Commentary & Opinion

WAMC listeners had a lot to say this week. Here are highlights from the WAMC Listener Comment Line.

In his book The Open Society and Its Enemies Karl Popper, as an advocate of tolerance, argued that intolerance should not be tolerated, for if tolerance allowed intolerance to succeed, tolerance itself would be threatened. As Popper put it, “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”

Stephen Gottlieb: Polarizing America

Jan 31, 2017

I’d like to give my spleen a break for a week and talk about some of the dynamics that are polarizing  America, that neither side can solve because the problem is structural. Law has contributed with crucial changes regarding political parties, the media, the draft and residential segregation (which Brown did not prevent). I'd love to hear good suggestions for countering the polarizing effects of those legal changes.

Bill Owens: Health Care Reform Or Chaos?

Jan 31, 2017

Let me begin by saying that I cannot comprehend the impact that the loss of health insurance will have for nearly 20 million Americans.  It will be a financial, health and psychological tsunami for our families, friends and neighbors.

For the longest time, the state Capitol has been rocked by scandals.  In recent years, those scandals have mushroomed: Both leaders of the Legislature have been convicted of corruption and face time in prison, and close aides and associates of the governor have been charged.

On February 6th, perhaps the most important fund drive in WAMC's history will take place. It comes as Donald J. Trump takes his place as the 45th President of the United States. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Hudson Women's March

Jan 28, 2017
Women's march in Hudson, NY
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Unless you were vacationing on another planet or living under a large, intractable rock you’re aware there were massive women’s marches around the country and the world last Saturday, including the one I attended in Hudson, NY.

Hilary Dunne Ferrone: Athletes & Philanthropy

Jan 27, 2017

Now that the National Football League playoffs have been battled and we’re racing toward the Super Bowl, I’m feeling nostalgic.  My first job after college was in the marketing and special events department of the NFL.  It was a dream job in many ways: not least because it was a fun product to market and it certainly presented iconic special events.  It may sound strange for a middle-aged woman to be waxing nostalgic about this particularly brutal sport, but as my career developed, I had the great fortune to work with athletes who wanted to do charitable work: it was through football players that I learned a lot about the emotions that inform a person’s desire to engage in philanthropy, and the potential pitfalls of this work.

We lend an ear to what our listeners had to say. Here are this week's highlights from the WAMC Listener Comment Line.

Sean Philpott-Jones: A Public Cervix Announcement

Jan 26, 2017

On Monday, just days after millions of women (and their allies) marched in political demonstrations, researchers reported a disturbing new finding that could affect the health and wellbeing of these protestors. In a study published in this month’s issue of the journal Cancer, scientists found that a woman’s risk of dying from cervical cancer was much higher than originally suspected.

Herbert London: Who Really Won The Cold War?

Jan 25, 2017

In 1989 the Berlin wall tumbled like Humpty Dumpty amid a joyous celebration in Germany and across the West. The symbol of the Russian Communist dictatorship was blasted into bits of concrete. In the subsequent couple of years those states caught in the grip of the Soviet orbit seceded reducing the Russian population by about 150 million people. NATO expanded to embrace many of these former states including the Baltic nations contiguous to Mother Russia. While the West viewed this new reality with promise liberal democracy would spread, former KGB officials regarded this defeat as humiliation, a humiliation that had to be redressed.

Stephen Gottlieb: The March In Albany

Jan 24, 2017

This weekend was busy. The New York Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild and others trained people in nonviolence and to serve as observers for the Women’s March on Washington, including a couple of training sessions at Albany Law.

Karen Magee: The DeVos Threat To New York State

Jan 24, 2017

In New York State and our nation, public education is the great equalizer.

Blair Horner: A Closer Look At Free Tuition

Jan 23, 2017

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo held a news conference with the U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders to announce a new initiative: to make public college tuition free for families whose incomes were up to $125,000.

David Nightingale: Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

Jan 22, 2017
Niels Bohr
Public Domain / WikiMedia Commons

This essay is about Niels Bohr, so let's take ourselves to the small low-lying country of Denmark -- specifically, its capital, Copenhagen -- on the east coast, facing and close to Sweden.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Norman Rockwell Museum

Jan 21, 2017
photo of the Norman Rockwell painting, "Triple Self-Portrait"
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

You may be familiar with the Danish word, spelled h-y-g-g-e, and pronounced “hoo-guh.” It was among the finalists for the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 Word of the Year. My wife, who spent her junior year abroad in Denmark, has been using it for years.

Bill Owens: Unite Behind Trump?

Jan 19, 2017

Vice president-elect, Mike Pence, has called on Americans to unite behind President-elect Trump.  He and the Trump campaign have claimed that the election was a “landslide,” “blowout” or that it was an “historic victory”.  The facts belie those claims.

Herbert London: Remembering Roy Innis

Jan 18, 2017
Roy Innis
Kishi2323 / Wikimedia Commons

He was a friend, a mentor, a hero and a courageous American. On Saturday, January 7, 2017 he passed this mortal coil. I am referring to Roy Innis, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality since his election to that post in 1968.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Future

Jan 17, 2017

What are the lessons of the election for the future of democracy?

Last week, Governor Cuomo took to the road to unveil his State of the State addresses.  The State of the State is a constitutional requirement that the governor report to the legislature on issues of concerns and to offer his recommendations.  For nearly 100 years, the State of the State address was delivered in a written and verbal format in the State Capitol complex.

Rob Edelman: Barry Jenkins

Jan 16, 2017

Of all the fine films that won theatrical releases this past year, one title for me stands at the very top of the pack. That is MOONLIGHT, directed and written by Barry Jenkins. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Second Avenue Subway

Jan 14, 2017
art in the new Second Avenue and 72nd Street station
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

These commentaries were conceived as celebrating the pleasures of country living, with occasional digressions. This is one of those occasions and one of those digressions.

About once a year on average, I seem to create a bit of a stir with a commentary on breast cancer and screening guidelines. In those commentaries, I sometimes question the message that is given to American women about the utility of breast cancer screening programs. In the weeks that follow, both my email and my answering machine tend to fill up with people suggesting that I am wrong, sharing personal tales of invasive cancers that were detected only because of screening, and sometimes (although very rarely) hoping that a relative of mine is stricken with the disease.

In the last debate of the 2012 presidential race Governor Romney discussed the potential threat of Russia. He was widely criticized by President Obama who maintained the Cold War ended in the 1980’s. Since then, of course, we have had a national “reset.” Vladimir Putin’s aggressive action in eastern Ukraine, Syria and his openly provocative statements about the Baltic states and the use of nuclear weapons offer revealing insights into Russian aims. Still there are those who believe Russia can be an ally, at least in areas where U.S.-Russian interests converge, e.g. battling militant Islam.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Challenges

Jan 10, 2017

Looking at the New Year, there are two existential challenges that must be dealt with: global climate change and the threat to American democracy.

Hilary Dunne Ferrone: Doing Good, Well 1/10/17

Jan 10, 2017


Happy New Year! For many, this is a time of personal reassessment when we look for a fresh take and perhaps make a few positive adjustments in our lives. Just as this is a good practice for ourselves, it’s a beneficial practice of funders and nonprofits, too.

Blair Horner: The 2017 State Of The State

Jan 9, 2017

New York State’s constitution requires that every governor submit a 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.  Usually that speech was delivered in the New York State Assembly chamber.  The Assembly seats 150 and so jamming in the smaller Senate body plus staff and dignitaries was the appropriate venue.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Some Pig

Jan 7, 2017
Cleopatra the pig with Vicky the horse
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Come the New Year we can’t help but look ahead to the next twelve months and wonder about the ways our lives will be different or the same a year from now. Personally, professionally, politically.

Keith Strudler: The Party Before The Storm

Jan 4, 2017
The logo of the New York Giants
Facebook: New York Giants

No one would argue that the New York Giants drew the best playoff assignment by any measure. In taking an NFC Wild Card spot, they’ll travel this weekend to NFC North champ Green Bay, who rarely lose at home and might be the hottest team in the league. The temperature will probably sink to single digits by game’s end Sunday evening. And mind you, New York actually has a better record than the Packers, but with the logistics of the NFL playoffs, they are still the road team.

At the end of the Second World War the United States established a liberal international order that included an institutional commitment to free trade and freedom of the seas. It also included unprecedented assistance to weak nations incapable of fending for themselves, through the Marshall Plan, NATO and other alliances. However one describes the U.S. rule, it did provide a period of equilibrium, notwithstanding challenges from the Soviet Union.

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