Commentary & Opinion

Joan K. Davidson, President Emeritus of the J.M. Kaplan Fund
J.M. Kaplan Fund

The first goal of being a philanthropist should be to do good. But there’s a second, perhaps undervalued side of giving away your cash – having fun while doing so.

On June 26, 2017, forty economists including six Nobel Prize winners sent a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell voicing strong opposition to the bill that was crafted in secret by the Senate and made public the week before the July 4 recess.   McConnell had initially hoped to sneak the bill through before the Senators went home for that recess because he feared that when they were home they would hear so much opposition that some of them might lose their nerve and vote against it.   As it was, by the time he had pulled the bill and sent it back to be re-worked (which is still happening as this commentary was being delivered), nine Senators had (for varying reasons) announced opposition to it.

Fred Kowal: Starting The Conversation

Jul 6, 2017

You can sometimes tell a lot about a person just by talking to them on the phone. 

Keith Strudler: Elliot’s Bike Wreck

Jul 5, 2017

Last week I ended up at one of those after-hours pediatric offices. My 7-year-old Elliot took a nasty spill off his bike and ended up with cuts from his knee to his face, all of which were immediately bandaged. But around bedtime that evening, when we were changing the gauze, the scrape on Elliot’s knee looked a little too deep. I know that because I nearly passed out when I took a close look. So being the good father that I am, and looking for an excuse to take someone out for ice cream, off we went to pediatricians after dark.

Herbert London: Inflexible Progressivism

Jul 5, 2017

As a young man coming from a left-wing pedigree, I embraced a liberal agenda which included most notably, a belief in Israel as a bastion of socialism and democracy. In the 1950’s a good progressive was a good Zionist.

Bill Owens: Georgia Six - A Surprise?

Jul 4, 2017

There have been four special congressional elections since Mr. Trump was elected president, and Republicans have prevailed in each instance.  The Georgia Sixth Congressional District election was heralded as an opportunity to take back a district that had been held by Republicans for more than forty years; nonetheless, it went Republican again by four percentage points, while Mr. Trump won by roughly one percent.

Infrastructure maintenance is the Rodney Dangerfield of budgeting:  It never gets the respect it deserves.  Failing to maintain water tunnels, roads, bridges and mass transit systems can lead to catastrophic outcomes – both in terms of the impact on people as well as the cost to taxpayers.  So, it’s important to keep them well maintained and repaired when necessary.  As President John F. Kennedy once remarked, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” 

So the WAMC fund drive is over.

This time it took just nineteen hours to get it done and to put it to bed. The Berkshires sure did their part. There were moments when I was reading all the names of contributors on the air and I just couldn't keep up. It started a few weeks before the fund drive with our invitation to shorten the drive by putting money in the Locked Box. It was amazing how fast that money came in.

Rob Edelman: Way Before Ellen

Jul 3, 2017

If you are of a certain age, you might remember THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS, the popular hit TV sitcom of the very late 1950s and early 1960s. But Dobie Gillis, the title character played by Dwayne Hickman, and his pal Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik caricature immortalized by Bob Denver, were not the show’s lone memorable characters. Surely, one of them was Zelda Gilroy, the pony-tailed, comically obsessive high schooler who was forever in love with the otherwise disinterested Dobie, who was completely fixated on beautiful blonde Thalia Meninger, played by Tuesday Weld.   

Ralph Gardner Jr: City Vs. Country

Jul 1, 2017
Dancers at Sunset Park in Brooklyn
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

The question comes up often these days: Where would I rather live? The city or the country?

And the answer is… both.

Bill Owens: What's Going On With Trade?

Jun 30, 2017

On the Canadian front, on May 18, the Trump administration gave formal notice that it was proceeding toward a renegotiation of NAFTA.  There have been some general hints at the direction the administration will take, including the issues that might be negotiated. Some believe that this will be simply a tweak; others believe it will be a potentially massive rewrite of NAFTA.  Many groups are urging the Trump administration to focus on tweaks rather than dramatic changes. 

Paul Caiano's Midday Forecast

Jun 30, 2017
Paul Caiano
WNYT

Newschannel 13 meteorologist Paul Caiano delivers the Midday Weather Summary for Friday, June 30, 2017.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Time For Citizens To Take The Lead

Jun 29, 2017

Earlier this month, President Trump finally honored one of his many (often contradictory) campaign promises. He formally withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. America is now one of only three countries in the world who are not party to this landmark agreement, joining Syria and Nicaragua in refusing to work collaboratively to combat the threat of global climate change.

Herbert London: Overcoming Illusions In The Middle East

Jun 28, 2017

Illusions in the Middle East die hard. However, with the publication of the Hamas political document, there shouldn’t be any doubt about the motives of this Muslim Brotherhood organization. The western press continues to assert that Hamas is “moderating” its views, but the document itself offers a different picture.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Courts Stand Up For Impunity

Jun 27, 2017

In one of the last cases to be decided this term of Court, the Supreme Court described the death of Sergio Hernandez as “a tragic cross-border incident.”[1] Indeed. I want to make clear that I care deeply about this case. Several friends and I helped write an amicus brief to the Court about it.[2]

Blair Horner: Albany Makes Things Worse

Jun 26, 2017

As the scheduled 2017 legislative session wrapped up, commentators noted that Governor Cuomo and the legislative leadership failed to address the seemingly unending corruption scandals that have plagued both the legislative and executive branches.

“New American Cinema” is a fitting title for one of my favorite film courses, one which I have long-taught. Its content is described in its course description, which begins: “During the late 1960s and early 1970s, great social changes were occurring in the United States. These changes were sparked by the emerging youth culture, the progression of the Civil Rights Movement, opposition to the war in Vietnam, and the advent of the modern-era feminist movement. This course will explore the manner in which these changes impacted on the American cinema.” 

David Nightingale: Angela Merkel (1954 - )

Jun 25, 2017
German Chancelor Dr. Angela Merkel
Jacques Grießmayer / Wikimedia Commons

When the first-born child of a Lutheran clergyman, 7 year old Angeela Kasner corrected her music teacher's mispronunciation of her name, she already exemplified that she could be a perfectionist as well as a bit of a pain. But her East German teacher was not too put out -- she knew that this pastor's daughter, whom she had mistakenly called Angela was rather bossy but a good pupil.

Ralph Gardner Jr: One Less Carp

Jun 24, 2017
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Officer Jeffrey Cox
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

About a month ago I penned a commentary about the single fish in my pond – a grass carp. I suggested that I probably ought to give him a name because, after a number of years swimming around in solitude and growing to the approximate size of an ocean-going tuna, he’d assumed the status of a family pet.

Ben Downing: In Defense Of The ACA

Jun 23, 2017

Just about 2 months ago, my wife and I welcomed our son Malcolm into the world. Thanks to the miracles of modern science, we have the security of knowing Malcolm won’t have the genetic heart disease that killed my father at 52 and my brother at 26.

Bill Owens: Civil Discourse

Jun 22, 2017

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Gerald F. Sieb spoke to the issue of the loss of civil discourse, and recites as examples the body slamming by the newly elected Republican congressman from Montana, a Democratic state party chair hurling obscenities at the president and party dissidents, a speaker chased off college campuses, and town hall meetings where law makers are shouted down by hecklers. (Let me first note from personal experience that this is not new; this behavior reared its head in 2009 and 2010, executed then by Tea Partiers as opposed to what is now described as the radical left.)  I would add to that list these repugnant displays: Joe Wilson calling President Obama a liar in the House of Representatives in 2009, Kathy Griffin holding a severed head bearing a likeness to President Trump, and the birther nonsense relentlessly promulgated by Donald Trump during Obama’s presidency.  Trump’s most recent attack upon the London mayor is also very troubling.  Mr. Sieb points out how this denigration of civility has spread beyond politics to professional athletic contests, where athletes take what should be routine plays and raise them to the level of the acts of Greek gods, largely by mocking their opponents.

Terrorism in the middle east knows no limits. The ancient monastery of St. Catherine’s in Egypt’s Sinai desert was attacked with 40 worshippers slaughtered. This is the same religious shrine that has a decree of protection issued by the Prophet Muhammed himself until the end of days.

Two lawsuits have now been filed over Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause.[1]

Fred Kowal: Silence Is Not An Option

Jun 20, 2017

As the nation’s largest union of higher education professionals, United University Professions strongly supports the search for truth based on scientific facts and exploration.

New York State government does all it can to operate in secret: $150 billion budget deals are hammered out behind closed doors, multibillion hikes for electric ratepayers are engineered outside of public view, legislative agreements are finalized often minutes before the vote.

Rob Edelman: Tom Cruise, Mummified

Jun 19, 2017

Once upon a time, Tom Cruise was a mega-movie star. His hit films, including RISKY BUSINESS, TOP GUN, and JERRY MAGUIRE, were high-powered, popular entertainments, and he demonstrated his depth as an actor by embracing roles in serious films, important films. These include THE COLOR OF MONEY, opposite Paul Newman; RAIN MAN, with Dustin Hoffman; EYES WIDE SHUT, the final directorial credit in the estimable career of Stanley Kubrick; and Oliver Stone’s BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. 

Will democracy in America survive?

First remember that democracy matters. No human institutions are perfect but democracy makes it possible to remove officials without going to war. Democracy doesn’t mean anyone alone can make good things happen. Democracy reflects the collective power of people. Collectively, if the rules are followed that protect speakers, publishers, candidates and fair elections, democracy gives us the possibility – though nothing is certain – of throwing the bastards out. That’s important.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Hunting For Hawthorne

Jun 17, 2017
An acquisition at the Kinderhook, NY Memorial Library book sale
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

A local library book sale isn’t the place you’d expect to go to learn you’re a has-been. But that’s what happened to me last weekend at the Kinderhook Memorial Library book sale in Kinderhook, New York.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Remembering The 49

Jun 15, 2017

This past Monday represented the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida. Forty-nine people died and 53 were injured in what was the worst mass shooting in modern US history.  The victims’ only crime was that they were members or supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. They were singled out and murdered by a lone gunman motivated by homophobia and hatred.

Herbert London: Trump’s Vision For The Middle East

Jun 14, 2017

President Trump arrived in the Arabian desert hoping to realign the politics of the Middle East in the aftermath of a failed Obama policy. For eight years Obama tilted in the direction of Iran believing that the influence of the Shia could balance Sunni dominance. The so-called nuclear deal with Iran was a geopolitical manifestation of this policy perspective. To put it simply, the policy didn’t work. In fact, it led to the wide spread belief that the U.S. tacitly endorsed the Shia Crescent or the imperial Iranian design.

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