Commentary & Opinion

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Kristallnakht

Nov 26, 2015

Between November 9 and 10, 1938, Nazi authorities fomented violence against the entire population of German Jews.  Thugs vandalized and looted Jewish owned establishments, homes and synagogues, and dragged their Jewish neighbors into the streets, brutalizing and killing them.  This date in history is generally regarded by historians as the beginning of the Holocaust. Kristallnakht, the Night of Broken Glass, as it was later referred to, is commemorated annually on those days.  To mark Kristallnakht this year, my wife and I attended a viewing of Oren Jacoby’s documentary, My Italian Secret, which chronicles the courageous activities of Italians who hid and saved Jews under Mussolini’s Fascist regime.  The film shows how citizens ranging from Gino Bartali, the celebrity cyclist, to long forgotten priests and nuns living in the countryside risked their lives to hide Jewish refugees simply because it was the right thing to do.  These stories are very personal for Jews, and they are especially personal for my wife’s family.  She recently returned from a heritage trip to Germany, where she retraced her family’s history, including her grandparents’ escape from the Fatherland in the late 1930’s before Hitler could grab them. 

Herbert London: Why The Iran Deal?

Nov 25, 2015

With even Obama supporters now questioning the deal with Iran, with the revelation Iranian leaders made a side deal with the IAEA, with recognition that al Qaeda has a sanctuary in Iran, with the U.S. excluded from the inspection team, with leaders in Iran shouting “death to America” and with the Supreme Leader indicating that Israel must be “annihilated,” why does President Obama insist on this arrangement?

In the wake of murder is it possible to talk about moderation? The impulse to kill is very strong. I know I’d feel it if it came close. And yet we know that many innocent people are put to death. And if an innocent person is executed, the killer, or killers, are still alive. And kangaroo courts or lynch law threaten everyone. The circle of murder can widen, as it did with the infamous Hatfields and McCoys. I’ve taught a descendent of the McCoys, actually a lovely young woman in West Virginia. But a murder turned into a war and decimated the families. Was that worth it – all the innocent lives. We are taught that two wrongs don’t make a right, but in the aftermath, do we have the strength to see that?

Blair Horner: Privatizing America's Legal System

Nov 23, 2015

You see them everywhere – requirements that consumers go to an arbitration system instead of the courts.  If you look in your car’s manual, those arbitrations are mandatory, when you look at the fine print on your smart phones, they are there too.  If you want the car, or the phone, you have to agree to give up your right to go to court and resolve disputes through an arbitration system set up by the companies.

Audrey Kupferberg: Women's Rights On Film

Nov 20, 2015

Some women these days seem lackadaisical about having equal rights with men, except when it comes to their paycheck.  And yet it isn’t even 100 years since women were allowed to vote in our country.  It is well less than a century since women were allowed out into the streets wearing trousers—and NOT wearing uncomfortable and medically harmful corsets.  These days, women are successful doctors and lawyers, scientists and experts in fields of high technology.  We dress as we please.

Rogovoy Report For November 20, 2015

Nov 20, 2015

This weekend our region boasts old and new classical music, art openings, theater, and rootsy blues.

I am disgusted both by the rhetoric against Syrian refugees and the apparent support the rhetoric is garnering in polling data.  Listen to the following statements from some prominent politicians – some of whom want to be the next President of the United States.

Earlier this week, troubled actor Charlie Sheen announced that he is HIV positive. Charlie now joins the 1 million Americans and nearly 40 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. He also joins a small list of celebrities -- NBA star Earvin "Magic" Johnson, professional tennis player Arthur Ashe, Olympic diver Greg Louganis, fellow actor Danny Pintauro, and a handful of others -- who have gone public with their diagnoses.

Keith Strudler: The New Stadium Reality

Nov 18, 2015

For anyone working for a sports team or league or college athletic department, last Friday in Paris wasn’t simply horrifying. It was an uncomfortable reality, one that would forever impact your daily work life long after the Parisian chaos subsided. See, if you ask someone in the sports world about their worst fear, it’s not a losing season, or a bad trade, or even a critical injury to a star athlete. These things happen all the time, and while burdensome, are simply the cost of doing business.

The historian Arnold Toynbee once wrote – in what has become a cliché – that “Civilizations die as a result of suicide, rather than murder.” Toynbee was obviously referring to self-inflicted wounds – moral breakdown, loss of confidence. Alas, that can now be observed across the western civilization landscape. The irrational attacks on the First Amendment by students at Yale and University of Missouri and the metastasizing spread of hateful and divisive diatribes in institutions of so-called higher learning point to a desire to destroy western civilization.

Stephen Gottlieb: War In The Middle East

Nov 17, 2015

The terrorists’ explanation for ISIS’ involvement in the Paris attacks, is that it was in revenge for the French participation in the war in Syria. Another explanation is that the attack was a recruiting tool – they’re stalemated in Syria and they use victory and the dream of an Islamic state as a recruiting tool, so they pulled off an attack that would be heard around the world, to say to young Muslims, come help promote the dream. Actually the two explanations are not inconsistent – they can both be true in the minds of different people, and sometimes even in the minds of the same people. But the two theories point in different directions. The revenge theory suggests that it would be better to stay out. The recruitment theory points to the value of simply defeating them. Recruits need something attractive to attach themselves to and losers aren’t very attractive.

Blair Horner: Albany On Trial

Nov 16, 2015

As the former New York State Senate Majority Leader goes to trial and his former counterpart Assembly Speaker is still in court, it has become clear that whatever the outcome, Albany’s ethics is on trial.

Bill Owens: Back To The Commune

Nov 12, 2015

There have been a number of recent articles discussing how the growing senior population will be cared for. Let’s explore the options.

Herbert London: The U.N. At Work

Nov 11, 2015

The General Assembly at the United Nations met today. What emerged from the meeting is thunderous silence, a silence that echoes through the conscience of sensible people.

The Court recently decided that states can restrict campaign solicitation by judges but only judges. It left all the rest of its protections of economic privilege in place.

Blair Horner: Predictable Tuition?

Nov 9, 2015

Higher education policy moved back into the news last week when the State University of New York’s Chancellor announced an effort to keep increasing the cost of public college tuition.

David Nightingale: Richard Dawkins (1941- present)

Nov 8, 2015

My essays have been on poets, writers, engineers, not politicians yet -- and here's one on Richard Dawkins, author of "The Selfish Gene" and other books in ethology. (Ethology is a word coming from the Greek word 'ethos' for 'character'.) So although he's an ethologist, it will be simpler to describe him as a biologist.

Michael Meeropol: GOP Tax Plans

Nov 6, 2015

On November 2, 2015 Josh Barro wrote a column in the New York times presenting details from some Republican candidates’ tax proposals.  (See “Republicans’ Talk of Taxes Leaves Much Unsaid,” New York Times, November 2, 2015, P. A 3)   Instead of being satisfied with sound bites, Barro does readers a service by going into some of the details.  The tax plans I want to highlight are those of Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Ted Cruz.  (He also discusses the plans of Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul and Governor John Kasich.)

Sean Philpott-Jones: Let Them Eat Bacon!

Nov 5, 2015

That Earth-shattering noise that you heard last week was the sound of a billion bacon-lovers, myself included, screaming out in agony after the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meats as a definite human carcinogen and also classified red meat as a probable human carcinogen. After newspapers proclaimed that eating bacon was as dangerous as smoking cigarettes -- one such headline in the Guardian, a British newspaper, proclaimed that "Processed Meats Rank Alongside Smoking as Cancer Cause" -- carnivores around the world were left wondering if they would need to give up their beloved meaty treats.

Herbert London: The Syrian Negotiations

Nov 4, 2015

The projection of power doesn’t always solve problems. There are times when inaction is desirable. One might even make a case for U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East, albeit I do not make it and do not embrace it.

Stephen Gottlieb: An NRA Foreign Policy

Nov 3, 2015

Think about the NRA position that guns don’t kill people, people do, and therefore that we should protect the rights of gun ownership. Just think about the contribution that the NRA could make to the discussion of foreign affairs. The NRA position reveals that it is a big mistake to control arms trafficking. They’re spot on – we should just arm everyone, friend and foe, all the contending parties in Syria and Iraq. Al-Qaeda? Their guns don’t kill, they do. No problem. ISIS? No problem. But we can learn from the NRA that the biggest mistake is the nuclear deal with Iran! After all, if everyone had nukes, no one would use them. Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men and women. Solved that one. Thanks to the NRA.

Bill Owens: Thinking - The Lost Art

Nov 3, 2015

The recent award of the Nobel Prize to Angus Deaton of Princeton caused me to ponder—well actually, think—about his reliance on data and analysis.

Governor Cuomo stirred up a hornet’s nest when he decided to use the World Series as a way to raise and spend his campaign war chest. He chose to use his campaign contributions to pay for his plane ride to Kansas City to watch the first game of the World Series between the Mets and Royals. His transportation was a private jet owned by the Mets’ owners.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Dear Mama Bear

Oct 30, 2015

When the front desk of the hotel told me that you had been spotted near the water fall at the summit of a local mountain hiking trail, I wondered if my couple of days in the Adirondacks wouldn’t be better spent exclusively among humans.  I was enchanted by the thought of wandering, solitary, in the silent woods up to the trail’s summit.  News of your appearance with your cubs in tow sent me in a quiet panic to various websites offering advice on how to survive an encounter with an aggressive bear. In theory, my survival instructions seemed easily attainable, but I knew that if I actually saw you I would abandon them, turn my back on you and dash down the mountain, frenzied.     

Karen Magee: The Politics Of Receivership

Oct 29, 2015

In an impoverished section of Albany, the Philip Schuyler Achievement Academy is an oasis.

There, caring and dedicated Albany teachers provide a safe, nurturing learning environment for 300 or so students — 90 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged.

No Static At All

Oct 29, 2015

There is one sure thing about WAMC and that is that life here is always interesting. Nothing is static. We know, for example, that the first hour of The Roundtable is a tremendous success. Wherever I go, I hear from people who make it a must-do to listen to the panel on The Roundtable. Everyone reacts, some more strongly than others. Each of the participants has developed a following and each of us has some detractors.

Herbert London: Russian Attacks On U.S. Backed Rebels

Oct 28, 2015

For several successive days Russian planes have targeted Syrian rebel troops backed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Even the recalcitrant Obama administration had to admit this is an intentional campaign to degrade U.S. efforts at deposing President Assad. According to official reports the Obama administration is “angry.”

Stephen Gottlieb: Brandeis And Zionism

Oct 27, 2015

The struggle between Israel and Palestine and the intransigence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, leads me to think about a founder of American Zionism. In a book to come out early next year, I wrote:

Bill Owens: Canadian Federal Election

Oct 27, 2015

The Canadian federal election was held Monday Oct 19. For most Americans, the response might be: who knew?

It is a well-established fact that the planet is heating up.  2014 was the hottest year on record and last week, the first prediction of 2015 came out – it wasn’t good news. 

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