Commentary & Opinion

In 2001, after receiving a solicitation letter in the mail and then viewing a TV interview of Walter Cronkite, Honorary National Chairman of the Interfaith Alliance, this commentator became a member.  The idea of religious and lay leaders of many faiths joining together to ensure utmost support for the constitutional certainty of both religious freedom and church/state separation was an irresistible inducement.  When I later learned of the formation of an affiliated unit, in New York State, I became an avid supporter.

 This past week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued final regulations to require oil and gas drillers to capture harmful air pollutants that escape from wells during drilling operations, and from natural gas storage facilities and pipelines.  The final rule is a first, and it's good news. But the new rules take 2 and a half years to become effective. New York can and should do better.

Cigarettes cause cancer.  Each pack has a warning label that tells us that.  Tobacco smoke not only hurts the smoker, but the smoke also harms non-smokers.  That’s the reason why laws were passed banning smoking in all work places and public places. 

When the most recent Iraq war began, I was serving as student rabbi at a wonderful little synagogue in New England.  One of the regulars at our monthly Torah study was a World War II veteran – let’s call him Sam.  Sam would always bring consideration and deep insight to text study.  But more than that, Sam was – and is – a mensh.

BULLY, a new documentary whose title tells you all you need to know about its subject matter, has been earning reams of publicity– and deservedly so. For one thing, the Motion Picture Association of America, the organization charged with rating movies, originally slapped BULLY with an “R” rating. This designation would prevent countless young people who need to be educated about the effects of bullying from seeing this important film. (Happily, the MPAA has indeed changed the film’s rating to “PG-13.”)

The numbers are in for March auto sales and lo and behold, electric vehicles and gas-electric hybrid vehicles had their biggest month ever.  According to the Associated Press, consumers bought a record 52,000 gas-electric hybrids and electric vehicles in March, up from 34,000 a year ago. The higher numbers come –not coincidentally—as gasoline prices return to around $4 a gallon.

There have always been many good reasons to choose to drive the most fuel-efficient vehicles:

It has been widely reported that the Chinese government is providing loans and outright grants to Latin American and African nations for the construction of schools, clinics, power plants, and even soccer stadiums. The Chinese have flexed their economic prowess across the globe generating approval in many quarters and raised eyebrows and concerns in some diplomatic circles.

There was some big news for New York’s uninsured last week.  First, a report was released that examined the characteristics of those upstate New Yorkers who lack health insurance coverage.  Using data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the health insurer Excellus released a profile of those who lacked health insurance in upstate New York.  Here are some of them:

HOUSE OF PLEASURES, which was shown on the film festival circuit under the more appropriate and less commercially exploitable title HOUSE OF TOLERANCE, is a stinging mood piece which explores the plight of a group of prostitutes in a high-end Parisian bordello at the turn of the 20th–century.

A hospital in Texas recently made the national news when it announced that it would no longer hire obese workers. According to the new employment policy at the Citizens Medical Center in Victoria, Texas, all new employees — be they physicians, nurses, orderlies or janitors — must have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 35.

While the Road to Serfdom is paved with good intentions gone awry; the road to self fulfillment—the dream of the modern person—is constructed with freedom stones resembling personal license. What is emerging in the United States, based in part on the empirical data in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, is a selective version of morality. If it feels good, do it. The constraints inspired by the Judeo-Christian tradition, our genetic inheritance, even our sex, are mere trifles compared to personal choice and desire. To my astonishment, even murder is justified as an act of personal morality.

Stephen Gottlieb: Environmental liability

Apr 10, 2012

Let me suggest a solution to the fracking problem. The self-styled energy companies want to draw natural gas out of the shale deposits deep below the earth’s surface. Environmentalists like myself believe that fracking will foul the drinking water, damaging a much more crucial resource than the gas they’ll extract.  We also think that if gas is so valuable, they wouldn’t be burning it off where it already comes up alongside oil wells. But that’s another story. Let’s stick to safety.

To echo the March 28th front page of the New York Times, “Adrienne Rich, a poet of towering reputation— and one of the best known American intellectuals— has died,— at the age of 82.”   Author of  two dozen volumes of superb and searing poetry, plus a half-dozen more of prose, all totaling close to a million copies in sales, she was for me and countless other committed readers, a revered teacher and prophet.  As our nation approaches an historic crisis of conscience, a most appropriate tribute to this towering literary Titan is found in her own clairvoyant words, written in 1983 but amazing

Today Dr. James Hansen, the well known American climate scientist, will accept the prestigious Edinburgh Medal for his work on climate change science. The Edinburgh Medal is awarded each year to a person of science whose professional achievements are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity.  Dr. Hansen will reportedly use the occasion to talk about climate change as a moral issue of unprecedented scale.

IN DARKNESS, directed by Agnieszka Holland, tells the story of a coldhearted sewer worker and small-time criminal in Nazi-occupied Poland who hides a group of Jews who are in grave danger of being exterminated. He does so for profit only, but as time passes he forms a bond with his charges and becomes deeply involved in their lives, and their plights.

 

Samuel Claiborne: The Current Crop of Republicans

Apr 9, 2012

Where to begin with the current crop of republicans? We have newt Gingrich threatening to lock up any judge who dares to disagree with his edicts when he’s crowned king, I mean, elected president. We have Mitt Romney’s utter tone-deafness to the woes of the middle class. And we have Rick Santorum, a man evidently sprung full grown from some bronze-age cave, fully convinced that women are chattel, and gays should be burnt at the stake.

 

Herbert London: The New Defense Posture For America

Apr 4, 2012

In testimony given to the Congress, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asserted that Congress’s war powers authority is irrelevant. As he described it, U.S. intervention in Libya, Syria or elsewhere would be justified by permission from “relevant” international tribunals, such as the U.N. Security Council and NATO. The approval of the congressional representatives being unnecessary.

Let’s understand what that argument about the health insurance mandate was about. Everybody agreed that a single payer system would have been constitutionally OK. It would have been based on the taxing power. However toxic taxes are to the public, legally they are not particularly toxic. Everyone admits the taxing power is broad.

In the noise surrounding the Supreme Court arguments over ObamaCare last week you probably missed the latest, small bit of progress in the Obama Administration’s effort to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.  Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the first draft regulations to regulate carbon pollution from new power plants.

Paul Elisha: On the Merits of Slaughter

Apr 3, 2012

Looking back across many eventful years, this commentator can attest that life is an apt vehicle for learning but not without exemplary teachers.  In this respect, no one could have been luckier than I.  The eventful year was 1986 and my nonpareil mentor was an indomitable New York State Assembly-person.  Louise Slaughter was elected several years earlier, as a democrat in a habitually conservative suburb of Rochester.  She’d espoused an interest in the arts and legislative leaders decided the Arts Committee was just the spot to keep her involved in diversionary limbo, away from the attract

The debate over how to provide health insurance to 50 million Americans – nearly 3 million of them New Yorkers – was center stage last week.  The US Supreme Court quizzed lawyers supportive of and opposed to the federal health care reform law.  In Albany, the debate over Governor Cuomo’s plan to create a health exchange – the entity that would provide health insurance to the states’ uninsured – was a key obstacle to conclusion of the state budget.

Blair Horner: Questions About Health Care Reform

Mar 26, 2012

This week the US Supreme Court will take up the question of the constitutionality of federal health care reform, the Affordable Care Act.  The Court has scheduled three days for debate, each day focusing on a different challenge to the law.

Blair Horner: What's Next in Albany?

Mar 19, 2012

Governor Cuomo and the legislative leaders had a busy week -- redistricting changes, creating a new pension tier, broader DNA collection for criminal activities, and a first step toward legalized gambling.  Despite all of that activity one big issue remains:  they have to wrap up the state budget.

Both houses of the legislature advanced their separate budget plans this week.   As part of its plan, the New York State Assembly included the governor’s proposal to create a health exchange.  The health exchange is the mechanism through which New Yorkers lacking health insurance, as well as small businesses, could obtain coverage.  According to the US Census, nearly 3 million New Yorkers lack health insurance.

Blair Horner: Colon Cancer Awareness

Mar 5, 2012

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in New York.  In 2011, nearly 10,000 new cases of colon cancer were diagnosed in New York State, and about 2,900 died of the disease. 

It doesn’t need to be.  The earlier colon cancer is found the better the chances of survival.  The good news is that more people in New York are taking advantage of screening tools available; but a large percentage are still finding their colon cancers at a later stage.  In New York, many colon cancers are still being detected at later stages when survival rates are lower.

Blair Horner: A New, Growing Cancer Epidemic

Feb 27, 2012

A generation ago, smoking was the number one cancer menace in America.  From the 1930s through the early 1960s, smoking was portrayed as glamorous.  Advertisements even suggested that smoking was healthy.  And those advertisements were everywhere.  For those of you old enough to remember, cigarette companies even sponsored some of the most popular TV shows.

According to government statistics, that advertising blitz worked with nearly half of all adult Americans smoking by the mid-1960s.

Pages