Category: Current Affairs

Current Affairs Discussion Group

June 15, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
US-Mexico Relations

Discussion leader: Gary Banks

Nafta has made Mexico a better place, writes @MaryAnastasiaOG from Harris
https://www.wsj.com/articles/nafta-has-made-mexico-a-better-place-1489957421

May 18, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
The Federal Deficit

Discussion leader: John Bartlett

This is a basic, sensible introduction to trade deficits from the Peterson Institute.
Is the US Trade Deficit a Problem?

“The Education of David Stockman” is a classic on how the Federal Budget is actually constructed. It was published in the Atlantic in 1981 and was expanded into his book, “Triumph of Politics.” It isn’t pretty. Recall that Stockman was Reagan’s first term budget director. No one, including Reagan, comes off well. This article was off the record – until it wasn’t. It lead to Stockman’s famous trip to the woodshed. (Full disclosure – I worked for David for 6 years. Gary)

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1981/12/the-education-of-david-stockman/305760/

April 20, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Charter Schools

Charter Schools: Pros & Cons

Discussion leader: David Mace

Resources:
Charter Schools In Perspective: A Guide to the Research
http://www.in-perspective.org/files/CharterSchoolsInPerspective_GuidetoResearch.pdf

A GROWING MOVEMENT: AMERICA’S LARGEST CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOL COMMUNITIES AND THEIR IMPACT ON STUDENT OUTCOMES

This provides good, current data on enrollment trends. I would not focus on the outcomes section of this report, as it is biased.
https://www.charterschoolcenter.org/sites/default/files/files/field_publication_attachment/enrollment-share-web1128.pdf

This is from the Intelligence squared debates – topic “Charter Schools Are Overrated” Yes or No?.
http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/charter-schools-are-overrated

Are Charter Schools Making a Difference: A Study of Student Outcomes in Eight States.
This small piece summarizes RAND’s 2009 study of charter schools. It’s dated, but gives a good perspective.
http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9433.html

A twisted interpretation of historically black colleges paves the way for a failed market-driven education policy. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/01/opinion/ms-devoss-fake-history-about-school-choice.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

NYTimes: Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/magazine/have-we-lost-sight-of-the-promise-of-public-schools.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

The arguments over the confirmation of the new secretary of education were about something bigger: which government institutions benefit which citizens.

https://urbancharters.stanford.edu/

www.in-perspective.org

The new studies come at an interesting moment, with a proponent of vouchers newly in charge of the Education Department.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

Charter Schools in Connecticut

Basic FAQ’s from the state.
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/charter/FAQs.pdf

Charter schools in CT:
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2681&q=335076

http://ctviewpoints.org/2017/02/13/opinion-james-mulholland-2/

Achievement First is a high performing charter high school in Hartford. AF Hartford High School students outperformed the state average on the SAT, as well as earned the highest average SAT scores among low-income students in the state. On the 2015 Connecticut state SBAC exam, students achievement scores surpassed those of neighboring West Hartford. Watch the video.
http://www.achievementfirst.org/schools/connecticut-schools/achievement-first-hartford-high-school/about/

March 16, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Sanctuary Cities and Immigration

Sanctuary Cities – Their impact on

– Immigration
– Local economies
– Legal system
– Law enforcement

Discussion leader: Bob Baker

Resources:

Sanctuary Cities in Vermont
http://digital.vpr.net/post/sanctuary-cities-vermont#stream/0

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/sanctuary-cities/

Campus Politics in the Age of Trump – The New York Times “sanctuary”
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/opinion/campus-politics-in-the-age-of-trump.html?
_r=0

http://www.thevermontstandard.com/2017/02/hartland-to-vote-on-sanctuary-town-item/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/11/26/federalism-the-constitution-and-sanctuary-cities/?utm_term=.0a406a814932

Here’s a recent editorial by the WSJ’s Jason Riley, I thought you might find interesting.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/seeking-their-own-refuge-sanctuary-cities-go-to-court-1487116166

https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2015/jul/26/procon-should-there-be-sanctuary-cities/

Connecticut Governor Sends Immigrant Enforcement Recommendations To Police Chiefs, School Superintendents – Darien, CT Patch
This shows potential conflict between governor and law enforcement officials in CT.

http://patch.com/connecticut/darien/s/g1gkv/governor-sends-immigrant-enforcement-recommendations-to-police-chiefs-school-superintendents?utm_source=alert-breakingnews&utm_medium=email&utm_term=politics%20%26%20government&utm_campaign=alert

I (Charles Salmans) am from Garden City, a small town in Western Kansas that had a population of 5,000 when I was growing up in the 1950s. Today, in contrast to towns that have become ghost towns across the prairie Midwest, Garden City has a population of 26,000. Our big high school rival, Dodge City, Kansas, has remained at around 5,000. Many towns have simply disappeared. The influence of immigration on Garden City was profiled last week on NPR.

What a shock! I’ve never had my hometown profiled anywhere nationally.

I think linking the growth to immigration alone is overly simplistic. The key reason is the vertical integration of agriculture. First, in the 1970s came a beef packing plant and today to serve meat packing, 140,000 head of cattle are being raised in feedlots at any given time. Farmers shifted from wheat to feed corn from cattle. Then came an ethanol plant. And huge “unit trains” take grain to the coast (much like the unit coal trains). Now they are diversifying into vertically integrated dairy farming by building the world’s largest plant to dehydrate milk.

But working in beef packing, which started it all, is one of the most dangerous, least desirable jobs in America. It’s extremely difficult to get people to work in the plant and there is a long tradition of recruiting immigrants. There is a large Vietnamese population (boat people of the 1970s) as well as those of Mexican ancestry and other backgrounds, who work in the meat packing plant and other difficult jobs and many, I am sure, are illegals.

I’m simply offering this up for one of the discussion points, as it doesn’t “prove” one side of the sanctuary argument or the other in my opinion. Here are the two (of two) NPR segments:

Segment 1
http://www.npr.org/2017/02/18/515849383/a-tale-of-two-kansas-towns-one-thrives-as-another-struggles
Segment 2
http://www.npr.org/2017/02/19/516016940/a-thriving-rural-towns-winning-formula-faces-new-threats-under-trump-administrat

How can the federal government motivate states to enforce federal laws??
http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2013/12/28/states-dont-have-to-comply-the-anti-comandeering-doctrine/

ACLU Immigration Detainers
https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses/immigration-detainers

Editorial in WSJ today, (March 13) ” Crime and Immigration” gives factors relating to “Sanctuary Cities”

List of sanctuary cities:
http://www.ajc.com/news/national/what-are-sanctuary-cities-here-list-sanctuary-cities-counties-states/Y452wnIOx2hemgKx8T4gIP/

Sanctuary cities protect 11,800 criminal aliens.
http://www.wnd.com/2016/08/no-deportation-sanctuary-cities-protect-11800-criminal-aliens/

Our state’s one of only a few where illegal immigration is up | The Seattle Times
http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/our-states-one-of-a-few-where-illegal-immigration-is-up-and-half-is-from-asia/

Murder – Page 2 – United States Illegal Alien Crime Report
http://www.illegalaliencrimereport.com/category/murder/page/2/

Discussion Guide:
Sanctuary Cities “SC”
(more than 300 sanctuary “entities”)
Basic Facts
1. No legal definition of “sanctuary” cities or states or colleges. No legal procedure for their establishment
Can be formal (policies written), or informal (all policies are implied)
2. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is a federal responsibility
The US government cannot force states to enforce federal laws
But states may voluntarily assist in enforcement
Formal state “sanctuaries” cannot force municipalities to comply with policies
3. Perception of justification of “sanctuaries” probably influenced by attitudes:
“The US welcomes immigrants and they deserve protection” or
“The US needs to enforce immigration laws and deport illegal immigrants”
(These are not mutually exclusive but create differences on policy)
What are motivations of states, cities, universities to establish SCs?
Are the SCs providing “sanctuaries” only for immigrants not convicted of felonies, or to protect undocumented immigrants which may be subject to deportation?
Legal obligation under warrants, detainer requests
Enforcement mechanisms if perceived violations
Is there a humanitarian argument for “sanctuaries”?
Conn. (Gov. Malloy) announced the state is a SC, what are our views and options?

(the first, fourth and tenth amendments have been cited in arguments for/against SCs)
Related issue—“Kates Law”

February 16, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Fake News

Mainstream journalists today are being subjected to disintermediation. Anyone with access to the Internet can post most anything posing as “news” on Facebook, Google, YouTube, and a variety of other websites. Journalism as practiced in the 1960s is a distant memory, as when Walter Cronkite of CBS declared that the Vietnam war could not be won and President Lyndon Johnson lamented, “If I have lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

The proliferation of cable channels, talk radio, news websites, and other sources of “news”, most would agree, has plusses and minuses. We no longer have our news delivered by “The Voice of God”, whether it’s Walter Cronkite or Henry Luce’s Time Magazine and we can easily access a wider range of opinion and policy proposals.

But many of us would admit that we tend to access news sources that will reinforce our own biases, and to ignore those outlets that would challenge our opinions. Possibly this has eroded the power of politicians at the “center” and made political compromise in Congress more difficult.

Fake News is reflective of the trend of fragmentation of sources, but different

What fewer would debate is that our country is not well served by “fake news” that undermines the power of an informed citizenry. Educated voters can hold our political leaders to account for policies and actions but world history is replete with the danger if public opinion is based on lies.

There are a number of reasons for the rise of “fake news”, but one especially strong incentive is that you can make a lot of money by creating it. The process is pretty simple and straightforward. Set up a website, create headlines — the more provocative the better — and get advertisers to pay based on the number of visitors to the site.

The New York Times profiled a recent college graduate who makes between $10,000 and $30,000 a month from creating fake news.
His masterpiece: playing on the fear of Trump supporters that there would be a rigged election. His headline: “Breaking: Tens of thousands of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse.”
None of this was true. The story was illustrated with a stock photo of plastic crates labeled “Ballot Box”, which was actually a photo from an election in Britain. See image above.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/us/fake-news-hillary-clinton-cameron-harris.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

“Fake News” content creators are found around the world. Eastern Europe is a particularly fertile ground for such individuals, who need only a computer. Earning $1,000 or $3,000 a month can put the individual at the upper end of the income range in some of these countries.
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/world/europe/fake-news-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-georgia.html?_r=0

Fake news technology can now change facial expressions and audio to put false statements into the mouths of anyone a target of fake news and make falsehoods seem believable.
http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/01/fake-news-technology

NY Times: 10 Times Trump Spread Fake News
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/business/media/trump-fake-news.html?emc=eta1

Also:
http://thefederalist.com/2017/02/06/16-fake-news-stories-reporters-have-run-since-trump-won/

Researchers asked survey respondents whether they had heard various pieces of news on the two presidential candidates. These fell into three categories:
1) News that was true
2) News that had been posted that was fake
3) News that researchers created that was fake “fake news”. In other words, it had never been circulated.

In the second category, 15.3% of respondents remembered seeing the fake news stories and 7.9% recalled seeing them and believing them. But roughly the same number of people remembered seeing and believing the news in the third category.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/upshot/researchers-created-fake-news-heres-what-they-found.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

The conclusion of the researchers: Some 8% of the adult population is willing to believe anything that sounds plausible and fits their preconceptions about the heros and villains in politics.

What to do about this?

Both Facebook and Google have recently adopted a policy to refuse to place ads on sites controlled by fake news publishers. But the purveyors and profit-makers from fake news are likely to be nimble and set up new websites when their discredited ones have been shut down.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/mark-zuckerberg-explains-how-facebook-plans-to-fight-fake-news-1479542069

Here is a wikipedia list of all the fake websites and their founders, etc. Notice they are deliberately close to legitimate news sites. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fake_news_websites Several are operated by the same person/organization.

The New York Times solicited ideas and came up with four proposals:
Facebook must acknowledge and change its financial incentives
Algorithms could help social media users spot fake news
3) Users must be more critical of online content
4) Social media companies need to hire human editors
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/11/22/how-to-stop-the-spread-of-fake-news

There are several sites that try to investigate and debunk fake rumor and news including factcheck.org, snopes.com, and politifact.com but in entering some of the “fake news” stories I found, these didn’t always come up as stories discredited.

Another proposal is to create a crowdsourced, open list of false news sites regularly updated and refined by consensus (like Wikipedia) and persuade Google, Facebook, YouTube and other social media to agree to abide by this list and block such site advertising. Employ self-policing as with Wikipedia.

Also I found the following 32 page guide to fake news sites. There is a directory of specific sites and warning flags that can be deduced from the URL. For example, if the site ends in .com.co it’s a website in Colombia, not a traditional dot com.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/10eA5-mCZLSS4MQY5QGb5ewC3VAL6pLkT53V_81ZyitM/preview

Issues for Discussion

Who is the arbiter of “fake news”? It’s the age-old conundrum of the rights of free speech vs. censorship. The line between satire and “lying for cash” may be difficult to draw.
Should there be penalties for those who knowingly create “fake news”? Is it the equivalent of “shouting fire in a crowded theater”?

Should prominent social media sites such as Facebook and Google be legally required to root out fake news sites, or even to face fines for failure of due diligence?

What is the obligation of politicians to be accountable for exercising due diligence on stories that they distribute? Donald Trump has been accused of re-tweeting fake news without checking the validity of a story.

What methods should be adopted to educate citizens about how to test the truthfulness of stories they may see on social media and the Internet?

Do mainstream journalists need to change their methods of communicating and sourcing stories in order to offer a more legitimate and accessible alternative to fake news?

Finally, Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams started a series today in which the dumb pointy-haired boss has re-tweeted a racist conspiracy theory. We’ll see where he takes that in the coming days and whether it could be an amusing addition to what we have pulled together. Too soon to tell. Here’s the first panel:
http://dilbert.com/strip/2017-01-25?utm_source=dilbert.com/newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=brand-loyalty&utm_content=strip-image

Other Reading

https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-the-debate-over-journalism-post-trump-gets-wrong/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/01/24/disgraced-newsman-rather-thumps-conway-for-alternative-facts.html

https://theintercept.com/2017/01/19/major-fake-news-operation-tracked-back-republican-operative/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/22/us/politics/president-trump-inauguration-crowd-white-house.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/opinion/preserving-the-sanctity-of-all-facts.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

Discussion leader: Charles Salmans

Resources:

January 19, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
The Electoral College

The Electoral College:

– Why was it created?
– How it works.
– Is it still relevant?

Discussion Leader: Jim Phillips

Current Affairs

If you enjoy researching and discussing current affairs then you should join the DMA Current Affairs Discussion Group.

The Current Affairs group meets on the third Thursday of each month (Sep-Jun) at 8AM in the Lillian Gate Room on the second floor of the DCA.

The structure is as follows: With input from the group, the Current Affairs Coordinator will maintain a list of potential discussion topics. At the end of each meeting, a topic and discussion leader is chosen for the next meeting. The discussion leader will (i) define and articulate the topic; (ii) assemble and circulate background materials; (iii) lead the discussion. All members are encouraged to share information they find informative and relevant. The topic will be posted on this website.

We are not debating so the focus is on being better informed. The discussion leader will maintain this focus and allow everyone the opportunity to summarize what they have learned from the articles and what struck them as meaningful.

We hope to see you there.

Jim Phillips.