Commentary & Opinion

Syria has become the “sick man” of the Middle East, a territory laden with death and homelessness. In 2014 erstwhile president Barak Obama invited the Russians into the region to control the use of poison gas by their surrogate Bashar Assad. In 2015, as the Russians intervention expanded President Obama said this “is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire.” Senator McCain responded on the Senate floor that the policy of the Obama administration “replaced the risk of action with the perils of inaction.”


WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock shares his thoughts on the Trump administration's immigration policies.

Stephen Gottlieb: Whitford Versus Gill

Jun 19, 2018

Commentators have treated the Court’s decision in Whitford v. Gill, the Wisconsin gerrymandering case, as just a technical decision, a delay in getting a substantive decision out of the Court. They’re nuts and I’m furious.

Not satisfied with taking away health insurance coverage for over 3 million Americans, last week the Trump Administration said it wanted to take away coverage from more.  While Americans have been distracted by the scandals, investigations, and policy flip flops, the Administration and its allies in the Congress have never been deterred from one deadly mission – to strip away health insurance coverage from millions of Americans.

David Nightingale: Some Old Cars

Jun 17, 2018
64 Chevrolet Corvair Monza
Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA / Wikimedia Commons

My first US car, bought in 1965, was a 2nd hand Chevy Corvair.  Ralph Nader, in his book “Unsafe at any speed”, famously slanged the Corvair – and production was discontinued around 1969. Recently, out in the countryside, I saw half a dozen of them rusting away behind someone’s house.

Ralph Gardner Jr: No Need For Speed

Jun 16, 2018

I’m more of the bird watching type than the racecar driving type. Beauty and tranquility, peaceful walks in the woods are my thing, rather than roaring around a race track at a hundred thirty miles an hour.

Thank You!

Jun 14, 2018

Thanks to you, the June Fund Drive has come and gone. The Locked Box once again proved that at a time of real turmoil and chaos in this country, a lot of people were able to put their money and their good wishes into a place that would ensure the news and the best in culture and community would face as little interruption as possible. 

Keith Strudler: The Same Page

Jun 13, 2018

In a marriage, or really any relationship, it’s important to be on the same page. To know what the other person thinks, or what they want to do. For example, when you’re looking to buy a new house, it’s important to know how you define “move in ready,” and to have that definition negotiated before you’re touring homes with a realtor. I may know this from experience.

The factors behind the agenda are all too visible.

First, President Trump is committed to a North Korea without nuclear weapons, albeit some backsliding on the matter may be in the discussion, particularly the time-table.

In recent days the President and some of his attorneys have asserted that the President can pardon himself in the Department of Justice’s ongoing obstruction of justice investigation.  These statements are immediately followed by a qualification that the President has done nothing wrong, and therefore, does not need to pardon himself.  Constitutional scholars are torn on the extent of the President’s pardon powers as to him or herself, and whether or not the President can be indicted. 

Blair Horner: Another NY Corruption Trial Begins

Jun 11, 2018

It started three and a half years ago with a news report from the Investigative Post, a Buffalo-based media outlet.  In its review of the so-called “Buffalo Billion” economic development programs, the Investigative Post identified an incredible clause in one of the state’s bid offerings that would allow spending on construction projects.

Ralph Gardner Jr: No Hostility Allowed

Jun 9, 2018
Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett and Congressman John Faso (NY-19) at guns and school safety discussion at Hudson High School
Enid Futterman

I held a debate last Friday. The debate was whether to have a drink on my sundeck on a lovely spring evening or go to Hudson High School for a discussion about guns.

Bill Owens: What's Up With The GOP And Farmers?

Jun 7, 2018

Maybe it’s not the GOP, but the Trump administration whose proposals on tax reform, trade, immigration and regulation are causing me to wonder, what’s up with the GOP and Farmers.? The latest attack on farmers occurred on May 17th, when the House Freedom Caucus defeated the farm bill. The reason given by the Freedom Caucus was its desire for a vote on a strict immigration law, and, apparently, there was concern that Speaker Ryan would be unable to deliver on the promise, of a vote, if they voted for the farm bill.

Herbert London: Madeline Albright’s Fascism

Jun 6, 2018

With great fanfare Madeline Albright’s book, Fascism: A Warning, is being circulated to the leading lights in the publishing world. As the New York Times noted, “Who better to address these questions than Albright, whose life was shaped by fascism and whose contribution to the cultivation of democracy as a stateswoman and private citizen is unparalleled.”

I have been thinking about all the blue-collar workers who believed that Donald Trump would do a great deal for them.

The science is clear:  Human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas – is heating up the planet in ways that have never been seen in recorded history.  According to the third U.S. National Climate Assessment, “Global climate is changing and this is apparent across the United States in a wide range of observations.  The global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.”

Rob Edelman: Bobby Kennedy...And Joe McCarthy

Jun 4, 2018

These days, there is plenty of media hype surrounding the assassination of Robert Kennedy, which was exactly a half-century ago. Now of course, had he not been murdered, he just may have been elected to the U.S. presidency in 1968, and massive amounts of American history might have been altered. However, the one name that presently is popping into my mind is neither Bobby nor his brother, President John F. Kennedy. It is, of all people, Joseph McCarthy, the junior senator from Wisconsin. The connection here is that Bobby Kennedy, as a young lawyer, was an assistant council to the Senate committee chaired by McCarthy.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Rural Resident

Jun 2, 2018
A tribute to Timothy Dunleavy
Ralph Gardner Jr

We ran into a friend as we arrived last Friday for the inaugural Design Hudson Festival. The event, spread over Memorial Day weekend, featured homes reimagined by local interior designers.

My wife Annie and I are no doubt like many listeners to WAMC.   We find ourselves watching a lot of television –  especially the cable network MSNBC that feature exposes of the latest atrocities committed by Trump, his cabinet and the Republicans in Congress.  This, unfortunately, requires us to constantly watch Trump himself.   This is true even on the more “balanced” network CNN.   (We don’t think we could stomach watching FOX, but we occasionally enjoy the late night comedians and the biting critics such as Trevor Noah of Comedy Central, Samantha Bee on TBS and John Oliver.)

Ben Downing: Investing In Education

May 31, 2018

The debate about UMass Amherst’s acquisition of Mt. Ida College is an important one, but it ignores an unavoidable truth - Massachusetts has failed to prioritize and invest in public higher education for a generation. That failure has burdened thousands of students across Massachusetts and deterred countless more from seeking to improve themselves. That failure has left each of the 29 campuses - 5 UMass branches, 9 State Universities and Colleges, 15 Community Colleges - to fend for themselves. That failure has weakened Massachusetts. If we want to lessen economic inequality and create a stronger, fairer economy, we must invest to create a world-class, affordable public higher education system.

Herbert London: The Emerging Constitutional Crisis

May 30, 2018

Clandestine activity in the CIA is designed to promote U.S. interests abroad and when occasion undermining governments hostile to our interests and to the local populace. Who would have guessed that this organization would use its assets to undermine a president of the United States perceived as a threat to their interests? In a manner unprecedented in American history, the CIA and the FBI conspired to undermine the presidency of a duly elected figure who captured 57 percent of the electoral vote.

Once again, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court demonstrates the Court’s and the president’s hostility to worker rights. In cases testing whether companies can require their employees to sign agreements that abandon any right to go to court or bring class actions, Gorsuch’s opinion for the Court sides with the companies. That prevents employees from pooling their resources when contemplating expensive litigation.

Blair Horner: June In Albany

May 28, 2018

June is a big month in Albany.  After Memorial Day, lawmakers have just 13 days in their schedule to wrap up the legislative session.  In June of last year, the state Senate and the state Assembly each approved about 2/3 of all bills passed during the entire 6-month session.  When it comes to moving on legislation, June is the biggest month.

David Nightingale: The Right To Die

May 27, 2018

We don’t generally like to look at the end of life. Once, long ago, when a young mathematician friend was dying of leukemia, and a bone marrow match had not been found, I was invited to visit him and his small children at home – and I was unable to accept that this was it. As I left I said cheerily, “OK, see you next week”. To my shame, I had been in denial.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Student Of The Seasons

May 26, 2018
Callery Pear petals littering a driveway
Ralph Gardner, Jr

As someone who’s been visiting the Hudson Valley since the 1960’s, and religiously since the late Seventies when my grandparents passed away and I assumed management of the house where we live today, here’s a small insight from an old-timer: when it comes to nature no two years are alike. 

Andrew Pallotta: Fix The Broken Teacher Evaluation System

May 25, 2018

New York’s teacher evaluation system is broken – and now is the time to fix it.

Parents and educators remain angry and frustrated.  They are demanding an end to the state’s flawed evaluation system – a system which over-emphasizes standardized testing and which misuses tests to rank and sort teachers.  They want more local control, and a return to the days when schools could focus on teaching and learning … not endless test preparation.

Fred Kowal: Guns

May 24, 2018

Another school, another shooting.

Last week, eight students and two teachers were gunned down at the Santa Fe High School in Texas. Arrested was a 17-year-old student, who police say taunted and terrorized his victims before his capture—after a 25-minute shootout with police.

North Korea’s abrupt cancellation of talks with the South this week undoubtedly weakens prospects for a June summit with the United States and underscores the volatility of relations on the Korean peninsula. Moreover, this decision by Kim Jung-un was precipitated by the joint military activity between South Korea and the U.S. planned months earlier with the North Korean government fully aware of the maneuvers. Was Kim using this matter to secure certain negotiating advantages with the U.S.?

Stephen Gottlieb: Are We Overplaying Our Hand?

May 22, 2018

I’ve tried to state these comments not in all or nothing terms but in more realistic degrees. My question is what happens to the extent that a country overplays its hand?

Blair Horner: Health Care In New York

May 21, 2018

None of us wants to think about this, but getting good medical care isn’t a sure thing.  While the vast majority of providers meet minimum requirements or better, many Americans are injured or killed by the medical care they receive.