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  • [ONLINE] Two letters on "Cancel Culture" (continuation of last week)

    Last week, we discussed "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate", which was signed by a group of prominent scholars, writers, and other cultural figures, for publication in Harper's Magazine. https://www.meetup.com/sfdebate/events/272054915/ We didn't have time to talk about the two other letters that were on the agenda, so we'll do that this week. 1. In response to the Harper's letter, on July 10, about 150 people led by journalists of color presented "A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate." Its writers complain that "The writers of the [Harper's] letter use seductive but nebulous concepts and coded language to obscure the actual meaning behind their words, in what seems like an attempt to control and derail the ongoing debate about who gets to have a platform. They are afforded the type of cultural capital from social media that institutions like Harper’s have traditionally conferred to mostly white, cisgender people. Their words reflect a stubbornness to let go of the elitism that still pervades the media industry, an unwillingness to dismantle systems that keep people like them in and the rest of us out." https://theobjective.substack.com/p/a-more-specific-letter-on-justice 2. And finally, on July 14, Bari Weiss, a signatory of the Harper's letter, announced her resignation as an opinion editor and writer for the New York Times, citing "constant bullying by colleagues", and also decrying a "new orthodoxy" at the Times, where "Twitter has become its ultimate editor." Here is her letter, with references given as embedded links (this collection of links being an SFDebate exclusive): https://www.meetup.com/sfdebate/messages/boards/thread/52905943 We will use the Zoom application ( https://zoom.us/ ): the Zoom link for this meeting will be shown on the Meetup event page when you RSVP. Video will be enabled, but it's your choice if you want to use your camera or not. Everyone will get a chance to speak, but if you prefer to remain silent and listen to the wisdom proffered by other SFDebaters, that's OK, too.

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  • [ONLINE] Three letters on "Cancel Culture"

    Online event

    Let's meet over Zoom and discuss three letters that have stirred public debate. 1. On July 7, 2020, a group of 153 scholars, writers, and prominent cultural figures presented "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate", for publication in Harper's Magazine. The signatories decried "a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity." https://harpers.org/a-letter-on-justice-and-open-debate/ 2. In response, on July 10, a similar number of people, led by journalists of color, presented "A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate", which complained about the first letter that "It is impossible to see how these signatories are contributing to 'the most vital causes of our time' during this moment of widespread reckoning with oppressive social systems. Their letter seeks to uphold a 'stifling atmosphere' and prioritizes signal-blasting their discomfort in the face of valid criticism." https://theobjective.substack.com/p/a-more-specific-letter-on-justice 3. And finally, on July 14, Bari Weiss, a signatory of the Harper's letter, announced her resignation as an opinion editor and writer for the New York Times, citing "constant bullying by colleagues", and also decrying a "new orthodoxy" at the Times, where "Twitter has become its ultimate editor." https://www.bariweiss.com/resignation-letter We will go through each of these public letters and argue about their merits. We will use the Zoom application ( https://zoom.us/ ): the Zoom link for this meeting will be shown on the Meetup event page when you RSVP. Video will be enabled, but it's your choice if you want to use your camera or not. Everyone will get a chance to speak, but if you prefer to remain silent and listen to the wisdom proffered by other SFDebaters, that's OK, too.

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  • [ONLINE] Debating multiple questions suggested & selected by YOU

    Another online meetup. We're going to use a variant of the experimental format we tried 2 weeks ago: 1. We start by gathering a list of suggested questions to debate. Suggesters are given a brief opportunity to explain the background behind their questions and why they are suggesting them. 2. For each question suggested in step 1, we ask all the participants if they've thought about the question and have an answer to it that they'd like to argue for. If there are different answers that different people want to argue for, then the question is kept on the list. Otherwise, the question is dropped from the list. 3. We vote to pick one of the suggested questions. Typically there will be several rounds of voting to pick a favorite that has the approval of the majority of the people voting in the final round. 4. We debate the question that has been picked. The people who said in step 2 that they wanted to argue for particular answers to the question get to speak first. Then everyone else who wants to speak gets to speak, but nobody should speak for more than 2 minutes at a time. 5. Once there is a general sense that we've spent enough time on the question, we start over again with step 1. Step 2 is new for this meeting. The intention here is that we'll limit ourselves to questions that we've already thought about and might even have already argued with each other about, and now we can finally confront each other in person (or virtually in person). We will use the Zoom application ( https://zoom.us/ ): the Zoom link for this meeting will be shown when you RSVP. Video will be enabled, but it's your choice if you want to use your camera or not. Feel free to use the comments section on this page to write any suggested debate questions for our meetup. This is a good idea if you want other participants to think about your question beforehand.

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  • [ONLINE] New format, debating multiple questions suggested & selected by YOU

    Another online meetup. This time we're going to try something new and experimental: 1. We start by gathering a list of suggested questions to debate. Suggesters are given a brief opportunity to explain the background behind their questions and why they are suggesting them. 2. We vote to pick one of the suggested questions. Typically there will be several rounds of voting to pick a favorite. 3. We debate the question that has been picked. If it's your question that's been picked, then you speak first with your own answer to the question. Nobody should speak for more than 2 minutes at a time. 4. Once there is a general sense that we've spent enough time on the question, we start over again with step 1. We will use the Zoom application ( https://zoom.us/ ): the Zoom link for this meeting will be shown when you RSVP. Video will be enabled, but it's your choice if you want to use your camera or not. Feel free to use the comments section on this page to write any suggested debate questions for our meetup. This is a good idea if you want other participants to think about your question beforehand.

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  • [ONLINE] No joke! Unprogrammed discussion of COVID-19 and responses thereto

    Let's get together online and discuss the COVID-19 epidemic and the responses to it by local, state, federal and international officials. We will use the Zoom application ( https://zoom.us/ ): the link to use for this meeting will be shown when you RSVP. Video will be enabled, but it's your choice if you want to use your camera or not. Was the shelter-in-place order imposed by Bay Area counties 2 weeks ago too severe? What about Governor Newsom's extension of it to all of California? Should President Trump stop calling COVID-19 "the Chinese virus"? Are you impressed with his leadership and disgusted by the attacks on him by the Lamestream Media and some Democratic state governors? Or vice versa? Should the World Health Organization have declared a global pandemic in mid-January instead of waiting until March 11? What do you think of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package that was passed last week? And the longer-term implications: Does this crisis show how we need Medicare for All, or does the experience of single-payer systems in countries like Italy show that it doesn't work? And how should the likelihood of future pandemics affect our approach to trade policy and protectionism? We'll see how comfortable we feel about using this new online medium, and toss around future debate topics and how we'll manage real debates with it.

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  • Town Hall Meeting with Democratic presidential candidate surrogates

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    We will depart from our usual format and have a town hall style debate among surrogates for Democratic presidential candidates. They will debate each other and answer questions from anyone who shows up. We have volunteers (SFDebate members just like you) to represent these candidates: - Michael Bloomberg - Pete Buttigieg - Bernie Sanders - Amy Klobuchar If you would like to be a surrogate for, Joe Biden, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, or Elizabeth Warren, then contact the event organizer Eli through the Meetup interface. This announcement will be updated as we finalize details of the debate format (candidate time limits, etc.). There is a $5 charge at the door.

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  • Marriage is an Outdated Institution

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    We are looking for Speakers and Moderator for this event. If you are interested, contact Roy Ferreira through Meetup. The vow “until death do us part” is an indelible part of the marriage ritual in our society. The notion of two people falling in love, raising a family in a sacred lifetime bond “for better or for worse”, seems timeless. In reality, romantic matrimony really first formed around the late 18th, early 19th century. For much of human civilization, marriage was a social contract, an alliance between two families to advance their mutual interests, to retain property and social status and to ensure the legitimacy and protection of their progeny. Marrying for love was considered anti-social, even subversive. To be sure, modern marriage still involves financial and similar banal considerations, but love now reigns supreme as the primary motivator. But this view of “traditional" marriage has recently become frayed. Around 40-50% of marriages in the US end in divorce as per statistics. On an annual basis, the divorce rate in 2017 was 2.9/1,000 people. Perhaps surprisingly, the rate has fallen steadily from a high of 4.8 in 1992. But that’s largely due to an accompanied fall in marriage rates. Millennials in particular are increasingly delaying marriage, partly due to economic concerns and career decisions. Once unthinkable, the percentage of never-married people has steadily increased to around 25% today as per Pew Research. The ugly business of divorce is often cited as the biggest reason to disparage marriage. The Oscar-nominated movie Marriage Story portrays the excruciatingly painful downfall of a marriage. A young couple, passionately pursuing careers in New York’s theater scene, fall in love and raise a young child in seemly matrimonial bliss. But interpersonal tensions and divergent career objectives begin driving the couple apart. Throw in a couple of high-priced divorce lawyers, and the relationship plunges into an acrimonious cross-country child-custody divorce battle, straining financial resources. Whereas entering a marriage takes only minutes at City Hall, exiting it may take years of litigious contests and emotional upheaval. No wonder that in some Western countries, cohabitating outside of marriage is increasingly becoming the norm. In Sweden, there is even a term for it: “sambo” means a person who lives with their romantic partner without marriage. Although cohabitating couples do not enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as married couples, these can be specified in a sambo agreement, which is common practice in the country. Seems like a reasonable – and sane – alternative to “traditional” marriage. On the other hand, many still view marriage as a valuable institution, all its flaws notwithstanding. Research shows that married people are generally happier than single folks. Marriage offers psychological and other health benefits, such as reduced stress and lower rates of depression. There are tax and health insurance benefits. Children growing up in a married environment are generally better adjusted, happier and healthier. Marriage gives couples a legal and social recognition that no other legal framework does. Spouses cannot be forced to testify against one another in court. They are assured of survivor benefits if one dies. Familial relationships are recognized and protected. Few other institutions offer the benefits that marriage does. So what do you think of marriage coming up on Valentines Day? Is it still a viable and valuable institution, or outdated and outmoded? Join SFDebate at the Mechanics Institute Library to share your opinions and hear those of others. There is a $5 charge at the door.

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  • INFORMAL get-together at the pub

    The Irish Bank

    Let's meet at the Irish Bank to continue ongoing discussions and share ideas for future debates.

  • The US Administration should not have ordered the Killing of Qasem Soleimani

    On January 3, US forces carried out a drone attack near the Baghdad International Airport, in which several people were killed, including Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. General Soleimani was an implacable enemy of the United States who was responsible for hundreds of American deaths, as well as countless atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. As to the wisdom of killing him, however, opinions are divided. Critics of the US action argue that Soleimani’s death will almost inevitably degrade the environment for American interests and allies in the region significantly, as the US and Iran engage in escalating acts of retaliation. Neither Trump nor Tehran really want a war, but each side has proven unwilling or incapable of detouring from a path that will almost inexorably precipitate a much wider and more costly conflict. In addition, if the US is thrown out of Iraq by that country’s government as a result of this action, it will be a net win for Iran, since there will no longer be a balancing foreign power with comparable clout inside the country. This will leave Iraq more vulnerable to further sectarian strife and/or ISIS and al-Qaeda attack. Others note that the Department of Defense defended the attack on Soleimani and others as necessary to avert an "imminent attack" against Americans. Suleimani was the long-time head of Iran’s Quds Force, which the US has designated as a terrorist group. He was traveling with the deputy commander of an Iran-backed militia when he was killed. (The UN had actually banned Soleimani from traveling outside Iran, a ban he brazenly ignored for years). The drone strike came a few days after an attack which is widely thought to have been perpetrated by that same militia on a coalition base in Kirkuk – an attack that killed a US civilian. The Kirkuk attack was at least the 11th rocket attack against US bases and interests in Iraq over the last two months. There had also been December attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad; after the last such attack Soleimani’s boss, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, taunted Trump on Twitter: “You can’t do anything”. The killing of Soleimani has thus sent a message to Tehran that they cannot act with impunity against US interests, personnel, and allies. These are but a few of the arguments for and against the Motion. So what do you think? Was the killing of Soleimani a horrible mistake or did it reduce a very real threat to US interests? And what are those interests anyway? Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these and other questions. Note that there will be a $5 fee to attend the debate, to help us offset the cost of room rental. Read More: Background: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/iran-uses-proxies-punch-above-its-weight-middle-east-experts-n1008731 https://www.whitehouse.gov/articles/look-u-s-strategy-iran/ https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/How-President-Trump-decided-to-kill-a-top-Iranian-14948678.php https://time.com/5756170/us-contractor-killed-iraq/ For the Motion: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/03/opinions/opinion-soleimani-roundup/index.html https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/how-to-counter-iran-s-proxies/ https://theweek.com/articles/887257/4-reasons-beware-trumps-decision-kill-soleimani https://www.npr.org/2019/12/12/787377987/u-s-military-official-warns-of-dangerous-escalation-in-iran-backed-attacks-on-ir Against the Motion: https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/476632-soleimani-is-dead-but-the-enemy-still-stands https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2049534/statement-by-the-department-of-defense/ https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-soleimani-insight/inside-the-plot-by-irans-soleimani-to-attack-us-forces-in-iraq-idUSKBN1Z301Z

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  • This House Supports a Ban on Public Camping when Shelter is Available + Offered

    If you would like to moderate the debate, please contact Event Host Deborah Binder through this site. Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the principle that criminalizing people for camping or sleeping in public without any place to go is illegal. However, the Court allowed that if a municipality has available shelter capacity for everyone on the street, it can disallow occupying a public sidewalk or thoroughfare in the evening. Shortly after the Appellate Court’s decision, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg called on California leaders to adopt a right to shelter law to ensure shelter space for all homeless people in the state and which would also legally obligate them to use it when offered. And just this month, Las Vegas officials approved a ban on camping and sleeping in residential areas and public areas downtown when shelter space is available. Supporters of a ban on public camping when shelter is available and offered argue that public camping causes numerous public health and safety risks, such as those related to contagious disease, drug-use, violence, fire hazards, litter, rodents, and property crimes. Campers blocks sidewalks and other thoroughfares, impeding and sometimes intimidating pedestrians. Businesses often struggle to keep customers because of the encampments around their businesses. Supporters also stress that a ban on public camping would not be enforced when shelters are full. Opponents argue that a ban on public camping is tantamount to criminalizing poverty in favor of business interests. Such a ban ignores the roots of the homelessness problem and would be costly, inhumane, and ensnare individuals into a cycle of incarceration. The ban would divert substantial funding away from permanent supportive housing, as well as require an army of new public defenders charged with defending those violating the ban. No wonder freshly elected SF DA Chesa Boudin has said his office will not prosecute cases involving public camping and blocking a sidewalk, saying these involving quality-of-life offenses “should not and will not be prosecuted." Need it be added that people in shelters are still homeless. So what do you think? Is banning public camping when shelter is available and offered a step in the right direction? Does it necessarily entail a diversion of funds from permanent housing solutions? Is it essentially inhumane? Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these and other questions. Note that $5 will be charged at the door for all attendees (to offset room rental costs). Read more: http://www.bayareaeconomy.org/files/pdf/Homelessness_Report_2019_web.pdf https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-07-16/op-ed-building-more-permanent-housing-alone-wont-solve-homelessness-in-california https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/las-vegas/las-vegas-passes-controversial-homeless-camping-ban-1887290/ https://www.politifact.com/california/article/2019/jul/25/are-most-homeless-people-california-unsheltered-an/ http://beyondchron.org/right-to-shelter-is-wrong-for-california/ https://www.city-journal.org/san-francisco-homelessness

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