I have been an active member of Current Events for approximately 8 years, first as a classmate and for the last 5 years as moderator/facilitator. The class is composed of persons who have a genuine interest in the health of America and its impact on the world. We discuss the merits of various policies with regard to their likely success and their implications. Each day several topics are agreed upon for discussion as proposed by the class. Each classmate is encouraged to discuss their perspective on selected topics of the week. This leads to an open discourse on many controversial subjects. The overarching principle of Current Events was first expressed by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a four-term U.S. Senator, ambassador, administration official, and academic scholar who said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” I strive for opinions founded on evidence-based facts, but welcome individual opinions whenever facts are lacking.
U.S. Politics and Politicians
The modern political party system in the United States is a two-party system dominated by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These two parties have won every United States presidential election since 1852 and have controlled the United States Congress since 1856. The Democratic Party generally positions itself as left-of-center in American politics and supports a modern American liberal platform, while the Republican Party generally positions itself as right-of-center and supports a modern American conservative platform.
Recently, the two-party system has resulted in an adversarial and contentious relationship affecting all aspects of American life.
The North Korean nuclear threat is worsening by the day. Tougher economic sanctions have not accomplished much, if anything. Nor has President Trump’s bellicosity. Nuclear tests have demonstrated the North’s most powerful blast in the 11 years it has been detonating nuclear weapons. There is clear evidence for existence of a long-range ICBM that can reach anywhere within our borders. Mr. Trump’s approach has so far consisted of sanctions, pressure on China — North Korea’s chief ally — taunts against the government in Pyongyang, and a less than fruitful summit in Singapore, 2018. These messages have not only produced zero positive results but they have also sowed confusion about his intentions. The president and his team seem unable or unwilling to put together a realistic and coherent strategy that goes beyond pressure tactics, harsh rhetoric, or pathetic and ineffective conciliation to affect a serious effort to engage the North Koreans in serious denuclearization talks.
This topic may be the most serious threat to the United States today.
The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy. Although it seems that current strategies to defeat ISIS and the Caliphate have largely been successful, its ideology persists and represents the seeds for future terrorism.
The United States has 88.8 guns per 100 people, or about 270,000,000 guns, which is the highest total and per capita number in the world. Twenty-two percent of Americans own one or more guns. America's pervasive gun culture stems in part from its colonial history, revolutionary roots, frontier expansion, and the Second Amendment, which states: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of he people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Proponents of more gun control laws state that the Second Amendment was intended for militias; that gun violence would be reduced; that gun restrictions have always existed; and that a majority of Americans, including gun owners, support new gun restrictions.
Opponents say that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns; that guns are needed for self-defense from threats ranging from local criminals to foreign invaders; and that gun ownership deters crime rather than causes more crime.
In the absence of data regarding the impact of guns on our society, is it really possible to create effective laws governing gun ownership? The dearth of research funding goes back to 1997, when an amendment was added to an operations bill that passed in Congress with language barring the CDC from conducting any research that will advocate or promote gun control. What are the factors that contribute to the United States having the highest rates in the world for homicide, suicide, mass shootings and accidental deaths?
The U.S is the only civilized industrial country in the world that does not have some form of government operated or government managed healthcare. Instead, the U.S model depends upon private insurance companies to provide affordable coverage, a model that has been exceedingly expensive. For example, the U.S. spends the largest proportion of their Gross National Product on healthcare with the worst outcome in terms of infant mortality rates and life expectancy compared to countries who have national policies. What should we do? Is healthcare a right of citizenship?
Although the above subjects have tended to occupy a significant portion of our discourse, we try to not ignore important state and local topics. In fact, any subject for which there is genuine interest by the class will be discussed and debated.
Howard Fields, Instructor