Commentary & Opinion

Ever since New York’s nefarious Kinderhook ‘Kingfish’ unleashed the venal voice of political patronage that forever soiled what could have been a proud and venerable national heritage, with the merit-less motto of: “To the winner goes the spoils!”, those engaged in government via politics and pertinent appointments, at state and local levels, have made the concept of ‘You scrub my back and I’ll scrub yours,’ standard operating procedure.  The problem is that not a lot of dirty laundry has come clean, since political practitioners at state and local levels were seemingly seduced by Thomas Je

Blair Horner: The Case for Expanding Medicaid

Dec 3, 2012

A new report issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute – two health care think tanks—described the benefits to states which choose to expand Medicaid coverage as allowed under the federal health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act.  The report found that states will receive more than $9 in federal money for every $1 they spend to cover low-income residents.

That’s right: a $9 to $1 ratio.

Liz Benjamin - Mr. Cuomo Goes to Washington

Dec 3, 2012

Mr. Cuomo is finally going to Washington.

That’s right, Governor Andrew Cuomo is making his first trip today to our nation's capital since he took office back in January 2011. Most governors would not have waited this long. But Cuomo is not most governors. Cuomo has largely avoided out-of-state travel. He has left New York's borders only a handful of times – for a West Coast fundraiser, a quick visit to the annual Somos el Futuro conference in Puerto Rico, a one-day jaunt to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.

Rob Edelman: Holiday Cheer

Dec 3, 2012

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. A CHRISTMAS CAROL (the 1938 and 1951 versions). CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT. THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. THE BISHOP’S WIFE. A CHRISTMAS STORY. These are among the holiday perennials: the movies that we savor watching and enjoying, the films that are the equivalent of a warm fire on a cold night and the automatic smile that comes when you are handed a steaming cup of hot apple cider.

David Nightingale - Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925)

Nov 30, 2012

   Oliver Heaviside received not much more than a middle school education, leaving school at 16 -- yet became one of the most famous mathematical physicists of his time [ref.1.].

   In a short biography by Appleyard [ref.2, p.218-9] there are a few drawings of horses by the 11 yr old Oliver, perhaps because his own father was an artist. as well as a wood engraver. The family lived in an impoverished part of Camden Town, London. Nevertheless, his mother's sister was the wife of Charles Wheatstone, famous for the Wheatstone Bridge circuit used in telegraphy.

Tiffany Brown-Bennett - The Wedding Ring

Nov 29, 2012

The miniature hands of little girls are prepped and awaiting this powerful symbol as they play with their Barbies and Kens, mashing them together in perpetual matrimony. The budding bodies of adolescent girls speed heart-first into the arms of their first loves in hopes he’ll be the one she ends up with forever and happily ever after, but does anyone read the fine print?

Sean Philpott: An End to AIDS?

Nov 29, 2012

Just in time for World AIDS Day -- held every year on December 1st to remember the nearly 30 million people who have died since the epidemic began in the late 1970s -- the US Preventative Services Task Force has released new guidance on routine HIV testing. This is first time since 2005 that the Task Force has updated its HIV testing recommendations.

Herbert London: The Israeli War With Gaza

Nov 28, 2012

It is astonishing to see Ban-ki-Moon and Hillary Clinton, among others clamoring for a truce between Israel and Hams-led terrorists.  One wonders where these diplomats were when more than a thousand missiles rained over Israel without retaliation.

Stephen Gottlieb: Iran

Nov 27, 2012

Iran’s position looks a bit stronger once the war in Gaza shifted everyone’s gaze.  But let’s use the breather to understand the bombast about Iran which will surely return.

Public bombast is not an effective or accurate way to get so-called messages to the other side. What goes on in private is vastly different. Diplomacy is private until public deals are reached and announced.

Paul Elisha: Silence

Nov 27, 2012

The great Ancient Greek philosopher/poet Dionysius has written:  “Let they speech be better than silence, or be silent.”  There is a new sort of silence now being ordained in this land, where speaking truth to power was once finally given voice --- it was thought, forever.  But those ordaining this silence believe theirs is a much more effective gag; tied more tightly and held in place by fear.  All the more compelling reason, to speak out against it.

For too many Americans, the end of the Thanksgiving meal was followed by a “food coma.”  During the holidays, many of us know that we eat too much.

It turns out that, on average, Americans eat too much during the rest of the year too.

Unfortunately, eating too much can have devastating consequences.  Three quarters of all healthcare costs are attributed to chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The major drivers of those costly chronic conditions are tobacco use and obesity which are both preventable and treatable.

Sometimes "who says it" is just as important as "what they say." So it is with Warren Buffett's op-ed in today's New York Times about taxes and the fiscal realities of our budget. 

Rob Edelman: Presidents

Nov 26, 2012

At this moment in time, so many Americans seem to have overdosed on presidential politics and, in particular, the wave of negative advertising that dominated the recently concluded election. Nevertheless, as the year nears its close, two new films spotlight certain aspects of the lives and personalities of revered American presidents. They are Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, and Roger Michell’s HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, which features Bill Murray as Franklin Roosevelt. 

We are now almost three weeks past the November 6th elections, and there's still no resolution in sight to the leadership crisis in the state Senate.

All eyes today are on Ulster County - the fifth and final county in the new 46th Senatorial District to count its paper ballots. After Montgomery County completed its count this weekend, Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk trailed Republican Assemblyman George Amedore by 920 votes. The outcome of this race could very well decide who controls the upper chamber.

By all rights, President Barack Obama should have been beaten handily by Mitt Romney.  Usually, an incumbent President wins if the economy is doing well --- think of 1996 when Bill Clinton was re-elected, think of 1972 when Richard Nixon was re-elected.   If the economy is not doing well, an incumbent President loses:  Think of Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H, W. Bush in 1992.  There are “close calls” in this analysis – the two that come to mind are the successful re-election campaigns of Ronald Reagan in 1984 (which resulted in a landslide victory) and George W.

Where is my America?  The nation of rugged individualists has ceded its position to those who embrace the command economy. Moreover, a failed record doesn’t mean very much when media panjandrums use barrels of print to boost the fortune of their desired candidates.

      Maybe it is the proximity of Thanksgiving that has gotten to me - but here is a really positive take on the year in politics:

The good guys won. And I don't just mean the President got re-elected.

There was more to it - so let's take a closer look at two specific aspects of the political landscape.

First - democracy was elevated.

Yes -- that may sound crazy after all the bile and nasty TV ads that buffeted us this year. At the fringe the ugliness was there, as it will always be unfortunately.

Stephen Gottlieb: But for the grace of God

Nov 20, 2012

I have often thought back to a conversation I had many years ago with one of my students. She had come from a rural background with a strong, and in many ways admirable, streak of self-reliance. She was dumbfounded when I quoted the saying “There but for the grace of God go I,” often attributed to a sixteenth century evangelical preacher and martyr, John Bradford. How could I, her professor, imagine myself in the position of people who were down and out, people without jobs who needed help?

This commentator has always believed that age was never a guarantor of complaint or bad manners nor was it an established signal for curmudgeonly behavior.  So it’s especially upsetting to find oneself setting a graphic example of what he has criticized.

Blair Horner: The Great American Smokeout

Nov 19, 2012

The nation just celebrated its 37th annual “Great American Smokeout.”  The Great American Smokeout has been offered as an opportunity for smokers to think about quitting and as an opportunity to reflect on society’s gains against the tobacco menace.

And big changes have occurred over the decades.  Nationally, the smoking rate peaked at 42 percent when the U.S. Surgeon General’s report was issued and proved the link between smoking and cancer.  Today the nation’s smoking rate is 19 percent, and here in New York that rate is even lower.

One new film that is sure to be high on this year’s Oscar buzz list is David O. Russell’s SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. While the film is predictable, it also is insightful and extremely entertaining. Its characters are flawed but likable, and are ever so human.

The ongoing struggle for control of the state Senate has put some traditional Democratic allies in a tough spot. That is particularly true when it comes to New York’s LGBT community.

The Democrats are trying to convince New Yorkers that putting the majority in their hands will result in passage of many long stalled so-called progressive bills. That includes a transgender rights measure, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, better known as GENDA.

If last week was all about politics - and thankfully things turned out pretty well - maybe thisweek we can put ideology and partisanship aside for a moment and apply a more objective,scientific approach to some of the tough issues we face. What do historical records and datasuggest might be the better course for our nation to follow?

Most pundits have been describing last week's elections as a victory for the status quo, with President Obama being reelected and Democrats retaining control of the Senate despite the timid economic recovery and despite SuperPACs spending nearly a billion dollars on largely negative campaign ads. From a health and science policy perspective, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

In Jacques Barzun’s masterwork on cultural history he describes modernity as decadent.  Pitirim Sorokin’s narrative of contemporary society includes sensate culture, a belief that the senses are superordinated over ideas and beliefs.

Stephen Gottlieb: Jajja’s Kids

Nov 13, 2012

On election night, we spent part of the evening with friends who, like us, had served in the U.S. Peace Corps. The group had invited Diane Reiner to speak about her experience in Uganda. She brought Ronald Sseruyange (pronounced Sse as in send, ru as in rue the day, yang as in fang, and ending with the ge pronounced gay) from Kampala. Diane described going to Kampala originally on a photographic expedition. While there, she wanted to see the conditions of the poor and was introduced to Ronnie. Ronnie had lived in the street for ten years beginning when his mother died when he was six.

If they haven’t discerned it before this, Americans must by now have realized, that the first freedom guaranteed by our Constitution is our most onerous and burdensome one: Religious freedom.  By now, Americans should have ascertained that every right is counter-balanced by a responsibility.  In this case, the right to religious belief and worship literally requires respect for others to enjoy a similar right, and if different, to refrain from any dissent, contrary persuasion or resistance.

Blair Horner:

Nov 12, 2012

As we look at the 2012 election in the rear view mirror, the nation’s attention now turns to the impact of the re-election of President Obama and the partisan leadership in the Congress.  Last week, Americans kept in place a Democratic majority in the Senate as well as a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

Essentially, the same partisan national leadership structure that existed prior to the election.

What will the election mean to our health care?  It creates both certainty and uncertainty.

Rob Edelman: Heroes

Nov 12, 2012

Decades ago, you could watch any number of films-- dramas, action-adventures, Westerns, swashbucklers-- in which good was pitted against evil. There would be villains: men who were power-mad or consumed by greed, or who would readily commit violent acts. Ultimately, they would be quashed by heroes: men who were honest, stalwart, moral.

Now that the revelry is dying down, and the harsh reality of ongoing unemployment and the impending “fiscal cliff” re-emerges, President Obama and the Republican leadership need to commit themselves to bridging the partisan divide which has thwarted any major progress over the last four years.

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