Commentary & Opinion

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.

I heard my friend Arlo Guthrie say something the other day. He was looking for donations to keep the Guthrie “Bring Your Own God” Church going. He said that every time someone put something into the pot, they became a part owner and were responsible for the continuance of the Guthrie Center.

Stephen Gottlieb: Suckers For Trump

May 31, 2016

Let me begin by reminding you of Trump’s claims,[1] and end with some questions.

Blair Horner: End-Of-Session Reform Scorecard

May 30, 2016

With only nine scheduled working days until the end of the 2016 legislative session, it’s a good time to review where New York is at after what is arguably the most scandal-ridden session in state history.

David Nightingale: Elon Musk

May 29, 2016

  This essay is about 45-year-old Elon Musk, a co-founder of PayPal, CEO of Tesla, and founder and CEO of SpaceX, born in S.Africa in 1971 to a Canadian model and a S.African engineer.

Rogovoy Report For 5/17/16

May 27, 2016

The cultural highlights in our region in coming days include yet another living legend of Broadway – this region is downright lousy with them come summer – a legendary indie rock band; a new political comic drama based an old Shakespeare play; and a landmark anniversary for one of the region’s premiere contemporary art galleries.

Keith Strudler: Pass The Cup

May 25, 2016

Any boy who’s ever moved to a certain level in certain sports has had the unique and often uncomfortable option of wearing what’s commonly known as a cup. For the uninitiated, a cup is a hard plastic, well, cup, that fits over the male private region, strategically protecting male athletes from things like ill thrown baseballs or someone’s knee or perhaps a foot that misses its target or, and this is the worst, a low blow in boxing. It could happen in most any contact sport, from soccer to basketball to football – pretty much any place that something might end up where it shouldn’t. Being largely averse to contact and quickly gravitating towards track, I never actually wore one of these devices, which always seemed to me remnants of the dark ages. I suppose my JCC youth basketball league never got competitive enough to be concerned with shots to the groin, and make any circumcision joke you’d like. But competitive athletes in rough sports probably take more precautions.

Herbert London: Militant Islam

May 25, 2016

 

The war against militant Islamic forces continues apace with modest gains against ISIS and with the emergence of new radical groups after one is defeated. This is a long war we are engaged in, one that can be won only when the root cause is accurately identified. That cause is a doctrine, a doctrine of violence and subordination. It is built into the culture of militates Islam and our unwillingness to recognize it for what it is militants against remedial action.

Stephen Gottlieb: Bernie And Ralph

May 24, 2016

Let’s talk about Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader. I have enormous respect for what both men have been trying to tell us. I also have enormous respect for Nader’s willingness to plow his earnings back into the effort to improve many aspects of life while he, Nader, lived on a shoestring.

MaryEllen Elia: Avoid Summer Brain Drain

May 24, 2016

As May draws to a close and the temperatures begin to heat up, many children are counting down the final days of this school year, ready for the fun and relaxation of summer vacation.

Blair Horner: Higher Ed Shortfall Gets Response

May 23, 2016

The New York state budget approved in April contained some good news for public college students and their families: It added a $100 increase per full-time enrolled student (FTE) in community college base aid over that proposed by the governor—an increase over last year’s budget.  The new budget also restored the governor’s proposed cuts to some financial assistance programs.

Rob Edelman: Elvis And Nixon

May 23, 2016

These days, biopics are all the rage. During one recent week, a number of films screening at the Spectrum, the local Albany art house, featured actors playing such diverse personalities as Ernest Hemingway, Miles Davis, Elvis Presley, and Richard Nixon.

Karen Magee: Walking For Farmworker Justice

May 19, 2016

Amid the turmoil of Vietnam and the civil rights movement, the great Elvis Presley once sang — as only the King could sing — about the need for tolerance and compassion in society.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Zeroing In On Zika

May 19, 2016

Every year I spend one to two weeks visiting the Caribbean island nation of Grenada. I don’t go for vacation, despite the allure of that country’s white sand beaches, but rather for work. I spend most of my time in windowless classrooms teaching clinical and research ethics to a number of graduate, medical and professional students from across the region.

Herbert London: Ressentiment

May 18, 2016

In philosophy and psychology “ressentiment” is a form of hostility. It is the French word for resentment and it generally is directed at the cause of frustration, that is an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. A sense of weakness or inferiority and jealously in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting or justifying value system, even a moral paradigm which attacks the perceived source of frustration. This value system can be used as a means of justifying one’s own weakness by identifying the source of envy as objectively inferior. In many cases, the ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.

Blair Horner: Another Albany Pol Bites The Dust

May 16, 2016

Some of the big news in state politics last week was the sentencing of former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.  Skelos, like the former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was convicted of corruption.  Skelos was sentenced for five years in prison for his activities in shaking down businesses for often no-show jobs for his son.  A couple of weeks earlier, Silver received 12 years for his corrupt schemes that enriched him by millions of dollars.

David Nightingale: Politics 2016

May 15, 2016
Trump rouses crowd
Pat Bradley/WAMC

I am a registered Independent, and once in a while I cut out a political 'letter to the editor', or a commentary. Right now I have a little pile of such cuttings that I need to get rid of.

Bill Owens: The Trump VP Sweepstakes

May 12, 2016

The sweep by Donald Trump of the last six primaries (and Cruz and Kasich's suspensions) portends a Trump nomination in Cleveland. The next big question is what Republican (and that in itself may be an assumption, based upon Ben Carson’s recent comments) will want to put his or her chips on the table to see if Donald picks them up? (A side note: Were the campaign suspensions evidence of lingering hope?)

Herbert London: Trump Foreign Policy

May 11, 2016

Now that Trump is the presumptive Republican candidate for president, a review of his recent foreign policy position seems warranted. Trump played his presidential “part” well, to paraphrase his newly appointed aide, Charlie Manaford in a speech that was a serious attempt to articulate his foreign policy stance.

Stephen Gottlieb: Universalism Vs. The What-About-Mes

May 10, 2016

This primary season has made plain Americans’ dissatisfaction with American politics – dissatisfaction because someone else seems to be getting all the goodies and concern. The right wing thinks the poor are the government’s favorites. The left wing sees its wages and taxes mostly benefitting the super wealthy. Both Sanders and Trump mined the political backlash from special interest politics. Trump’s apparent nomination increases the urgency for both parties to respond to this problem.

Blair Horner: And In Other News

May 9, 2016

As New York’s ethics problems continue to dominate headlines, other important issues are getting short shrift.   Just one such issue is the quality of drinking water supplies – particularly those found in New York’s schools.

Michael Meeropol: Of Trump And The Bernie Vote

May 6, 2016

My wife, Annie, and I just spent a couple of weeks in Europe.  Virtually every European we met asked us incredulously, “are we looking at a President Trump?”This was particularly true in Great Britain which recently debated keeping him out of the country because he is a purveyor of hatred. Returning home we were confronted with headlines that suggested the possibility that Trump could pick up some Bernie Sanders supporters because both men are “anti-establishment” and oppose “bad” trade deals that cost American jobs.

The Treasury Department’s recent announcement to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill drew a quick response from Donald Trump, who called it unbridled “political correctness.”

Sean Philpott-Jones: Half-And-Half Wits

May 5, 2016

I lost a friend last week. I didn’t lose her in the physical sense. She didn’t pass away or move to the other side of the globe. Rather, after a disturbing online exchange, I made the decision to, in the words of Gwyneth Paltrow, ‘consciously uncouple’ myself from her.

Herbert London: Saudi Arabia - U.S. Foe And Friend

May 4, 2016

In the case of China it is not clear if they are foe or friend with an argument to be made on both sides of the issue. In the case of Saudi Arabia there is little doubt it is foe and friend, a matter that has led to extraordinary confusion.

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