Commentary & Opinion

The president’s words, “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” echo through the corridors of public opinion. It seems that every talking head has commented on this statement. Some assert the president was merely stating the obvious since business needs an infrastructure in order to get off the ground. Others contend the president has a tin ear and doesn’t understand the personal sacrifice that accounts for business success.

Republican efforts to exclude voters from the polls have been in the news lately. A Pennsylvania judge recently decided it was OK to require voters to have photo IDs there. Many states have been doing that.

Indiana anti-voter fraud efforts got the blessing of the U.S. Supreme Court under John Roberts in 2008. (i.) Indiana Republicans claimed to be terrified that poor people would show up at the polls fraudulently trying to vote, and worse, they would vote for Democrats. So they required picture IDs. Their claims have been repeated in many states.

In a recent TV interview on a Public Television Educational Update program, New York State’s Education Commissioner stated that one of his major goals was to make “Digital Literacy” a primary factor in the lives of rural, poverty-riddled and largely minority populated areas of the state’s cities.  While this commentator totally understands the importance of bringing these areas to equal status with use and availability of the latest ‘on-line’ computer equipment, the term “Digital Literacy” struck a chilling chord in one’s consciousness.  Especially, given the spate of recent studies which

Last week, New York’s law on indoor tanning went into effect.  The law prohibits all those 16 years old and younger from using indoor tanning beds or booths.  The logic of the ban has become more compelling.

The prestigious British Medical Journal published the latest research on the impact of indoor tanning.  It concluded that indoor tanning is “associated with a significant increase in risk of melanoma. This risk increases with number of sunbed sessions and with initial usage at a young age” (those under the age of 35 years).  The report also found:

This morning [Monday], the nine-member New York Metropolitan Transportation Council called a "special" meeting at its Manhattan headquarters to vote on the Cuomo administration's plan to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge - a necessary step for the project to replace the aging span to move forward.

As this interminably long political season threatens to heat up with the Democratic and Republican Party conventions, and so forth and so on, it is appropriate to cite a new film that lampoons the one-note sniping that has become so much a part of politics, American style. That film, of course, is THE CAMPAIGN, which features Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as candidates who comically butt heads while facing off in a North Carolina congressional race.

David Nightingale - SSTs

Aug 17, 2012

Settling into my seat on an Airbus, I wished that the 8-hour return from Europe could be more like 3 1/2 hours, as I'd heard the SSTs used to take.

 Those SSTs -- Tupolevs and Concordes -- first flew in the late 60's. The Tupolev was first, in 1968, and then the Concordes in 1969. The latter went for 31 years without a crash – with the huge exception of the French Concorde that hit a piece of metal on the runway while taking off from Paris and crashed in flames, killing all on board.

Horrific criminal acts against innocent young boys at Penn State;  the multiple deaths and injuries resulting from the tragic shootings by a student on the campus of Virginia Tech; the murder-suicide of a University of Idaho professor and his graduate student; and now, the incomprehensible acts of violence in Aurora, Colorado by a former student from the Anshutz Medical Campus of The University of Colorado-Denver…all of these tragic events share one thing in common: they involved acts by individuals who were members of a university at the time of the incidents, or immediately prior to them.

In the parlance of Orwellian newspeak words often mean the opposite of their seeming intent. The Internal Revenue Service is anything but a service. Now we have yet another government inspired contradiction. Social Security has been transformed into the “Federal Benefits Payment.” One might well ask how an insurance arrangement in which the recipient makes payments throughout his working existence is regarded as a “benefit.”  Whatever happened to “earned income”?

Now that the mercurial, changeling some-time adherent of Latter Day Saints belief and an unabashed aspirant to the U.S. Presidency, George Mitt Romney, Jr., has finally picked a running mate for his monetarily manipulated campaign, the rest of America: pols, pundits and public can begin the impossible task of trying to make simple sense of the ‘Gordian Knot,’ that couuld well deliver fiscal fascist domination into the tight fisted control of the Romney-Ryan entente.

Mitt Romney ended the suspense with the choice of Paul Ryan for Vice-President. And what did we get? Nothing! The Ryan budget for dealing with our problems is zero – no taxes, no expenses, no government. No regulation, no protection, no help, no investment. We’re in a recession and what do we get to pull out of it – nothing, zero, nada.

If Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo had been conjured up by a Hollywood screenwriter, he would have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime. He would have come to Cooperstown on a bright midsummer day and, perhaps, shed a tear or two during his induction speech.

New York receives a decent, but mixed, review for its legislative work to combat cancer, according to a new report,  How Do You Measure up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality ( issued by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

Like most people, these last two weeks I have been captivated by the spectacle that is the Olympic Games. In a summer that has been defined by such tragedies as mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin and an increasingly violent civil war in Syria, watching Olympic athletes vie for medals in largely peaceful competition offers some much-needed respite.

Global warming is the earth’s response to unrestrained capitalism. Everybody gets to make, buy and use whatever they want without regard to how it affects the sustainability of the environment and everyone in it. Drilling in the Gulf, the Arctic or anywhere, hydrofracking in New York, Pennsylvania or anywhere, turning food like corn into oil that can be burned, all make carbon based fuels that contribute to global warming.  

In the introduction to his massive chronicle of combat, entitled “Men At War,” Ernest Hemmingway described his subject as… “…that thing which no one knows about who has not done it.”   Much later in the sequence of events, he modified his unmitigated statement with this qualifier:  “As they get further and further away from a war they’ve taken part in, all men have a tendency to make it more as they wish it had been, than how it really was.”

A new report from the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contains good news and bad news about smoking in America.    First the good news, according to the CDC, total cigarette consumption continued an 11-year downward trend with a 2.5 percent decline from 2010 to 2011.  

The Capital Repertory Theatre of Albany’s production of ELLA, in which Tina Fabrique offers a spot-on performance as Ella Fitzgerald and Ron Haynes adds a letter-perfect impersonation of Louis Armstrong, brings to mind the challenges of playing celebrated personalities on stage and screen. Simply put, sometimes it works, as it does in ELLA. And sometimes not. When it does work, the effectiveness of the performance has nothing whatsoever to do with the actor’s physical resemblance to the personality he or she is playing.

Karen Hitchcock - Penn State : Lessons Learned

Aug 2, 2012

The scandal which has engulfed Pennsylvania State University since last November most likely reflects the consequences of an institution trying to protect the reputation of its lucrative and immensely successful football program above all other considerations – even the safety of innocent young boys.  Mr.

An enraged madman kills a dozen people and injures many others in a carefully planned mass murder in an Aurora Colorado movie theater. What can one possibly say? So desensitized by stories of brutality on the nightly news, my emotions are muted. It seems to me that on first blush the nation is becoming more coarse, more susceptible to the inner beast, that evil lurking in the hearts of men.

For those of us who have experienced the worst of war, for our nation’s sake and survived it, there can be no greater disappointment than to learn that leaders entrusted with this nation’s defense traded away lives of those they commanded, for personal and political gain.  A spate of recent revelations, some by participants, have publicized this.  Newly minted political aspirants are cravenly pursuing their own shoddy profit, by reshaping what’s already been warped and winnowed to a fiction.

Many Americans have health-related problems that are defined as pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is a health problem that existed before you apply for a health insurance policy or enroll in a new health plan.

A pre-existing condition can be something as common and as serious as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and asthma – chronic health problems that affect a large portion of the population.  Even if you have a relatively minor condition such as hay fever or a previous accidental injury, a health plan can deny coverage.

A good documentary, like good fiction, can entertain and even enthrall viewers. A good documentary also can spotlight an issue and offer truths and insights regarding that issue. However, unless that documentary deals with a hot-button topic-- such is the case with BULLY, which deservedly has received reams of publicity and a high-profile theatrical release-- most documentaries earn limited theatrical play, if they even make it into movie houses. But thanks to DVD and other non-theatrical venues, documentaries do become available to one-and-all.

Sean Philpott - Shining a Light on Aurora

Jul 26, 2012

Most of us were shocked and deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred last Friday at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people lost their lives and another 58 were wounded – 11 critically – during one of the worst mass shootings in US history.

Coming just two days before the anniversary of the massacre in Norway, and close on the heels of such US-based tragedies as the shootings at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson and Columbine High School, what happened in Aurora has sparked considerable debate and controversy.

As I stood at a public meeting hand over my chest pledging my loyalty to this republic, I asked myself how many giving through this ritual actually care or appreciate the unique character of the United States. So far down a universalist slope have we gone that few objected when a former Mets first baseman, Carlos Delgado, refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner. Even Superman, the distinctly American comic book character, whose motto was “truth, justice and the American way” has been transmogrified in a 2006 film, mouthing the words “truth, justice and ‘all that stuff’.”

I just got back from a trip abroad. We were treated everywhere with the greatest respect while visiting our former exchange student and her family in Serbia and Montenegro, and then in Spain for a meeting, People were happy to help us. We had no Serbian (though I learned how to say “thank you”) and little Spanish (though I studied in high school it’s virtually gone), but they were happy to use whatever English they had. When we couldn’t communicate it was still all smiles.

As the latest spate of incomprehensible gun violence registered on the ratings-starved psyche of America’s once vigilant TV-News mélange, a spluttering assortment of clueless questioners tried to play ‘catch-up,’ querying anyone within sight or sound of the mind-boggling eruption for personal recollections of its immediate aftermath.  For the most part, sound-bite oriented oracles gleaned the usual first-person responses, self-concerned and unadorned by conjecture of any kind.  Motive and mindset of possible perpetrators were left to other, more qualified sources to discuss and surmise.  Th

Cancer takes a staggering toll on New Yorkers.  More than 107,000 New Yorkers were diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and more than 34,000 died from the disease.  A different perspective is that roughly 2,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed with cancer and 660 individuals die from cancer each week.

Movies spotlighting characters who are fiercely individualistic always have appealed to me. For after all, we live in a culture in which conformity is the norm, in which one is expected to do what one is told without asking questions. Sometimes, cinematically-speaking, those who do ask questions become heroes. Sometimes, they become victims. But their stories are more interesting to me, just so long as those stories are well-told.

Attorney General Eric Holder is engaged in a war against states trying to ensure the integrity of the electoral system. As he noted, “The arc of American history has always moved toward expanding the electorate.”

While there is truth in this claim, it does not mean that felons, foreigners or those residing in cemeteries should be given the right to vote. However, Mr. Holder has used the power of his position to block Florida from purging its rolls of non-citizens or taking Texas to federal court over its photo ID requirement.