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This week Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 100, which commits California to phasing out electricity produced by fossil fuels by 2045. The new bill also mandates California utilities to generate 60% of the electricity needed from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2030, with the goal of a fully zero-carbon grid by 2045. At the signing ceremony, Governor Brown said, "This bill and the executive order put California on a path to meet the goals of Paris and beyond. It will not be easy. It will not be immediate. But it must be done. California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of climate change.” Supporters of the legislation add that implementation of SB 100 will not only reduce green house gas emissions but also reduce air pollution and create good jobs in the renewables industry.
Critics of SB100 say the renewable energy goal is unrealistic but would not make a substantial difference to global emissions even if it could be met. SB100 would also harm workers in fossil fuel industries and raise electricity prices for consumers. Renewables continue to be plagued by issues of intermittency, sometimes producing too little energy, which then requires utilities to rely on electricity generated by fossil fuels in order to meet energy demand. Utilities also have to deal with periods of excess solar energy when there’s not enough demand locally for the power. Renewable energy experts have looked to batteries that can store solar energy as one solution, but the technology is not yet ready for wide-scale deployment. Without scalable, reliable and affordable renewables technology, utilities will not be able to meet the 2030 mandate. And without a viable large-scale carbon capture/storage capability, the vision of a zero-carbon grid by 2045 is little more than a pipe dream.
So what do you think? Does SB100 give the push California needs to get serious about cutting GHG emissions and severing our dependence on fossil fuels? Or is it unrealistic at best and harmful at worst, establishing inflexible mandates and goals with little chance of being met.
Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these questions.
SB100 text: https://focus.senate.ca.gov/sb100
Additional arguments for and against:
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Another day, another presidential tweet. Between last week’s blaming of environmentalists for California’s wildfires to today’s depiction of an ex-aide as a lowlife dog, the tweet barrage never stops. And the mainstream media just can’t get enough. But are President Trump’s tweets truly newsworthy? Does the mainstream media’s reporting on Trump’s every tweet actually serve the public interest?
As things stand, Trump tweets and the media chases. Just like Pavlov's dog, the media salivates every time Trump unleashes another tweet. Because Trump’s tweets are scandalous, they garner more media coverage than his presidential actions. This gives them an inflated sense of importance. But as a recent SF Chronicle editorial put it, all that Twitters is not news.
Some argue it's time the media stopped reporting on Trump’s tweets, because they simply serve his political interests without contributing to informed public discourse. Through Twitter, Trump throws red meat to his supporters and red herrings to his opponents, but his tweets are not even a useful guide to administration policies. Trump’s own Chief of Staff has said that he doesn't follow Trump's tweets and doesn't allow the White House staff to react to them. If the people who work closest to the President and are charged with implementing his orders don't pay attention to his tweets, why should we? Perhaps we would all be better off if the media reported Trump’s tweets rarely and reacted to them with less alarm.
Others point out that Trump represents a special case, because his tweets have the power to influence voters, advance or thwart legislative agendas, move global markets and incite or deescalate global conflict. This is, after all, the President of the United States. The job comes with the so-called bully pulpit. What Trump says matters and will be the subject of debate no matter what the mainstream media does. Trump’s tweets will be consumed by tens of millions of people, and the media has an important role to play when it comes to fact-checking and providing context. Ignoring Trump’s tweets would be an abrogation of the mainstream media’s responsibility to be a check on the powerful and to promote the truth.
So what do you think? Are Trump’s tweets truly newsworthy? Do they merit daily commentary from the mainstream media? Or not? Join us at Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these questions.
Few issues expose the fractures in the American political landscape more readily than that of abortion. It galvanizes and energizes both sides of the political spectrum, and has an extraordinary impact on our national and local politics. Roe versus Wade is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court, passed in 1973, which affirmed abortion as a woman’s right, subject to certain restrictions. For two decades thereafter, relatively little attention was paid to the issue in mainstream politics, and the ruling has long been considered “established” law. In the early 1990’s conservative politicians in Washington and various state legislatures began challenging the validity of Roe versus Wade, passing laws that increasingly restricted access to abortion.
With the election of President Donald Trump and a Republican sweep of both houses of Congress in 2016, the whole issue has come dramatically to the fore. In June, Justice Anthony Kennedy - the swing vote at least on this issue on a Supreme Court otherwise split between liberals and conservatives - announced his retirement. President Trump and the Republican Congress now have a very real opportunity to get Roe versus Wade overturned, by confirming a reliably anti-abortion Justice to the Court.
Religious conservatives object vehemently to abortion on moral grounds, to protect the life of a precious and vulnerable human being. The problem is determining exactly when human life begins. After all, genetic material itself cannot be “precious”, seeing that it is discharged and discarded from the body routinely. What about after the successful fertilization of the egg by a sperm, or maybe at the first heartbeat? Religious conservatives call these arguments irrelevant, that God’s plan for human life is what counts, not the minutia of biological and reproductive processes.
Other conservatives decry the judicial overreach that Roe versus Wade represents. In addition to making abortion a “right”, the Court essentially created a “right” to privacy as an extension of the First Amendment. The mother’s “right” effectively overrides the basic rights of the fetus, at least until the “point of viability”, a point to be determined arbitrarily by a doctor. Furthermore, by ruling so broadly - or perhaps ruling at all on the issue - the Supreme Court may have usurped powers delegated to the States by the 10th Amendment, which stipulates that all powers not already granted to the Federal government by the Constitution belong to the States.
To liberals, at stake is no less than a women’s right to control her own body and her own life, the most important right of all. Control of women, their lives and bodies have long been dictated and imposed by a patriarchal society. Roe versus Wade represents the ultimate freedom of choice for all women. To be clear, the overturning of Roe versus Wade will not result in abortion becoming illegal overnight. Rather, jurisdiction will pass to the States, resulting in a patchwork of laws restricting abortion to varying degrees. Rich women will be able to travel to States that allow abortion, but they will likely face derision and discrimination for their decision when they return. Poor women will likely be faced with back-alley “coat-hanger” abortions, disreputable doctors and unsafe procedures.
To be sure, Americans are sharply divided on the issue, with apparently very little middle ground. According to Gallup, however, most Americans actually find themselves somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, repulsed by the idea of abortion on one hand, but sympathetic to a woman’s right to control her body and life on the other.
So how to you feel about this very explosive issue? Join us at the Mechanics Institute to air your position and debate others. Free to members of the Institute, all others will be charged $5 at the door.
In the 1990s, President Clinton signed immigration reform laws that fast-tracked deportations and helped lay the foundation for the sprawling immigrant detention system that now reserves space to lock up 34,000 immigrants at a time. President Obama – nicknamed “deporter-in-chief” – continued fast-track deportations for first-time detainees, but expanded prosecution of illegal reentry offenders. By 2013, immigration prosecutions topped 91,000 ― 28 times the number of prosecutions in 1993. Of those prosecuted in 2013, 75% received enhanced sentences for criminal offenses, such as drug trafficking (16%) and crimes of violence (12%). The median sentence was 12 months.
By the end of the Obama administration, the US had approximately 300 detention centers. Thus, when President Trump took control of the immigration enforcement system, he inherited a well-oiled machine for prosecuting immigration violations. What distinguishes Trump’s approach to illegal immigration from his predecessors is his “zero-tolerance” policy calling for the prosecution of all individuals who illegally enter the United States – first-timers as well as reentry offenders.
Although initial implementation of the administration’s zero-tolerance policy involved separation of children from their adult family members in detention, public outcry led Trump to end family separations. In his 6/20/18 Executive Order, Trump vowed to prioritize “family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” To avoid separating families, the administration is requesting modification of a prior judicial ruling (the “Flores agreement”) to allow detained families to stay together during “criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings." Although a court has not yet responded to the administration’s request, for the purpose of this Motion, we are assuming the zero-tolerance policy will not involve any significant increase in family separations.
Many continue to criticize the administration’s zero-tolerance policy even if families are allowed to stay together. They argue that the US needs to attack illegal immigration at the root and address the issues that make people leave their home countries and come here in the first place. Many people leaving their countries do so because they fear for their lives. You cannot jail this problem away. We need to be saving families and giving these immigrants a chance at life.
So what do you think? Is the administration’s zero-tolerance policy a reasonable approach to reducing illegal immigration to the US? Or is it fundamentally inhumane, an approach that criminalizes what should at most be an administrative offense. Or perhaps we shouldn’t be all that concerned about illegal immigration in the first place and do more to help people who take such desperate measures to come to this country?
We encourage population control in our pets. Should we do the same for humans?
There is an immense amount of preventable human suffering we as society could help to alleviate by incentivizing long term contraception.
Some argue that these incentives would impact some races and ethnicites more than others, with troubling echoes of the eugenics movement. They also are a form of 'undue influence', taking advantage of vulnerable individuals, essentially manipulating them to make reproductive decisions they otherwise would not make
Long term contraception such as iuds and subdermal contraceptive implants provide effective contraception for an extended period without requiring any action by users. For men incentivizing vasectomies should also be considered. These are unquestionably the most effective reversible methods of contraception we have today.
1. Allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptives—including oral contraceptives, rings and patches—to a patient without first procuring a prescription from a clinician.
2. Expand access to publicly funded family planning service and eligibility for Medicaid-covered family planning services to individuals with higher incomes but still in need.
3. In cases of severe mental illness where informed consent is not possible more discretion should be given to the legal guardian, caseworker and health care provider in making the decision about long term contraception.
4. Certain rules should apply if public assistance is needed. If someone wants to receive assistance, then they have to be on a reliable birth control method such as IUD or Norplant. If they don’t want birth control, then they don’t get public assistance.
5. Give inmates an option of reducing their sentences by agreeing to receive long term or permanent contraception. The program is voluntary and inmates are absolutely in a position to reject it. Nothing is forced.
6. Institute more programs like Project Prevention which offers cash incentives to women and men addicted to drugs and/or alcohol to use long term or permanent birth control. Unlike incarceration, Project Prevention is extremely cost effective and does not punish the participants.
Come to the debate and let us know how you feel.
Links for your study:
We have speakers lined up. We're still looking for a moderator, so if you would like to moderate this debate, contact Deborah via this website. Also, we’ll be allowing 2-minute speeches related to the Motion by anyone who wants to give one.
“What if it was a mistake from the start? The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the creation of the United States of America—what if all this was a terrible idea, and what if the injustices and madness of American life since then have occurred not in spite of the virtues of the Founding Fathers but because of them?” - Adam Gopnik (“We could have been Canada”, 5/15/17 New Yorker)
Some say that America and the rest of the world would have been much better off had there never been an American Revolution. They argue the American Revolution was actually a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment rationalization, producing a country that was always marked for violence, disruption and demagogy. The good stuff (democracy, human rights, rising living standards) would have happened anyway and the bad stuff lasted longer. For instance, slavery would have been abolished earlier, American Indians would not have faced the outright ethnic cleansing Andrew Jackson and other American leaders perpetrated, and America would have a parliamentary system of government that makes policy making easier and lessens the risk of democratic collapse. From this perspective, Donald Trump is a feature and not a bug of the system of government enshrined by our Founding Fathers.
Others argue that the American Revolution was responsible for much that is good in the world. It ushered in a movement that tore down systems of privilege in favor of more egalitarian ways of organizing society. It inspired popular movements within the US and across the globe, including Latin America, Europe, and Africa. The American Revolution created a political and legal environment that transformed the economic landscape of the country, unleashing an entrepreneurial spirit that has played a huge role in improving global living standards. These are moral goods. Had the American colonies remained part of the British Empire, slavery might have actually gone on a bit longer, particularly for Northern slaves who were emancipated long before the Civil War. There is no evidence the southern states would have given up slavery without war had they remained British colonies. There's also little reason to think that native communities would have fared substantially better had the Revolution never occurred, given British extermination campaigns during the colonial period as well as later British atrocities in Australia. And the US presidential system does have its advantages, such as preventing demagogues from taking over the entire government. Donald Trump may dream, but, thanks to the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers were able to put in place the separation of powers to stymie the monarchical impulse.
What do you think? Was the American Revolution really worth it? Are we better off for its having happened? Or did the American Revolution result in more pain and suffering and less flourishing of humanity than had it never happened? Looking back, was the American Revolution justified? Or not?
Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these questions. Further reading:
The United States spends more per student than any other country, but achieves comparatively middling results in primary and secondary education. In 2015, American students placed 40th in math and 24th in science and reading on the Programme for International Student Assessment exams.
Why doesn't unsurpassed spending yield unsurpassed results? Many have pointed to glaring racial achievement gaps, which are evident even before kindergarten; others blame the decline of vocational training, saying that the focus on academic preparation for every student for college or white-collar jobs is misguided; and still others point to the ways in which teachers are hired, trained, and compensated.
Whereas most school districts in the United States determine teachers’ salaries based on tenure and academic credentials, reformers argue that pay should be tied to performance. Proponents of merit pay argue that it's just common sense: if pay is tied to performance, performance will improve. They also cite several studies to bolster their claims.
“Performance” can be measured in a variety of ways, including evaluations by administrators, parent surveys, and - perhaps most controversial - student achievement. Student gains matter most, the argument goes, and tests are less subjective than evaluations or surveys.
Opposition to tying teacher pay to student performance runs along several lines. Some argue that it’s ineffective; others that it encourages teachers to “teach to the test” and over-emphasize math and reading at the expense of other disciplines and skills. Opponents also argue that because teachers often can’t control the social or family circumstances of their students, they should not be held accountable for the impact those circumstances might have on student performance.
So what do you think…So what do you think…should teacher pay be tied to student performance, or should the two things be kept separate? Come share your views, debate others and have fun!
If you would like to moderate this debate, please contact event host through Meetup.
The current U.S. sentencing regime is largely based on outdated ideas about what is necessary to keep the nation safe. The so-called "war on drugs" has led to the incarceration of petty criminals whose crimes rarely rise to the level deserving of a prison sentence. Without proper reform, the prison system turns these petty criminals into hardened crooks by failing to remediate their behavior, introducing them to more "experienced" criminals, and severely limiting their options upon release.
Since 1980, the prison population has grown by about 800 percent while the country’s population has increased by only a third. Many people who are in prison shouldn’t have been sent there in the first place. For example, 25% of prisoners (364,000 people), almost all non-violent, lower-level offenders, would be better served by alternatives to incarceration such as drug rehab, mental health treatment, community service, or probation. Secondly, another 14% (212,000 prisoners) have already served long sentences for more serious crimes and can be safely set free. We need to rethink sentencing to make our justice system better by decreasing crime and recidivism and reducing the disproportionate impact on communities of color.
Many law enforcement agencies however argue that "Nonviolent Offender Relief" amounts to nothing more than a "drug dealer's bill of rights", the deterrent effect of imprisonment would thereby be reduced and that some of the released offenders may well commit additional crimes.
Another challenge is drawing the line between “violent offenders” and “nonviolent offenders.” Crime that’s legally defined as “violent” in many states may not involve any actual violence such as illegal gun possession. Other examples include burglarizing an occupied dwelling or serving as a getaway driver while someone else commits an armed robbery. Also in many states you can be convicted of felony murder for having been present when someone you are affiliated with committed a homicide, even if you never touched a weapon or killed anyone. The flaws in the violent/nonviolent labels run both ways. Many offenders who are labeled “nonviolent” did commit violent crimes but negotiated for lesser charges in exchange for pleading guilty. Problems with labeling who is and is not violent can result in flawed legislation and potentially violent criminals set free, while non-violent ones are mislabeled and left imprisoned with lengthy sentences.
So what do you think…should prisons restrict their mission to incapacitating violent criminals and courts no longer sentence nonviolent criminals to prison sentences, or would that tie the hands of our law enforcement agencies and overall be a detriment to the society? Come share your views, debate others and have fun!
If you would like to moderate this debate, please contact event host Deborah through Meetup.
So what has President Trump done for the US lately? 1). Cut effective tax rates on corporations to the much lower Scandinavian levels. This will make US companies more competitive globally, spur business investment, grow the economy, create more new jobs, and increase tax revenues. 2) Slashed unnecessary, outdated, counterproductive and redundant government regulations, saving billions of dollars so far, and also spurring business investment and economic growth. 3) contrary to the doomsayers who seem more interested in rhetoric and virtue-signaling than effective action, Trump policies will reduce global GHG emissions by incentivizing energy-saving capital investments (as well as through extending energy efficiency tax credits). The US already posted the largest single-country decline in emissions in 2017, led by a jump in renewables; and 4) improved national security by destroying the territorial base of ISIS and achieved an unprecedented diplomatic break-through with North Korea. These, and many other accomplishments, have been achieved because Trump has what it takes to get results. He may not be a good man but he has been good for the country.
Many would beg to differ with the above assessment, arguing that Trump is a sexist, racist and impulsive liar who cares more about personal loyalty and popularity than doing good for his country. His policies have been ruinous. Take your pick: tax cuts for the rich, ballooning budget deficit, denying a path to citizenship for Dreamers, jeopardizing the Iran nuclear deal, starting trade wars, abolishing net neutrality, crippling the EPA, exacerbating tensions with Muslims and reckless saber-rattling rhetoric that actually jeopardizes national security. Trump has alienated allies and lowered US standing in the world. In the name of regulatory reform, Trump has removed many protections for students, workers, and the poor. Far from being good for America, Trump has been a disaster for America – and the world.
What do you think? Has President Trump, on balance, been good for America? Or has he harmed our country? Or perhaps it’s just too early to tell? Join us at Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these questions.
Beginning on March 30, 2018, up to 50,000 Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip have been taking part in anti-Israel protests near the Israel-Gaza barrier fence. These protests are part of what's called the Great March of Return, a demonstration that is intended to remind the world of the events of 70 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes by the newly formed state of Israel, which has never allowed them to return. Surviving refugees and their descendants include around 1.2 million of the 1.9 million people living in the Gaza Strip today. The Gaza Strip came under the control of the Israeli military in 1967, but Israel withdrew its land forces in 2005; since 2007, the Strip has been blockaded by land, sea, and air by Israel and also by Egypt. The only supplies allowed in come by truck from Israel.
From the start, the organizers of the March of Return have insisted that the protests would be peaceful and that participants would not actually attempt to breach the barrier fence with Israel. However, the Israeli Defense Forces reported that some protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails and attempted to break through the barrier fence. The IDF has responded to the protests in some locations with live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets, and tear gas, which as of this writing have killed at least 27 Palestinians and injured many hundreds more. Some observers have condemned the Israeli action as excessively brutal and out of proportion to the threat posed by the protesters. Other observers refuse to condemn the Israeli action on the grounds that Israel is doing what any other country would do if the security of its border were threatened. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent inquiry into the violence, but the US has blocked the move.
[Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images]
In favor of condemning the Israeli action:
Against condemning the Israeli action:
We have volunteers who will present the case for and against this motion, and a moderator. Everyone who shows up will have the opportunity to speak! If you prefer just to listen, that's OK, too.
This event is free of charge for members of the Mechanics Institute Library (show your card), and $5 for all others.