• Ron Paul and FEMA

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency was created under the watchful eye of Jimmy Carter in an attempt to help coordinate efforts that were previously conducted on an ad hoc basis. While the organization unquestionably has slipped since the days in which it was led by James Lee Witt (as made evident by the debacle that was Hurricane Katrina), FEMA still has many supporters. Last week, Ron Paul suggested that FEMA is fundamentally flawed and actually as much of a disaster as any natural forces we must reckon with. While he is not the first person to make such a claim, he is receiving extra attention at this time due to his strong performance in the Ames Straw Poll.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What do you think about Paul's stance regarding FEMA? Do you agree or disagree with him? Why?
    • Who should be responsible for overseeing disaster management and recovery in our country? Why?

     

  • Social Security: Necessary Resource or Ponzi Scheme?

    Texas Governor Rick Perry has taken the Republican primary field by storm since announcing his run for president last month. In the past week, much media attention, however, has focused on his blunt critique of the American Social Security system. Many have spoke out against Perry's opinion, yet he has steadfastly refused to back off of his comments. While its too soon to know if the stance will have any impact on his polling, it does lead us to a series of questions regarding political campaigns and Perry's chances at taking the White House a year from November.

     

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    Discussion Starters:

    • What are Perry's arguments regarding Social Security? Do they have merit? Do you believe Social Security will exist as is when today's freshmen become retirement eligible?
    • What impact do you believe this belief could have on Perry's campaign? What could happen if he were to backtrack on his comments?

     

  • First Responders and September 11th

    Due to security concerns and the desire to assure all victims' families are able to attend, first responders have not been invited to the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks in New York City. The exclusion of these individuals has caused much debate in the public.

     

    Discussion Starters:

    • Why do you believe the city has not allowed first responders into the site in the ten years since September 11, 2001?
    • Do you agree with the city's decision? Why or why not?
  • Essential Air Service Subsidies

    With the Super Committee formed and Congress beginning its efforts to find the necessary cuts in the federal budget, the issue of rural airport subsidies has again come to the attention of many Americans.These subsidies were first granted when airlines deregulated in 1978 to try to ensure service on less profitable routes to remote communities. Unfortunately, now the government is giving the subsidy to airlines to fly flights with no passengers. While this may seem wasteful, for many communities and citizens the subsidies make air travel possible and affordable. In this video, these subsidies are examined more fully.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What are the arguments for Essential Air Service subsidies? Against?
    • Do you believe this program should be cut to save federal money as part of the budget reexamination? Why or why not?
  • Buffett: Rich Should Pay More Taxes

    Warren Buffett has recently made national news for again repeating that the rich in our country need to pay a higher share of taxes in order to alleviate some pressure from middle and lower income families and individuals. Buffett's claims led pundits to bring up the idea of class warfare. In the following video, Jon Stewart discusses Buffett's editorial and the ideas of class warfare.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What do you think about Buffett's editorial? Do you think he is correct or not? Why?
    • Why do you believe there is such a great income disparity in our nation? Do we have class warfare occurring?
  • Ames Straw Poll

    On August 13, Iowa Republicans held the Ames Straw Poll to help gauge the current status of the 2012 Republican presidential primary. While not all candidates participate (most notably Mitt Romney and Rick Perry), the poll can help propel candidates forward (or eliminate them from contention). Michele Bachmann won this year's poll by approximately 200 votes over Ron Paul. Tim Pawlenty finished third and withdrew from the election in the aftermath of the straw poll. The following video discusses the poll and its importance to Republican candidates.

     

    Discussion Starters:

    • What impact do you believe polls like this have? Why would Pawlenty resign after one poll in one state?
    • Who do you think benefits most from this year's results? Why? Besides Pawlenty, who else was hurt?
    • Why do you think Romney may have opted to skip the poll this year after participating in 2007?
  • Government Interference with Social Media

    Two stories have been revealed in the past two weeks that demonstrate the uncomfortable tensions present between government and social media. In one, Prime Minister David Cameron (of the United Kingdom) placed blame on Twitter, Facebook, and Blackberry for the outbreak of riot violence throughout London. Then BART--the San Francisco subway system--admitted to cutting off cellphone signals at select stations in response to planned protests.

    Some argue that these actions are nothing more than a usurpation of free speech while others believe such government actions are necessary at times for security and protection. No matter what way one views it, the decision is dangerous.

     

    Discussion Starters:

    • Should the government be able to turn off cell service and social media sites? Why or why not?
    • Do you believe either David Cameron or BART had the right to take the actions they did? What are the potential consequences of their actions?
  • Welcome to College...or Not?

    Colleges and universities across the country are working to become paperless by moving more and more toward electronic communications. Unfortunately for one student, a failure to adapt to e-mail has cost him his spot with his freshmen class. Hanaroo Kim had been e-mailed by San Jose State University regarding an error in his English placement test and set a deadline for him to respond before being unenrolled.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Who is to blame for Hanaroo being unenrolled from classes?
    • Should technological fluency be a requirement for success in the college classroom? Why or why not?
  • Christine O'Donnell v. Piers Morgan

    Christine O'Donnell joined Piers Morgan for an interview on his CNN nightly show recently. She was there to talk about her recently released book Troublemaker. The interview, however, did not go as planned.O'Donnell became unhappy with a line of questioning from Morgan and he became confused regarding her behavior and reasons for wanting to be on the show. Watch the exchange between O'Donnell and Morgan and then consider the discussion questions that follow.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Who do you believe is to blame for the interview abruptly ending? Why?
    • Who should determine what topics will be discussed during an interview? The person doing the interview or the person being interviewed? Why?
  • The Right to Videotape

    Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot has made news this week after his staff ordered police to confiscate all cameras being used by citizens at a town hall meeting he hosted in Cincinnati. The officer tells citizens that Chabot wants to protect the identities of other constituents in attendance. Watch the following raw video from the interaction between the citizens and the officer.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What arguments could be made for why citizens should not be able to tape town hall meetings? What arguments can be made against it?
    • What are the possible ramifications of this policy for Chabot? How could he control potential damage?
  • Concerns with Facebook Hacking?

    In the wake of the 5.9 earthquake that struck the metro-Washington, D.C. area on Tuesday, an individual claiming to be Paul Krugman took to Google+ stating that the national economy may have benefited more had the quake produced more damage. The post became a fast-growing internet session as individuals reposted the story and began offering their own assessments of "Krugman's" statement. Even right-wing columnists seemed to wonder if the statement actually came from Krugman. Ultimately, Krugman took to The New York Times to explain that he did not have his own Google+ account. Instead, it was an individual posing as Krugman. While this has been verified, Krugman's image has still suffered some damage as many pundits have pointed to arguments he has made that mirror the sentiment shared in the Google+ note.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Should we better protect individuals like Krugman on social media sites? While they attempt to be accessible and share information with citizens, they make themselves vulnerable for possible attacks. If citizens expect them to be a presence on these sites, do they deserve special protections?
    • What legal actions should be taken for individuals who hack social media accounts or improperly pose as individuals they are not, if any? Or is this strictly a civil issue?
  • Drug Tests for Assistance

    Florida has recently begun a program whereby they drug test welfare recipients. If you fail your test, you ultimately lose your money.

    Citizens have fallen on both sides of the issue. Those in favor of the policy largely cite the importance of financial stewardship and assuring that public tax money is used by individuals with a true need and desire to succeed on their own. Opponents, on the other hand, point to civil liberties issues along with questions about whether young children should ultimately suffer due to the decisions and actions of their parents.

    In this video, Governor Rick Scott defends the policy (which is now under consideration in Missouri along with being discussed in many others):

    Discussion Starters:

    • Should a state be allowed to drug test welfare recipients? Why or why not? What are the strengths and weaknesses of such a program?
    • How could such a policy be evaluated? What would a good outcome be? If you were the governor of your state what factors would you consider when deciding whether to adopt the policy or not?
  • Law & Order in the Wake of Katrina

    In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, our country has undertaken a serious dialogue about whether our cities and infrastructure are truly prepared for disasters. One often overlooked aspect, however, is on training our public safety officers to handle citizens in times of crisis.

    During the Katrina disaster, police were challenged to work with citizens that were unhappy with response and aid. On September 4, 2005, four New Orleans police officers shot unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge and then plotted with two colleagues to cover up what they knew was an unjustified attack. Now, years later, five have been convicted in federal court and four face potential life sentences for their crimes. The officers argued--to no avail--that they were in danger and doing as they were told in keeping individuals from crossing the bridge. Yet at least one victim was shot in the back while fleeing the scene.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Who is to blame for the actions of the police officers? Could better training have prevented their actions? Should public safety officers have more discretion in disaster situations to act as they deem necessary?
    • What is an appropriate sentence for these officers? Should the drama surrounding life in New Orleans during Katrina be considered a mitigating factor that lessens their responsibility? Why or why not?