Commentary & Opinion

In a still unpublished manuscript on the way conservative economics has failed us, my friend Eric Zuesse remarked, “The ‘Greek debt’ is really not a debt of the Greek people.” He goes on to identify the “institutional creditors  … Euro-banks … high risk kleptocrats, oligarchs and bankers who siphoned most of the euros into overseas Swiss accounts …. [and other foreign investments] devoid of any capacity to generate income to pay back the debt.”

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Once On This Island

Mar 29, 2016

Albany High School’s theater ensemble recently performed Once On This Island, a dark musical set in the French Caribbean Antilles. The play examines race,  class, and gender divisions between the island’s white French upper classes and its black peasants.  It tells the story about Ti Moune, a spirited peasant girl who falls in love with Daniel, a white man of mixed-race ancestry who lives in the gated hotels of the white French islanders.  After saving his life and nursing him back to health, Ti Moune goes in search of Daniel when his people take him back from her village to their side of the island.  Daniel has an affair with her, then destroys her with the news that he is marrying a white French woman, in accordance with the rigid racial and class mores of their time.  Devastated, Ti Moune drowns herself in the sea, but Asaka the earth goddess transforms her into a tree of love which brings all the people of the island together.

Recent events in Flint, Michigan and here in New York, the troubles in Hoosick Falls, Binghamton, Syracuse, Western New York, and Long Island, have focused public attention on the problems of keeping drinking water clean. 

David Nightingale: Boltzmann (1844-1906)

Mar 27, 2016

Ludwig Boltzmann was born in 1844. He tried to end his life at age 56, and in fact succeeded (if that's the right word) at 62.

Kelly Byrnes: Income: $0 - Experience: Priceless.

Mar 26, 2016

When most people think about their favorite summer memories, they often imagine sunny days spent relaxing on a beach or by a pool, family barbeques, or laughing with friends all night around a bonfire. 

For the state budget cycle that began in January and for the expiring terms of several members of the Board of Regents, we’re coming down the homestretch and the winds of change are blowing.

Herbert London: The Russians Are Going

Mar 23, 2016

There was a Hollywood film of yesteryear with the title “The Russians Are Coming.” If one were making that film today it might be called “The Russians Are Going.” In a move that has surprised many in our State Department, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the withdrawal of the “main part” of the Russian military contingent from Syria. He noted that the principal tasks “for the armed forces were accomplished,” i.e. stabilizing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Stephen Gottlieb: Looming Catastrophe Vs Stubborn People

Mar 22, 2016

Help. Two major problems have the same structure – it doesn’t look like people will deal with the problem until it is too late. Too late means the survivors will be refugees. Everyone else will be dead. And yet getting people to deal with the threat except at the fringes has been impossible.

MaryEllen Elia: This Year's Assessment Tests

Mar 22, 2016

Next month, hundreds of thousands of students in grades 3 through 8 will sit down in their classrooms and take the New York State assessments.

When it comes to cleaning up Albany, last week’s events indicate that the broom has been put away for now.  Governor Cuomo announced that the ethics issue had fallen off the table of the budget deliberations.  He added that he would make sure it was a top priority in the post-budget session.

Listener Essay: Dianne Olsen

Mar 17, 2016

Our grandson, Liam, died last year of a drug overdose. He was 26. Everything we thought we knew has changed.  

The stabbing spree in Israel by Palestinian terrorists continues unabated. Even when an American citizen visiting Israel is killed “What me worry? President Obama” is unfazed. At this point in his presidency Obama has only one goal: burnishing his legacy.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Earth Will Have Its Revenge

Mar 15, 2016

One of the major drivers of global warming is the greenhouse gases we emit by burning fossil fuels. Another major driver of global warming and one of the ways in which we are making our earth unsustainable for human life is the population explosion. When I was young the earth’s population was around 3 billion. It has more than doubled. When we talk about the growth of population, the crucial issue is about the time it would take to double. Population can double in as little as a generation. We are on the way to an earth with 12 billion people and counting. The devastation that is causing and will cause is incalculable and will make the earth inhospitable in short order, contributing to the overuse of water, the over fishing of the oceans, the deforestation of the jungles, the overuse of carbon based fuels even while we try to flush them out of the atmosphere and every other form of damage to the earth we depend on.

Fred Kowal: RETA

Mar 15, 2016

A teacher shortage isn’t looming in New York.

It’s here. 

  Sunday marked the beginning of “Sunshine Week,” a week in which the nation focuses its attention on government openness.  The “Week” makes it clear that it is important to maintain an open government, in order to ensure the proper relationship between public officials and the citizens they are pledged to serve. 

One might wonder why there is a “very long wait” if you are a Netflix subscriber and you wish to take a look at MY X-GIRLFRIEND’S WEDDING RECEPTION, an obscure low-budget comedy that dates from 1999. Surely, it is not because of the film’s cast, which includes Debbie Gibson, Dom DeLuise, Mo Gaffney, and a load of unfamiliar names. And surely, it is unrelated to one’s desire to be entertained by the very early screen appearances of future Oscar winners and superstars. If you wish, you can savor, for example, young unknown Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey costarring in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION. You can goof on the great George Clooney and his presences in RETURN TO HORROR HIGH and RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES!

The Republican debate on Thursday, February 25, had Mr. Trump, and to a lesser extent Senators Rubio and Cruz, presenting what only can be characterized as a silly idea for health care reform.  In contrast, a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Companies Form New Alliance to Target Health-Care Costs” presented a sensible proposal. 

As someone who grew up in Northern California during the 1970s, I was surrounded by all the fads of the New Age movement: past-life regression, crystals, channeling, EST (or Erhard Seminars Training), macramé, hot tubs, and the nascent organic food movement.

Herbert London: Iran Vs. Saudi Arabia

Mar 9, 2016

The trial and subsequent execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimir has led to a storm of protest leading to the destruction of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. While Iranian president Hassan Rouhani condemned the attacks as “unjustifiable,” this statement did not mollify Saudi leaders. In fact, the Saudi foreign minister said his nation is severing all diplomatic ties with Iran. Iran’s supreme leader warned that the execution will result in “divine vengeance.”

It’s hard to explain to most people how serious the problems with the police are. Ideology makes people choose sides and blink reality. Urging change is treated by police as pure hostility. There are many good policemen doing everything they can to protect all of us. Equally clearly there are policemen who are there for the power trip from the uniform or from their weapons.

Buried in Governor Cuomo’s $154 billion state budget plan is an appropriation of $1 million to establish a commission to consider the possibility of a state constitutional convention.  The governor’s commission, if approved, would be charged with developing a blueprint for the process of running a constitutional convention, if one is called by the voters in 2017.  

David Nightingale: Our Non-Winter

Mar 6, 2016

This winter, 2015-16, has been a no-show for much of the Hudson Valley. At the time of writing, Feb 29, there's no white stuff anywhere in sight. My snow blower, serviced and ready since November, still stands forlorn and unused in the barn, and misguided daffodils have been perking 3 inches above autumn's leaves since the end of January.

Perhaps listeners have heard about the debate over an economist’s efforts to predict what would occur if Senator Bernie Sanders’ program were enacted.   An economist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Gerald Friedman, took a look at Senator Sanders’ proposals --- increased spending for infrastructure, free college education at state universities, an expansion of social security, replacing the current crazy-quilt health insurance system with a “Medicare for all” single payer system for health insurance, and numerous expenditures to address the threat of climate change.   All of these expenditure increases would be funded by tax increases that would increase the over-all progressivity of the system, by, in Senator Sanders’ words making the billionaires pay their fair share of taxes.

Herbert London: Crumbling Of Western Culture

Mar 2, 2016

Cultural symbols matter and what they now suggest is that the West is in retreat. This is a retreat in every aspect of life, from religion to popular culture. “Out of respect” for the Iranian president, who presumably would be offended by nudity, the Italian government had museum officials in Rome’s Capitoline place boxes over several nude statues - including one of Venus created in the second century BC - during Hassan Rouhani’s state visit.

District Attorney David Soares’ letter to Mayor Sheehan describes some of what led to the death of Donald (Dontay) Ivy.

Bill Owens: Anger 2016

Mar 1, 2016

There’s a lot of anger in the 2016 presidential campaign, whether it’s focused on the opposition, one another (intra-party), the electorate or government and politics. The latter doesn’t seem like a great strategy. Did the participants forget the adage about positive thinking and the glass being half full? Is it just an act to create a connection to middle-class, blue-collar workers who have been battered for the last 30 years by job loss, stagnating wages, and the perceived impact of immigration? Do they think that this creates a level of credibility that a smile and warmth does not convey? What happened to likability? Is everything all that grim?

As you may imagine, we receive a lot of mail at WAMC – here are a few of our listeners’ recent questions.

Blair Horner: Pushback Against Ethics Reform

Feb 29, 2016

A consistent theme in Albany’s unceasing parade of ethics scandals has been the abuse of power: Lawmakers using their public position to enrich themselves personally.  As U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara put it while commenting on his successful prosecutions of the former Assembly Speaker and former Senate Majority Leader, “Both of those cases, by the way, were awful and sad stories. No one says that those two men never did anything good for their state, but they threw it all away by forgetting that their jobs we’re not meant to be vehicles for massive personal profit.”

Brad Hays: An Opportunity For Merit

Feb 26, 2016

By now, the politics of selecting the next Supreme Court justice have become clear.  President Obama has pledged to fulfill his constitutional responsibility by nominating someone to fill the seat opened by Justice Antonin Scalia's death.  Republicans in the Senate have pledged to block any such nomination.  In short, the crisis of federal judicial selection that has plagued lower court nominations for decades is now prominently on display and, regrettably, promises more of what we have come to expect in our politics: partisanship and gridlock.  But, crisis, they say, creates opportunity and this moment creates an opportunity for more meritorious politics.

Karen Magee: A History-Making Year

Feb 25, 2016

March is Women’s History Month. It is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the amazing accomplishments of the many women who have helped build and lead our great nation -- women like Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Geraldine Ferraro.