Commentary & Opinion

Anyone who's jumped off a haystack or played on a trampoline, knows the pleasurable feeling of weightlessness, wherein there are, for a fleeting moment, no more sagging body parts.

Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year old Austrian military parachutist, intentionally jumped from a capsule 24 miles up, on Oct 14, thus certainly knowing weightlessness for a decent amount of time. And what a fascinating lot of physics the man who fell from space experienced!

Late last month, renowned cyclist and cancer activist Lance Armstrong was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from competitive sport. Mr. Armstrong has repeatedly denied the allegations, and has only tested positive once for a banned substance -- cortisone -- for which he provided a prescription. The prohibited steroid was in a doctor-provided cream used by many riders to treat saddle sores.

Have you ever heard of Leon Cooperman?  He is a billionaire whose 1500 word letter of complaint to President Obama has made him the darling of the top one tenth of one percent.  In the NEW YORKER’s October 8 issue he is profiled in a fascinating article that quotes from his letter.

I am reprinting the entire letter with my comments interspersed:

Cooperman:

Blair Horner: Every vote counts

Oct 31, 2012

As much as medical care, public policy decisions have a tremendous impact on Americans’ health care.  And there is no decision more important than next week’s Presidential choice. 

Americans who watched the 2000 Presidential election – including Al Gore – know that it’s not the nation’s total popular vote that chooses the President.  In fact, there have been a total of three Presidents elected while losing the national popular vote.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Eastern Storm

Oct 30, 2012

As I record this commentary, there is a powerful storm approaching the East coast. The last hurricane to hit this area affected a number of people in my office. One of the women who had worked for me lived in Schoharie. Her home and family were OK but she was devastated by what happened to her town. This time, my thoughts are in Brooklyn where my son and his family live – near the water but in the area that serves as a port so we hope more protected.

I’m no meteorologist. So how do you talk about a storm?

As the shadow of a doomsday triad looms over the coming first week in November, this WW-II combat-veteran-turned-commentator is compelled to dwell on an over-riding truth, that any military commanders who have seen war’s effects on the bodies, minds and spirits of combatants must – ever after – become reluctant warriors.  This does not make them more timorous or less diligent in carrying out the savage and frightful actions that combat leadership compels; it does, though, constrain them from committing those they command to needless or foolhardy slaughter.

At the Republican convention, Senator Rick Santorum told a story I could have told. At birth, he said, his daughter’s hands were “just a little bit different and I knew different wasn’t good.” At birth my son’s hands were clenched and quivering in seizure.

Now I know the Senator and I share the brotherhood of vigilance. We have known the long nights watching hospital monitors for reassurance that our baby is still alive. I know how much, admirably, he left unsaid—the change in expectations, the frustration over pains that can’t be soothed, the exhaustion of constant concern.

The Senator told his story as an anti-abortion message. “We didn’t let go,” he said. He thanked God America still has one party that says that “each of us has dignity and all of us have the right to live.”

But which party is that? Paul Ryan’s budget, which candidate Mitt Romney has said he supports and the Republican House already adopted, would deeply cut funding for Medicaid, the very program that supports the medical costs of disabled children. For the mother who has been told she is carrying a child who will face difficulties, Medicaid provides the financial security to choose not to let go. Medicaid protects disabled children, but also most of the residents of nursing homes. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by 2050 the Ryan Plan would reduce the projected federal spending on Medicaid by over 70%.[i]

Instead, the Ryan Plan shifts Medicaid costs to states, more so each year. States are not likely to be able to make up the lost federal money except by cutting people from the program. The Kaiser Foundation estimates that in just nine years, the Ryan Plan would force states either to cut payments or to reduce enrollment by almost half.[ii]    

A few years ago, my child had a fall at school. He hit his head and developed that staple of television hospitals, an epidural hematoma. Bleeding under his skull was increasing pressure on his brain with each heartbeat. Without immediate surgery he would have died. Our insurance paid for a helicopter ambulance to take him to a trauma center. Our insurance paid for the surgery and hospitalization. Medicaid helps us pay for that insurance.

Once my son was well enough, we moved from intensive care to a shared room, which had many beds. Changes to Medicaid were being debated then as well and I remember wondering who among the politicians calling for cuts would be willing to come to that room and tell parents precisely what their child would no longer be able to afford.

The Ryan cuts are far deeper. So I wonder again, is Paul Ryan himself going to walk into a room of ten beds and push half of them back into the hallway? Will he clip the IV drips? Deny the pain meds? Will he pull the respirators?

There is a deeper kind of dishonesty than saying things that aren’t true. Paul Ryan’s proposed cuts to Medicaid can have only two outcomes. Either the unreimbursed costs will be passed along as ever higher medical fees. Or children will die. They will miss preventive care, they will wait too long, they will be denied care. Pretending to value children while withdrawing the supports they need is unforgivable dishonesty.

David Gilbert Keith is a father and independent researcher living in Deerfield, Massachusetts.

During the final presidential debate this past Monday, President Obama stated that “…if we are not making investments in education and basic research …then we will lose the lead in things like clean energy technology.”  Indeed, I think it is fair to say that both parties have passed platforms which reflect a belief in the importance of scientific research.

Photo: Andre Pilarczyk

At this stage of the race -- with candidates as smart as both President Obama and Governor Romney -- it is safe to say that nothing happens by accident.  So what is the takeaway from last night's foreign policy debate?  

Mitt Romney wanted to obscure differences rather than clarify them, even going so far as to etch-a-sketch away his most hawkish language on Afghanistan and Iran.   But why?

This presidential campaign season is a time for clarification. If campaigns have any value over and above the megaphone effect of why one candidate is more desirable than the other, it is the chance to use a campaign as an educational forum. From my perspective, even silence or ambiguity can be revealing. In this season, President Obama has indicated the threat and direction of American foreign policy through ellipses.

Stephen Gottlieb: Romney-Ryan Rickshaws

Oct 23, 2012

Both candidates say they want to pull us out of the recession and put people back to work – to create jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs, the election seems to be about jobs.

Blair Horner: Fact checking the health care debate

Oct 23, 2012

As we all know, the fate of the federal health care reform law is to be decided by voters this November.  There are those running against the law that argue that they want to “repeal and replace” the law. 

However, there has been no alternative offered by opponents – just vague promises, partial pledges and grotesque distortions of the federal law itself.

In the heat of the political season, it’s important to take a closer look at opponents’ promises.

Paul Elisha: On paper in the digital age

Oct 23, 2012

The poet Frank Bidart’s “Inauguration Day,” composed for President Barak Obama’s first Inaugural, began with these lines: “Staring out across America I see, since Lincoln, gunmen nursing fantasies of purity betrayed, dreaming to restore the glories of their blood and state.”  These words projected a hope of return to earlier times of repression and the glory of purity restored.  It’s a hope that obviously lingers for some.

Rob Edelman : Much to Ponder

Oct 22, 2012

On rare occasion do I see a film that so challenges me, that has so much going on in it, that I come out of the theater thinking, “I must give this movie a second look.” One such film is CLOUD ATLAS, which I saw at the Toronto Film Festival back in September and which I will re-see upon its theatrical release.

Eliot Spitzer - 2nd Presidential Debate

Oct 18, 2012
Photo: Andre Pilarczyk

Toe to toe, interruption to interruption, like two gladiators they squared off in the arena. Candy Crowley's best efforts to maintain order couldn't survive the testosterone battle that played out before us. It was not only great TV, but a superb debate. The key takeaway: Barack is back and moderate Mitt can't survive careful scrutiny. 

Sean Philpott: Now Entering the Health Care Spin Zone

Oct 18, 2012

Last Tuesday night was the second of three scheduled presidential debates, with President Obama and Governor Romney going toe-to-toe before a public audience at Hofstra University.

In a recent book entitled Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Its Intended To Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, the authors identify reforms that could make a difference in dealing with this ticklish racial issue, reforms, as I see it, that are eminently sensible.

Stephen Gottlieb: This is an emergency

Oct 16, 2012

During the fund drive I heard Joe Donahue and this station working hard to bring Bill McKibben to this audience and lead us away from the catastrophe of global warming. He and the station did a great service and I am proud to be associated with them.

If your house was on fire you wouldn’t stand like a bystander waiting for it to collapse; you’d call the fire department and get anyone you could reach out of there fast.

Two endorsements made yesterday in state Senate races proved - yet again - that old adage about the game of politics and the strange bedfellows its players choose as they seek to achieve, maintain or consolidate power.

The first came from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is now two for two, technically speaking, in bestowing his general election support on fellow Democrats.

Cuomo's first nod went to Sen. Joe Addabbo, one of the Senate Republicans' top targets this fall who is facing a spirited challenge from a GOP rising star, New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich.

Paul Elisha: Great Spirit

Oct 16, 2012

If ABC-News journalist, Martha Raddatz had done nothing else, in last week’s highly charged and hugely watched Vice-Presidential Campaign Debate but to question both the incumbent and his opponent about their respective religious beliefs, she would have made a memorable contribution.  As it turned out, she made several of which this question was not only most revealing but for this observer, the most provocative.  While both Congressman Ryan and Vice President Biden expressed strikingly different views about their shared religious faiths, as Catholics, the most revealing aspect of their an

Blair Horner: Help to discover new cancer treatments

Oct 15, 2012

For many of us, our civic participation begins and ends with voting.  Though voting is crucial to the health of our democracy, few of us have the opportunity to take part in something that can really change the lives of people all around the world.

One of those rare opportunities has just come our way.

Rob Edelman: No Trouble With Eastwood

Oct 15, 2012

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE, the latest Clint Eastwood movie, is as predictable as, well, any Hollywood movie could be. For one thing, the good guys and bad guys in the film are clear cut and, if you are accustomed to the typical “and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after” Hollywood scenario, you can pretty much figure out where this film is headed.

Karen Hitchcock - Penn State: Lessons Not Learned

Oct 11, 2012

On Tuesday of this week, Jerry Sandusky received a de facto life sentence of 30-60 years for raping, abusing and assaulting some ten young boys.   To this day, Mr. Sandusky denies his guilt and places the blame for his conviction on what he feels is the false testimony of his many victims.  As The New York Times stated in an editorial following the sentencing, “The case of Jerry Sandusky for the serial raping of young boys while a coach in Penn State’s football program ended Tuesday as it began: in denial and delusion.”

There has been much speculation about Romney’s private statement about the 47 percent of the electorate “who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”

Paul Elisha: Postage Paid

Oct 9, 2012

In one of his earliest books: “Cakes And Ale,” W. Somerset Maugham observed that hypocrisy cannot be practiced part-time, in one’s spare moments.  “Hypocrisy,” he said, “is a whole-time job.”  Back in the days when icons were authentic and worth quoting, one of the greatest was Martin Luther, who bemoaned the fact that “Truth goes begging, while hypocrisy finds ample wages.”  It’s an adage that’s still true, especially in the political arena, where the worst of that ilk continue to operate with impunity.

Rob Edelman: A Country’s Recent History

Oct 8, 2012

For decades, filmmakers from across the globe have been producing works that explore their country’s history, culture, and politics-- and that offer perspectives on that history. In this regard, two very different but not unrelated films were screened at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. One spotlights East Germany in the 1980s, before the fall of communism. The other is a portrait of France in the early 1970s, when a certain type of young person was embracing a Marxist/anarchist ideal.

Herbert London: Tokyo's Military Options

Oct 3, 2012

Tokyo policy makers have been engaged in diplomatic overdrive in an effort to resolve a territorial dispute with Russia over four southern islands in the Kuril Island chain. This dispute has stunted bilateral relations for six decades.

Paul Elisha: One long step removed...

Oct 2, 2012

Those Americans who find themselves dismayed at the current lack of ethical and statesmanlike leadership in our country, replaced by the plodding puerile purgatory of partisan political power peddled to the highest bidder, need to be reminded that it was one of New York’s earlier self-styled political heroes, who preempted the Jeffersonian model of : “equal and exact justice to all… of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political;” as he spelled it out in his first inaugural Presidential address.

Rob Edelman: Canada’s Sweetheart

Oct 1, 2012

In the heyday of the silent film, almost a hundred years ago, Toronto-born Mary Pickford was known as “America’s Sweetheart.” Well, today, the moniker “Canada’s Sweetheart” easily fits Sarah Polley.

   And who was the 25th President of France?

   Well, I guess this is information for TV's “Jeopardy”, but it was the physicist Dominique Francois Jean Arago, born 50 years after the birth of another statesman/scientist – Ben Franklin.[Ref.1].

   Some may remember from high school a demonstration called “Arago's disk”, wherein a copper or aluminum disc is spun underneath an ordinary compass, and the compass needle begins to swing round also. This is just one of the many experiments Arago did.

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