Commentary & Opinion

Keith Strudler - Ray Lewis at the Super Bowl

Jan 24, 2013
Flikr / Keith Allison

So maybe in one way, the Super Bowl is a bit like a Jewish Holiday.  You start celebrating the night before.  For the big game, it’s actually the week before, or technically the week before the week before, to be exact.  That’s where we are right now, which puts us squarely in the thick of unnecessary hype.  So if you don’t like what you hear right now, just wait.  Because you’ll hate it even more the 500th time 10 days from now.

Although conservatives reflexively assume race, class and gender dominate American history, there is now incontrovertible evidence that this assumption is true.  In a careful study of U.S. history courses at the University of Texas and Texas A & M University, the National Association of Scholars recently released report indicates that race, class and gender tend to crowd out the teaching of other perspectives.  This form of thematically skewed teaching leads to an incomplete knowledge of American history, an ignorance transmitted from one generation to the next.

 The suicide of Aaron Swartz made me focus on what he’d been fighting for – free access to knowledge on the internet. Swartz’s methods were misguided and illegal but his purposes are nevertheless worth thinking about. He was part of a movement devoted to giving us all free access to government documents, research papers and much else, believing that it should all be available on the internet at no charge.

  Tom Brokaw, being widely recognized as having coined the title: “The Greatest Generation” and this commentator, a bona fide member since his enlistment in 1942, was glad to see him as a guest on a recent public affairs TV program; although the host did seem, somehow, to be more excited about the fact of this, than why its members were.  It would have been helpful for the current, younger TV audience, for Tom to have had an opportunity to explain the ‘why’ of the generation’s origin.

It’s often hard to know how things are going on the cancer-fighting front without looking at health statistics over the long haul.  Annual statistics reporting from the American Cancer Society provided that insight last week.  In its report, “Cancer Facts & Figures,” the death rate from cancer in the US has fallen 20% from its peak in 1991.

Bob Goepfert - “The Drawer Boy” at Hubbard Hall

Jan 19, 2013

CAMBRIDGE - “The Drawer Boy,” playing at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge through Sunday, January 20, is officially the first don’t miss theater production of the year.   I know it’s only mid-January, but this would be don’t miss theater any time of the year.

Keith Strudler: Lance Armstrong's Mea Culpa

Jan 16, 2013

The interview won’t air until tomorrow, but the story that Lance will admit to Oprah of using performance enhancing drugs makes us all ask the same question.  Does Oprah still have a network?

That’s really the only revelation likely to come from the dialogue, since only the most ardent disbelievers still imagined Lance rode clean all these years.  He’ll tell the public limited facts about the process, although allegedly he won’t admit to being the so called “ring leader” of the sophisticated drug program.  He’ll simply admit to being just another guy in the peloton who doped to stay relevant, just like everyone else on the road.  He’s part of the gang, just no Al Capone.  Given Armstrong’s actions over the years, it’s hard to image this to be true.  But truth seekers will have to settle for this for the time being.

  For the first time in decades Hall of Fame voters decided not to confer baseball’s highest honor to anyone. What makes this announcement unusual is that the most celebrated names from an era marked by performance-enhancing drugs did not gain entry into baseball’s promised land. To make matters even more peculiar, this was a period in baseball history when testing for drugs didn’t exist.

Paul Elisha: The Home of the Wise

Jan 15, 2013

Despite the proud prose that presaged it and all the periodic pronouncements that sought to endow it with continuity, ours has, from the outset, been an aggressively promoted ‘Marketocracy.’  Though an apt description, “The land of the free” and “Home of the brave,” does not apply to everyone, equally.  It is and has always been subject to selective affirmation.

Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

  New York State – and much of the nation – has made tremendous strides in reducing smoking rates.  In the mid-1960s, nearly half of Americans smoked; today it’s roughly half that nationwide and lower still in New York.

The successes have come as the result of scientific findings that have linked smoking to lung cancer and other health problems.  Those scientific breakthroughs also identified the health risks faced by nonsmokers who were exposed to second hand smoke from tobacco products.

  Last Friday was the deadline for comments to be lodged with the DEC on its most recent set of regulations for the controversial natural gas drilling process known as hydrofracking.

Predictably, the well-organized and vociferous anti-fracking crowd seized on the opportunity to make yet another public plea to Governor Andrew Cuomo that he reject the idea of drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Rob Edelman: The Best and the Worst, Part 3

Jan 14, 2013

Not all of the top films of 2012 are big-budget, and high-profile. Indeed, quite a few are low-budget. They are independently produced American films, or they are foreign language titles. And so here is a sampling of some of the year’s outstanding under-the-radar titles.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein - Lessons at the Clark

Jan 10, 2013

The Clark Art Museum once hosted an exhibition of the works of the great French artist Jacques Louis David, whose magnificent scenes chronicled the French revolution and the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte.  David was a close friend of Napoleon’s as well as his official painter. Napoleon was not at all a modest man.  He once declared, “Power is my mistress,” and looking at his life, we know that he meant it.  A brigadier general at twenty four, Napoleon’s vision of himself was matched fully by his ambitious successes.  Since it’s in the best interests of a court painter to flatter the rulers that he paints, David spared no effort to portray Napoleon, a man of no small ego and accomplishment, as smarter, braver, taller, and stronger than everyone around him.  My favorite example of David’s flattery is his painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps to defeat the Austrians.  Napoleon is dressed regally, exuding confidence, courage and power.  As his troops move forward in the background, he takes a moment from battle to look imperiously at the artist and at us. To lend even greater mightiness and grandeur to Napoleon’s image, David painted him on a sleek, muscular, white battle horse, an awesome example of natural beauty and power.

Sean Philpott: The Importance of Being Fat

Jan 10, 2013

For many Americans, the New Year is often a time to look back on both the successes and failures of the past. More importantly, it is also a time to look forward and to think about the changes we want or need to make in order to live happier and healthier lives.

James Taylor for Senate?

Jan 10, 2013

WAMC's Alan Chartock was quoted in a recent story on Politico regarding the James Taylor possibly wanting to fill Massachusetts Sen. Jon Kerry's Senate seat

Herbert London: Fascism In America

Jan 9, 2013

It is often argued by critics of the Obama administration that it is socialistic,  i.e. expanding governmental authority over the means of producing and distributing goods.  Alas, there is something to be said for this point of view.  As I see it, however, a more accurate way to describe the Obama government is corporatism or a political system in which the principal economic functions are designated and given favorable treatment.  The most appropriate way to assign meaning to this phenomenon is fascism.

Paul Elisha: I, the people

Jan 8, 2013

A strange and disturbing anomaly: How such self-anointed and selfishly directed, sectarian extortionists, like Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed can assert that they are appropriate spokespersons for the aspirations of any legitimate group of American citizens?  Any proud and proven representative of today’s news media, who still retains a shred of professional self-respect, should reject this notion.  The profit-pointed interest of these adventurers’ involvements should serve to stress their up-to-no-good intentions, to the most disinterested observers of Public Interest activity.

Last night at the Egg I heard Bill McKibben talk about climate change. I was very proud of Joe and Alan and WAMC for organizing it and proud of the WAMC audience for coming out in droves to hear him. The message he brings is not a happy one but it is a message we have to hear and understand; more, it’s a message we have to act on.

Blair Horner: From one cliff to the next

Jan 7, 2013
Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

After long and contentious negotiations that extended late into New Year’s Day, Congress passed a measure to at least temporarily avert the most immediate consequences of the so-called “fiscal cliff.”  As you no doubt saw in media coverage over the holidays, on New Year’s Day Democratic and Republican leaders settled on a fared-down package of income tax rate increases for the well-to-do and did little on spending reductions.

Liz Benjamin: Gun control battle is joined

Jan 7, 2013
Liz Benjamin
YNN, Capital Tonight

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will deliver his third annual State of the State address Wednesday in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.

A tip for first-time attendees: Don’t check your coat. The governor likes to keep things cold. 

Cuomo has declined to keep up the tradition of official pre-speech leaks. But he has dropped hints about the topics he'll be discussing, including responses to the two highest-profile tragedies of recent months: Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook massacre.

Rob Edelman: The Best and the Worst, Part 2

Jan 7, 2013

Two of the year’s very best films-- and these are must-see items-- are arriving in movie theaters at the tail-end of 2012. They are Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED and Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY, and they are as different as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and a Hope-and-Crosby road picture. But DJANGO UNCHAINED and ZERO DARK THIRTY are not the only must-see films released during the year. Some also are big-budget items that feature A-list directors and major stars. Others are more modest independent titles or foreign films.

Predictions for the New Year

Jan 5, 2013

Alan Chartock is back with his annual predictions for the new year. What does he see happening in 2013?

Keith Strudler - Pennsylvania v. NCAA

Jan 2, 2013

It seems the topic of the hour is government spending.  So I’ll continue that dialogue, at least as it pertains to the state of Pennsylvania.  The current governor of that state Tom Corbett is angry about $60 million of state funds that are scheduled to be spent largely out of state.  It’s a result of the penalty levied by the NCAA on Penn State for its part in the recent child abuse scandal in its athletics department.

Blair Horner: A Look Back on the Fight Against Cancer

Dec 31, 2012
Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

The dawn of a new year is the time to reflect and to plan a new course.  When it comes to fighting cancer, in 2012 New York took one significant step forward by restricting the use of indoor tanning booths.  As 2013 dawns, more steps are needed.

First some background:  In July, Governor Cuomo signed into law a new restriction on the use of tanning beds by children.  The law, which went into effect in August, bans the use of indoor tanning beds for those aged 16 years old and younger. 

Members of Congress are ringing in the New Year down in Washington, D.C. racing against time to get a deal in place that averts sending the country over the so-called fiscal cliff.

After spending Christmas with the possibility of getting called back to Albany by Governor Cuomo for a special session hanging over their heads, it looks like state lawmakers can relax and enjoy themselves tonight.  Meanwhile, Cuomo has spent the past several days on a family ski vacation up in the North Country. It looks like it’ll be an Adirondack New Year’s for him.

Sean Philpott: Annus Horribilis

Dec 27, 2012

In Great Britain, where much of my family is from and still lives, there is an annual tradition known as the Royal Christmas Message. Begun in 1932 by then King George V as a radio broadcast, the tradition has evolved into an annual event in which the sovereign head of the British Empire delivers a speech on that year's events, as well as personal and national triumphs and tragedies.

Keith Strudler - 2012 In Review

Dec 26, 2012

So as years go, 2012 may not have been our finest.  But, alas, and mercifully, it is coming to a close.  Yet generally time is not the best aid to remembrance nor perspective.  And with that we look back on the year that’s nearly past, not with an acute vision on recent events but with a more reflective eye on this year’s whole body of work.  In other words, sometimes it’s hard to remember something that happened even a month ago, much less 10 or 11.

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez - Standing Strong Against the Furies

Dec 21, 2012

Just as people in places like the Maldives, Bangladesh and Japan shook their heads at the cluelessness of Americans who suddenly woke up to climate change when Sandy came to town, people living in hot spots of violence around the world now have every right to be shaking their heads at the collective American refusal to see and understand how, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, we are the cause of our own misery.

Although the truce between Gaza and Israel didn’t lead to an unequivocal result, Israeli officials said they destroyed most rocket launchers and Gazan leaders maintain the settlement means they resisted the Israeli offensive and have been emboldened by their relative success. Is there a victor in this struggle?

Paul Elisha: Socialist!

Dec 18, 2012

The ultra-Right Wing Rat-Pack, who masquerade as role models for an America, they say was founded by an elite corps of individualists, to glorify Christian ideals of morality and promote Capitalist ideas for profitable corporate conquest, has revived an old bugaboo to bamboozle the American electorate into acceptance of their unseemly and unjustified efforts to force it into eternal captivity.  They’ve re-raised the specter of ‘Socialism’!  In the face of truly dire threats like air and water pollution, climate change and global warming, plus mounting numbers of dead and wounded victims of the unchecked and irresponsible sale and use of guns and ammunition, these imperturbable profiteers have resurrected the baseless badge of ‘Socialist’ to pin on any who dare to bare their truly self-serving shenanigans.  From the outset of its pretentious inaugural, as the savior of a special way of life for a special class of societal scions, dedicated to preservation of social separation (the elitist upper-crust – from the ordinary ‘others’) corporate potentates have used every ruse to elaborate the pronounced difference between Capitalists as the creators and dispensers of earnings opportunity and eventual wealth… and those who serve them as the eventual receivers of residual benefits, thus justifying the levying of taxes on their receipt.  In defense of this Capitalist canard, corporate captains have employed legions of legal virtuosi, whose sole goal is to rationalize and define this assertion as fact.  Behind this licit disguise, they have devised and practiced the most flagrant forms of corporate welfare imaginable.  Anything else to the contrary, they have branded as “SOCIALIST!”

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