Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

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.

Wordsworth defined poetry as – “The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings…”  There are times when we poets have no other recourse.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE OLD SOLDIERS GONE?
(Drums and Echoes Redux, May 31- 2012)
By Paul Elisha

Have you noticed, the swagger goes first?
A feeling, that despite all the other
Endless vestments of equivalence
Yours were somehow different, is by some
Inscrutable mystique now retrospect.

As we are about to embark on one of the high-profile movie seasons, it is as good a time as any to ponder exactly what is being marketed to mainstream moviegoers. 

Most Monday nights we are in front of the tube, mesmerized by the “Antiques Road Show.”

“Look at the piece of junk!’’ my husband exclaims.

“Don’t just sit there. Get down to the basement and start looking!’’ I reply.

One recent Monday night was different.

Oh sure, there were some “antiques’’ involved. They were the thousands of middle-aged people like us, dancing and rockin’ out in a big public arena.

Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the leading psychiatrists in the US, recently did something remarkable. In a letter published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior on May 19th he humbly wrote, “I owe the gay community an apology.”

He was apologizing for a study -- first presented in 2001 and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003 -- that examined at whether or not therapy could make gay people straight. Dr. Spitzer concluded that it could, based on interviews of 200 men and women recruited from centers that offered so called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy.

 

Based on the accumulation of recent reports, Europe is among the “walking dead.” The recent elections in Greece and France indicate that the respective populations are resistant to austerity measures. Despite insolvency, or in France’s case the prospect of insolvency, Europeans are so committed to their entitlements, they won’t give them up. Claims that a higher millionaire tax will offset the deficit provides a frission for socialists, but does little to offset the financial imbalance.

The law of contract, based on the consent of the parties, and the law of torts, based on our obligations when no agreement covers what happened, are fundamental to American law. There is only one problem. Both fields are hopelessly out of date.

 

In announcing their intention to cancel this year’s Memorial Day Parade, in Saratoga Springs, New York, last week, the annual event’s sponsoring organization, listed a number of reasons, one of which really shocked this commentator’s sense of how cheaply, beyond dollar value, many of today’s Americans assess the worth of their so-called ‘Freedom.’  The sponsors literally stated the event was too ‘dollar-costly.’

At that moment, the full meaning of just how materialistically divided we’ve become, struck home.  Then, a flood of pointedly related questions arose:

 

It has been an article of faith among those opposed to the federal health care reform law that it must be repealed.  You see it all the time: “repeal Obamacare.”  But what does that mean?  Do they really mean repeal everything?  It turns out that the answer is “yes.”

The law is extensive.  It covers lots of issues.

 

The release last year of Martin Scorsese’s HUGO has brought to the forefront a long-deceased cinema pioneer. That would be Georges Méliès, who is played in HUGO by Ben Kingsley.

What makes Méliès so interesting historically is that he was as much an illusionist as a filmmaker. His imagination allowed him to concoct and employ a range of special effects in the films he made around the turn of the 20th century. These effects include time lapse photography, multiple exposures, and hand-painted color on film shot in black-and-white.

There are at least two famous airlifts associated with World War II. In 1942, when the last route from India to China was cut off, FDR made the decision that it was imperative China receive armaments and supplies for the Army Air Force in China, which was struggling to pin down Japanese forces. Both the US and UK began the appallingly dangerous air lift over the Himalayas -- from Assam (famous for its tea) in India to Kunming in China.

In his State of the Union address this past January, President Obama warned the higher education community that, “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.”  Clearly, “affordability” of postsecondary education is a top priority of this administration.  President Obama went on to say that, “We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition, we’ll run out of money.  States need to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.   And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down."

The redoubtable R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. has done it again; he has written yet another penetrating analysis of the liberal establishment in his latest book, The Death of Liberalism, Thomas Nelson, 2012.

 

Sometimes it’s easier to see the problems abroad than it is at home. And that may be true of the Euro zone. As we all know, there have been a series of agreements bailing out Greece on the condition that Greece make very large cuts in its own budget. And it hasn’t worked. Why not? Shouldn’t cutting back have rejuvenated the Greek economy?

Although William Ross Wallace may have coined the most ardently honest description of Mothers’ Day, before the malediction of American Marketing made a mockery of it, his brief citation still exudes a reality most humans wish was true:  “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

Last week, new data was released from the American Cancer Society.  It showed a staggering increase in melanoma cases in New York State.  Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.  According to the analysis, over the past ten years the number of melanoma cases has increased by 72 percent. 

 

I recently presented a paper at a Hofstra University conference spotlighting the 50th anniversary of the New York Mets. My subject was “The Mets in the Movies” and I chronicled the various celluloid references to the Amazins, from Bill Mazeroski, the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer, hitting into a triple play against the Mets in the screen version of Neil Simon’s THE ODD COUPLE to Billy Crystal’s wearing a Mets baseball cap while running with the bulls in Pamplona and herding cattle in CITY SLICKERS.

 

At long last an attempt is being made to curtail blatant anti-Semitic commentary at American universities. The Israel Law Center warns that universities “may be liable for massive damage” if they fail to prevent anti-Semitism on campus.

The center sent hundreds of letters to university presidents drawing a line in the sand. This Israel civil rights center is carrying out this campaign in response to an alarming number of incidents against Jewish and Israeli students at U.S. universities.

 

Students are choosing where to go to college. A college education is expensive but too many graduates come out of college without a skill set. What do they need from higher education?

From the outset of this anomalous experiment in government of, for and by its people, vocabulary has been an essential ingredient; the distillate of how things are accomplished.  Out of its need, grew the absolutely necessary First Constitutional Amendment that ensured freedom of expression.  Today, that freedom is an endangered species.  An explicit word, once a cornerstone of the experiment, has been banned.  The word is: “ETHICS.”  As an act of civil disobedience, this commentator will now repeat it:

 

The nation has made tremendous progress in reducing the number of cancer deaths.  But a new trend is developing – cancers caused by the American lifestyle.

 

There is a movie, currently in release, which tells the story of a young man who finds himself in a life-threatening situation. All that sustains him is the found photo of a beautiful woman, whom he has never met. He survives but finds himself lost and frazzled, and unable to function in the everyday world. So he sets out to find this woman-- and make her real.

On April 17, the front page of the New York Times had an article about two economists.   No, it was not about Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan who are very well known.

Instead, the two economists are academics – academics who are not household names.

These two economists, Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez, have done path-breaking research to document the incredible increase in inequality that has occurred in the US since about 1980. 

Total student debt in America has hit the $1 trillion mark, exceeding, for the first time, national credit card debt.  Yet at this very moment, the airways and media outlets are alive with stories and opinion pieces regarding the imminent doubling of the interest rate on new Stafford Subsidized Loans to undergraduates.  While in college at least half-time, students holding such need-based, federally guaranteed loans pay no interest; rather, the government pays the interest which accrues during that time.

Total student debt in America has hit the $1 trillion mark, exceeding, for the first time, national credit card debt.  Yet at this very moment, the airways and media outlets are alive with stories and opinion pieces regarding the imminent doubling of the interest rate on new Stafford Subsidized Loans to undergraduates.  While in college at least half-time, students holding such need-based, federally guaranteed loans pay no interest; rather, the government pays the interest which accrues during that time.

Total student debt in America has hit the $1 trillion mark, exceeding, for the first time, national credit card debt.  Yet at this very moment, the airways and media outlets are alive with stories and opinion pieces regarding the imminent doubling of the interest rate on new Stafford Subsidized Loans to undergraduates.  While in college at least half-time, students holding such need-based, federally guaranteed loans pay no interest; rather, the government pays the interest which accrues during that time. These loans, currently at a  3.4% interest rate, represent a critical element in the to

 

For as long as I can recall the Port Authority has been a mystical institution with enormous responsibility and with an overhang of patronage and soft money allegations. In a recent audit the Port Authority was described as dysfunctional and running up billons in cost overruns. Most significantly, the audit spoke to “insufficient cost controls” and “a lack of transparent and effective oversight.”

 

The AP recently revealed a spying operation by the New York City police on Muslims and Muslim institutions. What should we think about that?

Several years ago I arranged to teach a course on Privacy Law because I wanted to figure that out. I read, studied, corresponded with experts in the field and chaired a committee to come up with solutions. Here is some of what I’ve come up with.

For those public broadcasters who always ask the question: “Is classical music dead or doomed?” in interviews before every concert they air, this commentator has a simple coherent answer: “Only if you will it!”  Most Public Broadcasting execs seem privately convinced but too chicken to say, what they already believe.  So they ask the question, praying someone else will intone the answer they seek.  Theirs’ is a suspicion fallaciously raised, ever since ‘Classical Music’ was born.  In truth, as the inimitable ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong used to put it:  “There’s only two kinds of music… Good and Bad

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