Category Archives: National

For July 17: Voting in the US (and Maine?)

Next Monday, we plan to discuss a variety of topics and current events having to do with the US voting system. Possible sub-topics include:

  • OK, so the Russians tried to “hack” our election. What happened, and what can be done to safeguard the integrity of the system?
  • Every ten years, there’s a scramble to gerrymander congressional districts. While some of the most egregious cases are being resisted by the courts, there must be a better way. What is it and how could it be implemented (assuming the Dems and Reps wouldn’t be big fans of a more neutral system)?
  • Maine’s voters have approved a ranked choice voting system, which will presumably be implemented over time as constitutional issues are resolved. Is this a “better way” to tally votes, and should it be adopted by other states?
  • What other safeguards are appropriate or necessary to ensure that our elections are free and fair?

See you next week!

For July 10: Federal vs. State vs. Local

There’s been a lot of discussion in Maine (and Blue Hill) about “local sovereignty.” The proponents have argued that local residents are better positioned than Washington (or Augusta) legislators and bureaucrats to form sensible judgments about, for example, the safety of locally produced food. (Keeping in mind that there are also Federal and Maine regulations governing the same.)

So, the question for next week’s discussion is: Which activities should be provided by (or regulated by):

  • The Federal government
  • The State governments
  • Local governments

Rather than enumerating the myriad services and activities to be regulated, of course, it may be more fruitful to think more abstractly about what common characteristics might cause a given activity to fall into one of the three (or four, if we want to consider County government as well) buckets.

Among the core issues to consider are:

  • Which entity(ies) should provide/regulate education?
  • Health care?
  • Social programs (for the needy, for the elderly)?
  • National defense?
  • Food safety?
  • Criminal law enforcement?

So, brush up on your Federalist Papers and be ready to go on Monday. If you need help getting started, here’s a link to Wikipedia on Federalism in the United States.

For Tomorrow (Dec. 12)

As Mike noted, we plan to continue our discussion about the value of art tomorrow, at least for a while, in the hope that Sarah and Marion will be able to attend.

After that, we plan to discuss two “blog” articles (and I’m adding an op-ed piece I read yesterday that reinforces one of the likely discussion tangents:

Start by reading “Why is the ‘Decimation of Public Schools’ a Bad Thing?,” which provides (at least in my reading) a pretty cogent explication of how important being specific in political discussion can be—rather than sound-bite slogans, which frequently don’t advance the dialog (or change anyone’s mind) at all. But the main subject of the article is expressing skepticism about “school choice” in the Trump-DeVos era. It’s not very long and an easy read.

Then read Mike’s friend (and I like his writing as well) Scott Alexander’s article “Contra Robinson on Schooling.” As usual, he takes a relatively deep dive I like about his written arguments because they are 1) they’re pretty cogent and 2) well “sourced” with links. So you can click through to examine the basis for many of his statements.

If you have lots of time, you might want to read the comments to his “Contra” blog article. Fair warning: there are a lot of them. If you don’t have that much time, consider his “Highlights from the Comment Thread on School Choice” article. It singles out the comments he thinks are worthy of note and, in some cases, a bit of debate.

Lastly, in the spirit of the “Decimation” description of the Liberal-Conservative language divide and our recent discussion on Identity Politics, you might be interested in Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed on “Echo Chambers on Campus.” It’s similar to the piece we discussed two weeks ago in the sense that it seems like a thoughtful self-critique of liberal behavior/platform/rhetoric/you name it. I don’t often agree with him, but I respect his views. And I do agree with many of the observations he makes in this piece. Good fodder for discussion.

See you tomorrow!