Commentary & Opinion

Smoking remains the number one cause of preventable deaths in the US. Last year, nearly half a million people died of smoking-related illnesses like emphysema and lung cancer. That’s nearly one of every five deaths, a number that is greater than the number of deaths caused by AIDS, drug and alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. Smoking also costs American taxpayers and businesses over $150 billion a year in terms of health care and lost productivity – that’s approximately $7 for every pack of cigarettes sold.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which suggests that physical forces are gravitating to entropy, is a perfect metaphor for the moment. European economies are cascading into the netherworld of insolvency even as governments deny the reality. President Obama seemingly defies the rule of law by issuing executive orders that bypass the Congress. Unemployment in the U.S. remains over eight percent for the 42nd straight month. And unemployment in Spain for those under 25 is at 50 percent.

It appears that despite a spate of super-technical achievement, in which managers of America’s new computer-connected technology believe they can create or improve on just about anything, despots of American Capitalism are mounting an all-out campaign to destroy and subjugate Organized Labor.

No sooner had the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in support of the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law, than a new attack was launched on health coverage for the poor.

One provision of the Affordable Care Act dramatically expanded the Medicaid program – which provides health insurance for the poor.  The ACA requires that states have to expand coverage to those who make just above poverty level.  If a state refused the expansion, the federal government would withdraw its funding of that state’s program.

Lately, there have been some very interesting female characters appearing in movies. These characters are young-- they are in their twenties-- and the stories that spotlight them deal with issues involving romance and commitment.

My wife, Ann and I have fond memories of the time we lived in Wisconsin.  I got my Ph D from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  Ann, taught in the public schools and our son was born in Milwaukee.  We have always had a great deal of respect for the great progressive traditions of the State of Wisconsin.

Thus, when Governor Scott Walker introduced a budget bill into the State Legislature that would not merely cut pensions of government workers but strip them of all collective bargaining rights, I was heartened by the outpouring of opposition within the state.

 

The America I love is disappearing from the public scene. When the Supreme Court ruling upheld the constitutionality of ObamaCare, a disturbing and, in my opinion, dangerous precedent has been created, one not different from the “separate but equal” precedent behind Plessy v. Ferguson. A majority court decision confirms the view that there are virtually no limitations on the power of Congress. Using a latitudinarian interpretation of the Commerce Clause, Congress can mandate almost anything.

 

The 4th of July holiday is here and for many of us that means gathering with family and friends. Inevitably at these gatherings, the subject of work comes up. My work focuses on climate change. Like religion and politics, climate change can make for some lively conversation.

 

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care reform law which is critical to improving access to quality, affordable health care for people with cancer and their families.

The ruling is a victory for cancer patients and survivors nationwide, who for decades have been denied health coverage, charged far more than they can afford for lifesaving care, and forced to spend their life savings on necessary treatment, simply because they have a pre-existing condition.

Back in the early 1950s, 3-D was a gimmick employed by Hollywood to lure back into theaters patrons who were abandoning moviegoing in favor of sitting at home in their easy chairs and staring at what then was new and novel: their just-purchased television sets. And these days, in case you haven’t noticed, there has been a resurgence of 3-D in movie theaters.

Let me start today’s commentary on innovation in higher education with a brief scenario.  A college professor, along with a group of teaching assistants and upper-level undergraduate students, organized his freshman physics section of some 200 students into multiple small groups to discuss the lecture they all had  already heard on-line by a Nobel Laureate who was not only an exceptional physicist, but also an exceptionally engaging teacher .   The two-hour class flew by as each small group discussed the concepts presented by the Nobel Laureate, and developed experiments to demonstrate thei

 

In a nation obsessed with creativity, freedom is the exalted position. For freedom gives meaning to our actions. Yet it is the defect of ideology to assume action is reducible to one simple principle, a uniquely explanatory element. In reality, freedom is a complex and composite affair.

 

 In an earlier essay I mentioned that there was no reason why pure scientists such as myself shouldn't have a say in politics -- particularly since law-making is sometimes regarded, wrongly I believe, as being just in the province of those trained in law.

 

In the little more than half-a-generation, since a young bi-racial, Harvard Law School Graduate named Barak Obama set out to prove that America was ready to embrace a complete change in race-based socio-political viewpoint, much has indeed changed, though hardly in ways he envisaged.  Especially in the interactive sense he anticipated.

It’s summertime. 

That means kids swimming in the pool, going to camp and – of course - smoking their first cigar.

Shocked?  Every year, more than 1,000,000 kids try their first cigar.  And, if the cigar companies have their way, you won’t be able to do much about it.

After intensive lobbying by cigar companies, Congress is about to vote on an amendment that would exempt many cigars from any regulation at all. 

 

Let me state at the outset that my tea leaves are no more refined than anyone else’s. However, we are in the midst of potential earth shattering events that are worthy of speculation, events that are likely to shape our national destiny for decades.

I am persuaded Mitt Romney wins the next election in large part because there isn’t a victory narrative President Obama can develop. Thirty eight consecutive months of over 8 percent unemployment is in itself a scenario for defeat, notwithstanding all of the rationalizations the president will offer.

 

Many conservatives are concerned that we have lost a sense of moral obligations, without which the state must eventually fail. They trace most of the nation’s ills to character, including the national debt, crime, failing schools and poverty to name a few.

 

From its very first use in our national history, collective bargaining by fiat has never been a fair or effective means of achieving justice or peace in American labor relations.  The overwhelming material and political power of the financial/commercial/industrial amalgam has always wielded too great an influence over the official mechanisms set in place to police the process. Knowing this, the amalgam has used every available means to destroy the most effective defense available to American workers: their unity.

 

You see the advertisements everywhere: electronic cigarettes – which don’t use tobacco – are exempt from public smoking restrictions and help those who wish to quit.  But are the claims true?

While it is true that these devices don’t use tobacco, there is little scientific evidence that e-cigarettes can help smokers to quit.  In addition, since there is no regulation of these devices, the quality and safety of these products cannot be assured.

This past weekend I, along with many other extremely fortunate citizens of the Capital Region, experienced a truly memorable event at RPI’s stunning Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center – or EMPAC.   Entitled John Brown’s Body, the event commemorated the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and was a partnership of the Albany Pro Musica and the New York State Archives Partnership Trust.  The music was sometimes haunting, sometimes a call-to-arms, sometimes ethereal, sometimes dirge-like, sometimes jubilant and, at all times, exquisitely beautiful.

 

An estimated 34 million people around the world are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Most of these individuals live in developing countries, but approximately 1.2 million Americans are infected. At least of third of those living with HIV/AIDS in the US are unaware of their status.

 

It is axiomatic to suggest that if there are three Jews in a room there is likely to be nine opinions – each one shaped by a view of reality. As a consequence, there are dozens of Jewish organizations representing every political opinion and judgment under the sun. However, on one matter there was usually convergence, the welfare of Jewish life and the state of Israel.

The currently dis-United States of ours has arrived at a trying juncture, in its turbulent tribulations, to determine the actual status of its democratic durability.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood charm campaign in the U.S. has officially been launched. Now that the Brotherhood is no longer an opposition group, but a political juggernaut controlling a majority of the seats in Egypt’s parliament, a series of meetings with experts in the U.S. have been organized to convince the wary that they are far more moderate than their reputation suggests.

 

Max Frisch, the 20th Century Swiss architect, novelist, playwright, philosopher wrote of many things but on one subject, he was most intensely prescient.  Of technology, he wrote—“Technology is the knack of arranging the world, so that we don’t have to experience it.”

GANJA & HESS, which dates from 1973, is one of those films that can be labeled a forgotten classic. The reason why it is forgotten is that too few moviegoers saw it during its all-too-brief original theatrical run. But now, decades later, the uncut version of the film, which was written and directed by Bill Gunn, is available on DVD.

The word 'etiquette' reminds me of vicarage ladies discussing which way their pinkies ought to point when holding a tea-cup, but I use the word here with respect to the problem of friends who don't, can't or won't, respond.

I don't email much, and typically my 'you have mail' box may have anything between zero and three new emails each morning. I know people who apparently receive as many as 80 a day, excluding advertising! (How such a phenomenon occurs I'm not sure. They must be very talkative.)

Over the last several months, concerns regarding our nation’s system of higher education have continued to escalate…concerns regarding cost, quality, rigor and, yes, even long-term value.  And, as we all know, the employment opportunities for recent graduates of our institutions of higher education, particularly those who have earned a baccalaureate degree, have decreased substantially, despite the fact that members of the nation’s high technology sector have stated that there are not sufficient numbers of U.S.

Pages