Commentary & Opinion

The recently passed tax legislation known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contains some significant negatives for New York taxpayers, and potentially for New York State.  Among the most notable are the limitations placed on the deductibility of state income taxes and real property taxes. This may be somewhat offset by the increase in the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly.  For many the increase in the standard deduction will eliminate the loss of the deductions for income taxes and real property taxes, but for others the answer is, it’s not even close.

The coming fiscal year is shaping up as a challenging one.

Let’s be clear: New Yorkers are under attack. The federal tax bill is going to hurt New Yorkers at the same time our State is facing a substantial budget deficit that threatens key services, including education and health care. This is a double whammy that will make negotiating a final state education budget more difficult.

January is National Mentoring Month, which is fitting for the beginning of the year. It is a season of new starts and resolutions, and a great time for both mentors and potential mentees to begin a mentoring relationship. Many times, people want to work with kids, but don’t know where to start. Mentoring is a rewarding way to volunteer. There are many programs across our region that offer people opportunities to mentor children of all ages. Often, young people want and need help, but they don’t know who or how to ask for it.

Herbert London: From Innocence To Cynicism

Jan 24, 2018

In 1959 I made a record, a song that reflected the virtues of bourgeois culture: “We’re Not Going Steady.” The lyrics were pure “bubblegum,” silly yet nostalgic. “We’re not going steady because we’re never alone, I can’t even love you, love you on the telephone.” I was reminded of my foray into the rock world as I watched Kendrick Lamar and the half time entertainment at the College Football Championship. All I could think is how culture has been debased in six decades.

Many of us have written about the threat to American democracy. Actually that list is extensive and goes back a number of years. When I wrote my own book about the Roberts Court, I drew on that literature and applied it to the behavior of the Supreme Court. My hope was that if enough of us wrote about the problem, it would begin to sink in that something has to be done.

Bill Owens: So Where Is NAFTA Now?

Jan 23, 2018

More and more commentators on both sides of the border are indicating that they believe Mr. Trump will withdraw from NAFTA. The Canadian government has undertaken a full court marketing blitz including government ministers to reach out to state governors, state legislators, members of Congress and economic developers in the many states with whom Canada does significant trade.

And so it begins: Call it the kick off to New York’s “corruption palooza; the first of the now seven corruption cases go to trial. It is expected that there will be seven high-profile corruption cases going to trial in each of the first seven months of the year.

David Nightingale: Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) Part 2

Jan 21, 2018

Three weeks ago I described some of Fred Hoyle's rebellious childhood, which included truancy from school and wandering in the fields as a little boy, making toxic phosphene in his mother's kitchen -- but I didn't describe how, after failing twice, he won a full scholarship to Cambridge. There, partly because his heroes, James Jeans and Arthur Eddington had trained in mathematics, he also decided for the grueling 3 year math tripos. He was awarded the Mayhew Prize, and a year into graduate work the Smith Prize. Paul Dirac took him on as a research student, on the understanding that Hoyle would work on whatever he wanted and that they would never bother each other. His 'official' advisor was German-educated Rudolph Peierls, who had studied under Heisenberg.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Her Gift

Jan 20, 2018
Elizabeth Field
Ralph Gardner, Jr

On New Year’s Eve I was looking forward to presenting Bruce Shenker, a friend since college, with a special gift.

Herbert London: The Secret Alliance

Jan 17, 2018

A Swiss newspaper, Basler Zeitung, reported recently that a secret alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia aimed at restraining Iran’s imperial desire for a land mass between Tehran and the Mediterranean was moving into a new phase. While there aren’t formal diplomatic ties between the two countries, military cooperation does exist. In fact, the Saudi government sent a military delegation to Jerusalem several months ago to discuss Iran’s role as a destabilizing force in the region.

Right after Trump won, a cousin offered to send me some anti-Hillary literature that she thought I’d find convincing. I responded that if Hillary had won, she and I would be safe. But Trump’s victory emboldened those who would be perfectly happy exercising what Trump euphemistically called their Second Amendment rights, getting rid of people who don’t fit their racial and religious criteria. They were already on the streets. That left neither of us safe.


The fight to get public pension fund officials to pull out of investments in oil, gas, and coal companies hit a new level of intensity last week.  The City of New York announced that it was using its considerable financial clout to advance the fight over climate change by unveiling their plans to sell off $5 billion of the City’s pension investments in fossil fuel companies.  The rationale was that the companies – primarily oil – made business decisions that harmed the City – and the planet. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Dreaming Of Sun

Jan 13, 2018
Jesse Cutaia of Hudson Solar
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

This might not be the ideal season to discuss solar panels. In particular installing solar panels. Certainly not in the listening area.

If one’s mind gravitates to sources of heat it’s more likely a roaring fire accompanied by a good single malt.

But think of this commentary as a combination of one of those year-end roundups and a resolution to become a better, more responsible global citizen in 2018.

Herbert London: 2017 - The Year That Never Was

Jan 10, 2018

With the election of Donald Trump came a spate of predictions suggesting the U.S. was spiraling into a cataclysm. CNN, MSNBC and a host of other networks argued a monumental market crash was just around the corner. Several analysts said war is inevitable in the first few months of the new administration. Some, relishing the opportunity to attack the new president, contended that someone as erratic as Donald Trump would bring the nation to the brink of nuclear war.

Trump talks tough. His world strategy seems to go it alone in every context.

Ben Downing: Poverty In Massachusetts

Jan 9, 2018

As the New Year begins, Governors, Mayors, and other elected officials, will deliver addresses aimed at setting the debate for the year ahead. Most will tout their previous work, all will call for one new effort or another, but few, if any,  will talk about an issue that impacts nearly every other policy - poverty.

As governors move through their tenure, the focus of their State of the State addresses change.  In the first few years, governors shape their addresses as part of a reform package.  As they are in office, and if they get re-elected, that tone changes.  More and more of the State of the State reflects the achievements of the Administration; after all, they are now the status quo and “reforms” imply failures.

Rob Edelman: Godard

Jan 8, 2018

Hard to believe that Jean-Luc Godard, one of the pillars of the French New Wave, soon will be approaching his ninetieth birthday. Godard has been a respected, controversial player on the international film scene since those who now qualify as senior citizens still were in grade school. In recent years-- no, actually, in recent decades-- Godard’s films have been free-form collages: exploration of ideas that challenge the nature of traditional cinematic narrative. Whether you take to his work or not, Godard remains an inspired creator who still has much to say about art, society, and human relations.

Ralph Gardner Jr: My Repetitive New Year's Resolution

Jan 6, 2018
A walk in the woods on New Year’s Day
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Midnight at the turn of the New Year found me where it always does. Outdoors.

No, I wasn’t winter camping.

Michael Meeropol: The Facts About The GOP Tax Cut

Jan 5, 2018

When the Republicans claim that the tax bill they just passed will be a great Christmas gift to American workers and members of the middle class, they are being cynically dishonest.   Everyone knows, correctly, that the major gifts are for high income taxpayers and large corporations.

Keith Strudler: Bulletin Board Material

Jan 3, 2018

In many ways, the bulletin board is a true dinosaur of communication. There are literally dozens of more effective and efficient ways of letting people know something than by pinning a piece of paper to a flat sheet of cork. 

Herbert London: Terrorism Shows Its Ugly Face Again

Jan 3, 2018

A Bangladeshi man reportedly inspired by ISIS set off a pipe bomb strapped to his body sowing mass chaos in New York’s Port Authority, but fortunately causing few, if any injuries. It is believed the terrorist detonated his low-tech device prematurely.

Stephen Gottlieb: But Not For Me

Jan 2, 2018

But Not for Me ( based on Gershwin and Sinatra)
Steve Gottlieb

My dad was a Juilliard trained musician
My daughter teaches in a conservatory of music

I hope you enjoyed the holidays as much as I did. For me, there’s really nothing better than spending quality time with loved ones.

Blair Horner: The 2018 State Of The State

Jan 1, 2018

New York State’s constitution requires that “The governor shall communicate by message to the legislature at every session the condition of the state, and recommend such matters to it as he or she shall judge expedient.” Since the early 20th Century, governors have delivered a State of the State speech in addition to delivering a written document. Traditionally, the address was usually held on the first Wednesday of January and presented to an audience of state legislators, dignitaries and other guests. However, for the last two years, the governor did not hold the State of the State on that date. After a two-year hiatus, the governor is scheduled to issue his message on January 3rd, the kickoff of the 2018 legislative session.

David Nightingale: Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) Part 1

Dec 31, 2017

This essay is about Fred Hoyle, but first we should say who he was.

The late Walter Sullivan of the New York Times called Hoyle 'one of the most creative and provocative astrophysicists of the last half of the 20th Century' as well as a 'lifelong rebel, eager for intellectual combat' [ref.2,p.339].

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Beauty Of Baths

Dec 30, 2017
Emmett Kelly in a bubble bath, Sarasota, Florida
Florida Memory / Wikimedia Commons

With temperatures dipping into the single digits -- and the minus single digits -- and the New Year fast approaching, the moment may be right to sing the praises of an institution that transcends time. That unites us in reverence. That puts us in direct communion with the forces of nature, as few indoor activities do.

Kristen Leffel

Many people donate at the end of the year — in celebration of the holiday spirit or to pad their charitable giving in hopes of a larger tax return. Others donate their time. I gave some hours recently for those who enjoy the great outdoors.

Herbert London: Parsing The National Security Strategy

Dec 28, 2017

During the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump presented a revised version of U.S. foreign policy, one that as he suggested was a departure from the “new world order” espoused by President Bush and modified by President Obama.  With the release of the national security strategy it is obvious President Trump has a handle on “realism” and a belief – justified in my view – that the world is an increasingly dangerous place.

About The Tower

Dec 28, 2017
1990 aerial photo of the Mt. Greylock tower
Art Donahue

Dear WAMC Family,

I can’t tell you how grateful we are to be able to ensure our future by buying the tower we have been on all these years. I’m talking about the broadcast tower on Mt. Greylock that allows us to send our signal throughout our seven-state listening area.

Pages