Commentary & Opinion

Herbert London: The New America

Jul 13, 2016

On July 4th I, like millions of Americas, celebrated the 240th year of our national independence. I celebrated, as well, the unique character of a nation based on the rule of law, a state where every person is to be treated equally under the laws of the land.

Last week we discussed the importance of taking political campaigns back from big donors. This week we begin examining the complexity of reinstating limitations without damaging what should be protected speech.

Michael Meeropol: Debunking Trump's Slogan

Jul 12, 2016

Do you know who Patrick Buchanan is?  In many ways, he is a former incarnation of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.  He began his career as a political operative working for Richard Nixon, and became a well-known right-wing pundit on television in the 1970s before going to work in the Reagan White House during the 1980s.  In 1992, he challenged President George H.W. Bush in the Republican primaries.   In an attempt to build up Bush I’s bona fides with the right wing of the party (Reaganites mistrusted Bush I’s conservatism), Buchanan was given a prime time speaking slot at the 1992 Republican Convention.  In his speech he proclaimed that there was “culture war” in the United States. Bill and Hilary Clinton were identified with the “wrong side” and, in a backhanded compliment, Buchanan magnanimously proclaimed that “George Bush is on our side.” The negativity of the speech and the attempted demonization of the Clintons and the “side” of various issues they presumably represented caused some commentators to snarkily remark that the speech sounded better “in the original German!”Like Trump, Buchanan preached divisiveness and attacked the Republican establishment.  In 2000 he actually ran for President on a third party ticket.

Campaigns matter.  When candidates commit to a policy objective, there is a good chance, although no guarantee, that it will be taken up.

As Americans, we crossed a threshold and entered a very dark place in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting. Twenty innocent children slaughtered, babies really (and not slaughtered by a Muslim). That was our moment to shine, and to institute common sense gun laws.  We paused, and then chose to do nothing. We buried our collective soul along with those children.

  A decade or so ago…in reviewing a production of a play by Tennessee Williams…I quoted Steve Lawson, a scholar who has written extensively on the playwright. Lawson stated that Tennessee Williams called the theater, “a place where you make time for problems of people to whom you’d show the door if they came knocking for a job.”

About a month ago, a full-page story appeared in the Sunday travel section of the New York Times.

Bill Owens: Where Will The Jobs Come From?

Jul 7, 2016

            Each of the presidential candidates has talked about bringing jobs back to America and creating jobs in America as an enticement to the battered middle class suffering from job loss and income stagnation.

Herbert London: Turkey And Israel Reconcile

Jul 6, 2016

Terrorists assaulted and killed dozens in the Istanbul airport raising the prospect of Turkey on the precipice of all-out war with ISIS. While this carnage has alarmed citizens across the European continent, there was a political negotiation that holds out some hope for the future, despite a Turkish president who often exemplifies erratic behavior.

Bob Goepfert Reviews "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

Jul 5, 2016

Anyone who has ever called Neil Simon simply a writer of shallow comedies should be forced to see the production of his play “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” playing a Curtain Call Theatre in Latham.  Attending the play, which continues through July 16, is a revelation.   This is a tender and wise production of a marvelous play that is in danger of being neglected.

Simon is often called “Doc” because of his reverence towards Anton Chekhov, the legendary Russian playwright who was a country doctor.  “Brighton Beach Memoirs” is Chekhovian in style in that it creates a world that is so honest it reflects an entire culture at a specific place and point in time.

David Nightingale: Wm Henry Seward (1801 - 1872)

Jul 3, 2016

Driving on the quiet Route 20, roughly parallel to the NYS Thruway -- a far more peaceful way to go, at the state limit of 55 rather than the 70+ mph of close-packed semis and trucks -- I stopped overnight in Auburn. Auburn is one of those towns in New York's Finger Lakes region, some with delightful names like Canandaigua, Cazenovia, Skaneateles.

“Sumer is Icumen In” goes the song. I sang it in the Hunter College chorus (59-63) (where the girls were) and it made the point that the summer season is very special. The wonderful snowbird friends of WAMC, many of whom have been listening on their WAMC apps, are back. People are swimming. Tanglewood and SPAC will soon be going full steam, all the summer theater anyone could ever want is available throughout our listening area and the birds are making sounds to rival anything that we mortals may have composed.

Keith Strudler: Turning off the Train Wreck

Jun 29, 2016

Last week I told someone I was done writing about Johnny Manziel. His story went from journalistic to voyeuristic, which is where I vowed to get off. I didn’t want to chronicle one young man’s unstoppable fall from grace, even if that’s not exactly the right term. My conviction lasted for all of a few days, as I now find myself writing again on this very bizarre topic.

Herbert London: Brexit Revisited

Jun 29, 2016

Now that the London fog has cleared, a dispassionate analysis of the Brexit vote is possible, even with murky clouds over the British Isles. The pound plunged with the Brexit vote as did global markets. Political elites from Cameron to Obama shuddered. Investors on both sides of the Atlantic were pummeled. Some say the British vote to leave the European Union is an invitation to anarchy.

Stephen Gottlieb: Iftar

Jun 28, 2016

This is Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. We were invited to Albany’s City Hall for an Iftar, the evening feast after the sun-up to sun-down fast. Meetings aren’t polls and people put their best feet forward at public events. But I also know these folks. We greeted friends: a physicist, President of a Mosque on Central Avenue; an engineer who escaped repression in Iran, and ran a radio program to celebrate and protect American freedoms. We greeted a doctor whose daughter was my student and valedictorian at Albany Law, now working for the NY Attorney General. There were scientists, programmers, medical professionals, Sunni and Shi’a, Muslim, Protestant and Catholic clerics and public officials.

Not surprisingly, New York State’s political leadership has been crowing about the successes of the 2016 legislative session.  And there have been successes, as well as notable failures.  But in one key area, the governor and the legislature approved an important bill.  The bill requires that New York State schools will soon have to start testing for lead in drinking water.

Climate change skeptics, and those who favor the continued use of fossil fuels, continually fall back on the argument that those who continue to rely on fossil fuels – that is, virtually all of us – are hypocrites for wanting to evolve away from them. They seem to be saying:  “I am a hypocrite for heating with gas, and if I truly believe in the use of renewable technologies, then I should turn off the heat, cut the power and let the sun shine through my windows for heat and light.”

Listener Essay: 'Outs' Win

Jun 24, 2016

This is a sad day for Britain and unfathomable for Europe. The morning after Brexit, the headlines make grim reading: “Pound sterling crashes to 1985 low”, “World stocks in freefall”, “The rage of the working class”, “Cameron resigns”, “Scotland must hold a new referendum”.  And Donald Trump touched down on his Scottish golf course to announce “It’s a great thing.”

Karen Magee: Lessons From Orlando

Jun 23, 2016

Like the rest of America, I woke up on the morning of June 12th to shock and horror.

Keith Strudler: The Olympic Silver Lining

Jun 22, 2016

Some people believe there’s a silver lining to everything. If you’re one of those people, which for the record I’m not, you might think this about the Russian Olympic Track and Field Team. At least they won’t get mugged at gun point in Rio, the site of the upcoming Summer Olympics. The same can’t be said for members of the Australian Paralympic Squad, two of whom did endure just that welcome from local residents that held the Aussie sailors up with a pistol. All in broad daylight, at 7:30 a.m., as onlookers passed by, like it was a common occurrence. Which right now in Rio, I’m led to believe it is.

Herbert London: The Rise of Utopians Amid Miserabilism

Jun 22, 2016

Based on events in Orlando the words of French writer Andre Breton have a certain strange poignancy. Andre Breton, anarchist and the founder of surrealism, which he defined as “pure psychic automatism.” Breton was fixated on a “new reality,” one that considers the destructive, undermining effects on the individual. He called it “Miserabilism” – “the depreciation of reality in place of its exaltation.” Here in capsule form is the plight of the West. Maxim Gorky noted, “A miserable being must find a more miserable being. Then he is happy.” Schadenfreude afflicts us.

Stephen Gottlieb: Convicting The Innocent

Jun 21, 2016

I care about what happened in Orlando because the victims and their families are all members of the human family. And I cringe at the self-styled protestors who use God’s name in vain as an excuse for their own inhumanity toward the grieving families, who deserve to know that we care and share their grief.

Bill Owens: Moving To Canada, Eh?

Jun 21, 2016

Let me start by saying to those of you who have dual citizenship, please take note!  We are jealous.

As the sun rose over the Capitol Saturday morning, state lawmakers put the finishing touches on the 2016 legislative session.  Like all other end of sessions, this one wrapped up with a flurry of activity.  Hundreds of bills were approved by both houses in a blur of legislative activities.

MaryEllen Elia: Changes To NY Assessment Tests

Jun 16, 2016


Earlier this year, the state Board of Regents and I made changes to New York’s assessments and teacher evaluations, which I shared with WAMC listeners at the time. We made those changes in response to feedback we received from the people who are impacted by our actions and decisions.

Sean Philpott-Jones: No Forgiveness In Florida

Jun 16, 2016

Like so many others around the world, this past weekend my husband and I watched in disbelief as the deadliest mass shooting in American history unfolded in Orlando. What started out for many as a joyous evening of drinking and dancing turned into a horrifying morning of chaos and mayhem after a deranged gunman used a legally obtained semiautomatic rifle to kill 49 people and wound 53 others at a popular gay nightclub called Pulse.

Herbert London: Obama’s Strategic Patience

Jun 15, 2016

It is fairly obvious based on all accounts that the Chinese government will create a formal air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea. According to a well placed Chinese source, the formal declaration will depend on U.S. military presence in the region and China’s relationship with her neighbors.

Foreign Roots of the Tragedy in Florida

Jun 14, 2016

The tragedy in Florida is linked to issues abroad. One candidate sometimes suggests we could solve our problems by isolationism, keeping our troops home, and sometimes by wiping out our adversaries with overwhelming force. His adversary has won over American military leadership with a fairly hard-nosed approach to international politics meshed with the belief that part of America’s international strength comes from our ideological appeal and social justice. What’s going to work?

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Graduation

Jun 14, 2016

At my daughter’s recent college graduation, one of the doctoral candidates spoke on behalf of the other graduate students in the university’s school of humanities. As a PhD in English, she had successfully defended her dissertation on the topic of 16th century deathbed memoirs written or dictated by British women.  The speaker credited her studies, as well as her grandfather’s illness and subsequent recovery, with helping her to truly understand the meaning of death.  She now felt prepared to enter the world beyond academia, possessed of deeper wisdom about human mortality.

Governor Cuomo recently unveiled a new effort to rein in independent expenditure “Super PACs.”  Independent expenditure “Super PACs” have run amok nationwide in the wake of the now infamous US Supreme Court case, Citizens United.  These Super PACs allow individuals and interest groups to spend as much as they want to help elect candidates or political parties, as long as they do not coordinate with the candidate or the political party.