Commentary & Opinion

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. 

Bill Owens: Libertarians On The Rise

Jun 9, 2016

  The selection on May 29, 2016 of Governor Gary Johnson and Governor Bill Weld as the presidential and vice presidential candidates for the Libertarian party provides yet another twist in this unusual election year. 

Keith Strudler: Searching For Answers In Sports

Jun 8, 2016

Perhaps the most instinctive human process is the need to know “why.” As thoughtful beings, we don’t simply accept our reality. We question it, often in vain. Whenever someone does something wrong, the first question we ask is why. Why did they do it, what made them act that way. It’s often a fool’s quest, since we frequently do things that lack reason. That’s the reality of life, which might best be summed as a series of mistakes, where each day we vow to make just a few less.

Herbert London: The Obama Conundrum

Jun 8, 2016

Since 2009, well before official P5+1 formal negotiations, President Barack Obama was willfully engaged in a plan to achieve an accord with Iran on nuclear questions. It became a matter of pride for the president to contend that he was able to negotiate on accord that his predecessors could not. Yet the president has created a paradoxical box for himself in which the Iranian agreement – leaving aside its merits or lack thereof – forces him to be complicit in assisting Iranian foreign policy.

During this pledge drive, amid disputes about media coverage of the presidential campaign, it’s a good time to review how we got here.

I began doing these commentaries in 2005.   In 2006, after the Democrats took control of Congress, I delivered a commentary noting that a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party was brewing.   On the one hand there were a set of policies proposed and adopted by the “triangulator” Bill Clinton.   (Triangulation referred to his ability to oppose most of his own party and the Republicans at the same time – first playing one then the other against his two adversaries.)   These policies included NAFTA, which would not have passed without Republican support.   They included so-called welfare reform, which Senator Daniel Moynihan correctly identified as abolition and not reform.   During Clinton’s eight years there was no improvement in opportunities for workers to join unions.  There was however, ridiculous focus on budget balance and what turned out to be disastrous financial deregulation?   Despite record job growth and for a few years very low rates of unemployment, inequality actually increased during the entire 8 year period.

It's time for our listeners to take to the microphone. Here are this week's highlights from the WAMC Listener Comment Line. 

Sean Philpott-Jones: Five Ring Circus

Jun 2, 2016

In a mere 65 days, almost 10,000 athletes from 204 countries will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the start of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. An additional 500,000 spectators are expected to file into Rio’s athletic venues, walk its crowded streets, tour its famous monuments and seamy favelas, and frolic on its fabled beaches. Over a hundred thousand more – athletes, staff and tourists – will visit Rio the following month for the 2016 Paralympic Games.

If one believes the fantasy conjured by the vivid imagination of Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, the Iranians who have negotiated the nuclear deal with the P5+1 are “moderates”, different from the Supreme Leader the other and extremists in this revolutionary nation. Most significantly, these “moderates” can be trusted.

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