Would Hillary have beaten Trump if she had selected a different VP running mate?

How important a role will Pence play in Trump’s administration? Will he act as "co-President", especially when dealing with Congress? How much influence will Trump allow Pence to have?

What kind of problems/benefits will Republicans defunding Planned Parenthood generate?

Are we so partisan that even long-held beliefs will change instantly because "when my side does it, it's right...even though I thought it was wrong yesterday"? 37% of Republicans now approve of Putin--a higher rating than President Obama. 

Your thoughts about the devastating Justice report regarding the Chicago Police.

How big a deal is North Korea's talk about testing an ICBM?

How will Trump deal with Russia and Syria?  Hands off? Greater intervention? Trump supports both.

What might be the advantages/disadvantages of moving some of America's key agencies out of Washington and to the states? Example: putting Housing Development in Detroit, etc.

Where are we headed with trade policies? Will a Republican Congress fight against tariffs on companies that leave America for cheaper labor, yet still want to sell products to America?

President Biden at age 77 in 2020? Is this any wilder an idea than President Trump 2016...or a reelected President Trump at 74 in 2020? Who might be in better shape then?

What kind of "bench strength" do the Democrats have?

Megan Kelly moved to NBC from FOX, replaced by Tucker Carlson. Your thoughts.

What do you see Michele Obama doing in the future?

What about Hillary for New York City Mayor?

Older Current Events Topics - Some already discussed

The Presidential Race aside, what was the biggest news story of the year?

Who was the biggest “loser” of 2016, besides Clinton, Cleveland, and the Bears?

Who/what might be the biggest risk to America in 2017?

Both Parties are coming down hard on Russia’s meddling in the election our intelligence agencies are convinced was directed by Putin. Trump says any action didn't affect the results of the election, seems to disregard Russia's action and says we should move on. How serious is this issue? Is it partisan politics with Democrats trying to delegitimize Trump's election?

Democrats lost the Middle Class voter in November. Every recent key race, other than Obama's two Presidential victories, was lost by Democrats: mid-terms, governorships and state houses. Why are Democrats seemingly out of touch with lower income voters?

Are Trump's often contradictory statements about important issues an advantage or disadvantage in governing? "Let it be an arms race"...while also calling for limiting proliferation.  Are contradictory positions an effective tactic? Leading to what? Negotiations? How might what works well in business negotiations work in diplomacy? 

Does the GOP have a mandate to repeal and replace Obamacare?   Will they "repeal" now, but with a time limit for execution, basically kicking it down the road while they come up with a replacement "step by step"?  Is Health Care a right or a privilege?

What assurances are there that Trump will pick a far Right Wing candidate for the Supreme Court? Does he need to do this to shore up his support more with Conservatives or with the rest of the country?  Trump is not an might we see Congressional Democrats working with Republicans vs. being obstructive?

Kerry: "With one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it can't be both". Is Kerry right? Without a two-state solution, what kind of Israel will develop?  

EXXON’s Rex Tillerson picked for Secretary of State.  What are the benefits and the risks of a smart business person with no governmental experience in this office vs. a seasoned diplomat? Can his close ties to all the oil-producing nations in the world, including Russia, help America and Israel?

Netanyahu and Trump hate Obama's Iran deal. Yet Arab nations are now talking with Israel because of fears of Iran.  Would scuttling the Iran deal be against the best interests of Israel? Isn't Israel safer now because of the Iran deal?

762 killings in Chicago in 2016, up 57% from 2015.  Yet arrests are down. Is the effectiveness of Chicago Police reduced because of so much questionable use of deadly force by police across the country? Will more police make a difference? What can be done about Black on Black crime?

Is it the responsibility of News Media to call out false statements…or should Media simply report what is said and allow the public to judge its veracity?  And why is “fake news” believed by so many?

America voted for Big Change vs. Business as Usual that can come with big risks--and possibly big rewards. Shouldn't we expect some chaotic disruptive changes in 2017? How might non-conventional actions (like tweets instead of press conferences) affect the office of the POTUS, both pro and con?

In what ways is being a billionaire a "plus" or a "minus" heading a key government department?

Clearly, the Obama administration must see their Syria actions as failures. Unavoidably so?

The North Carolina governor took measures to weaken the office after losing the election. Any problem with this if actions being taken are within the law?

New cabinet picks are the Conservative flip side of Liberals now in office.  Pruitt as head of EPA will support more drilling and perhaps none of Obama’s environmental actions.  The new Labor secretary doesn’t support raising the minimum wage. Perry wanted to eliminate the department he will head.  What are the pro’s and con’s of an administration that will check expansion of regulations to help business vs. promulgating regulations intended to help consumers? 

Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services wants to kill Obamacare. Speaker Ryan’s “voucher plan” would phase out Medicare. Will Republicans risk repealing Obamacare now and "wait" to replace it, removing millions from health care…including those with preexisting conditions? 

Was Trump's focus on Nationalism and on America's fear of immigration the main reason Hillary lost? In 1970, percent of immigrants in America was 5%. Today it is 14%. Hillary did win on the economy. The Populist Trend is greater in Europe than it is in America. Stats show that when percent of immigration approaches 22%, percent of Right Wing voters exceeds 50%.  Merkel is calling for a ban on the wearing of full facial burkas. Is this anti-Muslim...or is she being politically astute? How different is America from Europe regarding “globalism”?

Trump engaged China directly by raising the possibility of America recognizing Taiwan after decades of “understanding” that Taiwan is part of China.  Trump clearly wants to change the status of our dealings with China.  What’s the potential risk? What’s the possible rewards? Is it worth the risk?

Is it correct to understand that "The President can't have conflicts of interest."?  What about Trump still remaining Executive Producer of his TV show? Any different than having a hobby, like golf?

Will each Trump property, especially over seas, now be a symbol of America and a target for demonstrations/terrorists as are American embassies?  How can so my locations be protected?

Congress is working to pass an “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.”  Should it become law, this bill is intended to help make Jewish students safer from the rampant and growing anti-Semitism in American schools and universities manifested by threats, intimidation and harassment. Intimidating, threatening and harassing students based on their ethnicity according to some sources violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yet the law is not adequately enforced by schools or even by some courts, because the United States does not have a clear and legal understanding of the concept of “anti-Semitism,” as apparently other countries do.  In order to create the clarity necessary to enforce the law and properly protect Jewish students, Congress decided to create an official definition of anti-Semitism for use in schools and universities. The bill states that the legal definition of anti-Semitism includes, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist”. Critics opposing the bill say it limits legitimate criticism of Israel.  Your thoughts

Native Americans have won their battle to stop the North Dakota’s pipeline’s path that traverses sacred territory taken away from Native Americans in a series of treaties. Your thoughts.

How do you feel about the "growing" legalization of marijuana?

Trump delivered on his promise to move Carrier to keep 800+ jobs in Indiana via tax incentives. Great PR.  What happens now when other companies threaten to leave America and look to receiving similar incentives? Is it "crony Capitalism" as Palin claims?

Your thoughts about Trump's plans to cut taxes? Will changes truly help his lower-income base?

Should there be any kind of penalty for burning the flag?

Should Illinois give as much attention to nuclear energy as an alternate energy source?

How does Trump achieve building his wall, and having Mexico pay for it?

Will Trump be as tough as he promised—like using water-boarding? How would a Trump handle the next situation like when Iran captured American sailors who drifted into Iran waters?

After decades of majority support, America is equally divided on the Death Penalty. Your thoughts.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Great Ideas: " Zionism & Israeli History"

Upcoming Discussion Sessions:

·         10am Thursday January 26 at the Northbrook Library

·         9:30am Wednesday, February 8 at the JCC on Revere Drive

Links below allow you to review slides we show and discuss at each session.

Slides for Northbrook Library - Israeli History: Post 1967 

January 26 at the Northbrook Library
·         We will continue discussing the Yom Kippur War

Slides for JCC - Israeli History: Zionism through 1967  

February 8 at the JCC on Revere Drive
·         Mark Gelfeld is leading this same discussion series on Zionism and Israel history from the beginning at the JCC.
·         We begin discussing this 9:30am on Wednesday, February 8

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
· "The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine" by Ben Ehrenreich
· "Jabotinsky" by Hillel Halkin
· "Doomed to Succeed: The U.S. Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama" by Dennis Ross 
· "The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel" by Uri-Bar Joseph

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 something appropriate to a specific discussion topic.

Ralph Bernstein shares this interesting piece of information new in 2017

New Illinois laws that took effect on January 1, 2017


New Adoption Registry Disclosures

New bills adding to list of adoption disclosures, including reasons stated by birth parents for placing a child for adoption and making it easier for birth and adoptive parents to exchange medical and background information if beneficial to the adoptee.


Grandparents and great-grandparents will be allowed to visit grandchildren in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.


Employers that provide sick leave benefits are required to allow employees to use their leave to care for immediately family members due to illness, injury or medical appointment of the employee’s child, stepchild, spouse, sibling, parent, parent-in-laws, grandchild, grandparent or stepparent.


Railroad Crossings

Drivers who drive around lowered gates at grade crossings will face stiffer fines for violating railroad crossings laws. Fines will increase to $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent violation.


Employers will no longer be able to ask employees or prospective employees for their user-names and passwords to personal online accounts, including social media accounts.


Mandates Illinois insurance companies to provide coverage for almost all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs without additional costs, including contraceptive drugs, devices, supplies and voluntary sterilization. Insurance companies are required to cover up to 12 months of contraceptives.


Ensures patients receive information about treatment options, regardless of the medical provider’s religious beliefs, including abortion referrals.


Sales tax will be eliminated on feminine hygiene products, such as tampons and menstrual pads.