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Commentary & Opinion

It is hard not to despair about the looming climate catastrophe caused by global warming.  The world keeps moving past warnings and climate milestones and the nation’s political processes seem incapable of taking the necessary aggressive actions.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has failed to form a government which opens the door to the opposition to take a crack at forming a government potentially ending Mr. Netanyahu’s long running stint as Prime Minister.  Three prior attempts by the opposition at forming a government, of course, have failed, and so how this turns out is truly an unknown.  Obviously, this will have great impact on Israel, but also the entire Middle East if this does result in the end of Mr. Netanyahu’s reign, and of course, could have dire consequences for him in his current court proceeding.  The Middle East never ceases to surprise.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Learning To Navigate The Subway Again

May 8, 2021
New York City subway tunnel
Gwen Norton

New York City’s subway system is one of its undersung glories. Yes, that subway system. It may not be Earth’s most aesthetically pleasing environment but when the trains are running smoothly – I realize that’s a big “if” – there’s no speedier way to get from one part of town to another. Drop into the subway on the Upper East or West Side and you can be on Wall Street, at the lower tip of Manhattan, twenty minutes later.

On April 28, President Biden spoke to Congress. He presented arguments in favor of his two big infrastructure proposals: The American Jobs Act and what he referred to as the Families Plan.

Stephen Gottlieb: For A Healthy World

May 4, 2021

One of the effects of serving abroad, call it benefit or burden, is that one sees the relics of lost pasts, civilizations that have destroyed themselves by overusing the resources available to them or by using materials that poisoned the community. It’s quaint, and interesting, but the lesson is humility – we can destroy ourselves, and may be doing it.

We’re a year into the coronavirus pandemic and things are looking up at last.

Blair Horner: NY State Loses Clout In Washington

May 3, 2021

Under the U.S. Constitution, every 10 years since 1790 the nation conducts a census to determine the number of its inhabitants and then adjusts political boundaries according to demographic changes over the decade.  The state Legislature decides how to draw the maps for Congressional and state legislative districts, with the governor approving or vetoing the lines.

The US has decided to send millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses overseas in light of the crisis which has developed in India, in addition to oxygen shipments are also being readied and the US is planning to do more for developing countries to confront the pandemic.  This is certainly a new development from the US perspective, in part, I suspect because we are beginning to see resistance to 2nd shots, but also, general resistance to the vaccine.  Certainly, it is not uncommon in the US to have vaccine resistance, this is just the latest forum in that ongoing battle.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Reading The Tea Leaves In Trash

May 1, 2021
A clean country road
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Good news arrived with Earth Day 2021’s trash collection ritual.  Every year, on or about Earth Day, I don a pair of gloves, nab my EZ reach professional claw grabber, line a shopping cart with a heavy duty contractor bag, and travel up and down our road collecting the previous twelve months’ litter.

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WAMC listeners had a lot on their minds this week. Here are this week's highlights from the WAMC Listener Comment Line.

Bryan Griffin: We Need A More Forgiving Society

Apr 28, 2021

I want to live in a forgiving society. And I believe that most other Americans do, as well.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Meaning Of The Chauvin Verdict

Apr 27, 2021

Thank heavens Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. The jury came back relatively quickly which signaled to many of us that they had reached a guilty verdict. Hung juries take a long time. This jury was obviously convinced by the video.

Andrew Pallotta: Coming Back Stronger

Apr 27, 2021

To say that the past year has been tough would be an understatement. We’re weathering a once-in-a-generation pandemic that continues to stretch us all to our limits, particularly our health care workers and educators. But the state budget approved earlier this month brings hope for a brighter future for education and working families in New York state.

Blair Horner: Earth Week 2021

Apr 26, 2021

April 22nd was Earth Day.  For over five decades, the world has marked Earth Day as a time to reflect on the state of the environment and to debate how best to improve the only habitat we have.

The soft wood lumber dispute with Canada continues to hang around in trade corridors. The reality is that soft wood lumber is necessary to construct homes and the US produces 70% of what it needs (which may even be less if the Biden administration is successful in developing a program to build more energy efficient homes). Canada supplies the bulk of the remaining lumber, and thus, is a necessary economic partner in this process. Canadians hope that this gives them some edge in terms of reaching a resolution of this knotty issue.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Birding For Mental Health

Apr 24, 2021
The spring’s first Rose-breasted grosbeak in 2020
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Perhaps you’re familiar with eBird. It’s an online database run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where you can record the birds you’ve observed and check out what your neighbors have been seeing. I know bird watching isn’t for everyone. Society has become increasingly riven and not just between Democrats and Republicans. But also between those who are passionate about birds and those who aren’t.

On April 14, the first page of the Business Section of the New York Times announced that hundreds of executives, corporations, non-profits, educational institutions and prominent law firms had come together to, in the Times’ words “unite to oppose voting limits.”

Stephen Gottlieb: Racial Solidarity Helps All

Apr 20, 2021

Too many whites lack the security of a livable wage because so many resist letting African-Americans have it. Somehow whites think they’ll do better if Blacks don’t. That’s a mistake. White craftsmen and laborers became abolitionists because competing with slave labor dragged their earnings down. The American labor movement understood the importance of unity. Arthur J. Goldberg, then General Counsel of the Congress of Industrial Organizations or CIO, filed a brief supporting integration in Brown v. Board of Education on behalf of the union, which shortly merged to form the AFL-CIO. Full disclosure, at law school, I argued in moot court in front of then Justice Goldberg and learned at close range the power of his mind and instincts.

New York lawmakers return this week after a break following passage of the state budget in early April.  There are several big issues to tackle, all of which will be debated under the shadow cast by the Assembly’s impeachment inquiry and the Attorney General’s investigation of the governor’s actions.

Nicole Acevedo: Reinventing The American Dream

Apr 19, 2021

Poet Amanda Gorman became a household name following her performance at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration earlier this year. Western New England University student Nicole Acevedo shares her thoughts on Gorman’s words. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Farewell To An Old Friend

Apr 17, 2021
The writer’s dearly departed American Crown range
Ralph Gardner Jr.

We lost a friend, almost a family member, Tuesday afternoon. It’s not what you’re probably thinking. It wasn’t a person. It wasn’t even a pet. It was an appliance – our loyal, broad shouldered early Eighties 40” six-burner, double oven, double broiler American Crown gas range.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Adam's Absence

Apr 16, 2021

A couple of weeks ago, on Holocaust Memorial Day, I was doing a project with my middle school students for our memorial assembly.  One of them had finished his work, so I showed him a poem by the renowned Israeli Holocaust survivor and writer, Dan Pagis.  Entitled Written In Pencil In the Sealed Railway Car, this haunting poem imagines the biblical character, Eve, as a victim of Nazi brutality, quickly scribbling an unfinished note to the world as she is carried off to a concentration camp in a cattle car:

Audrey Kupferberg: Martin Eden

Apr 15, 2021
Audrey Kupferberg

Martin Eden, is an artfully-conceived Italian film that was released by Kino Lorber in late 2020 and is available on various formats, including streaming.  It’s based on a 1909 novel by Jack London, directed by Pietro Marcello, and stars Luca Marinelli.  It was shot on location in Naples, but it’s difficult to take in the various pleasing and unsightly districts of that city when Marinelli is on the screen.  This actor is captivating.  His deep blue eyes, slicked dark hair, and powerful squared features dominate the many scenes in which Marcello shoots him in close-up. 

The American federalist system, an intentional and inspired design of our founding fathers, gives us fifty testing grounds for government. Over a year into the COVID pandemic, we have the benefit of being able to assess and weigh fifty experimental approaches to dealing with a viral outbreak against one another.

Stephen Gottlieb: Living With Complexity

Apr 13, 2021

A friend invited me to a discussion of blasphemy in Islamic law. Watching, I realized that the issue was sparked by extremist reactions to complexity, modernity and changes that make our lives more complex, and affect all of us, all religions, races, and nationalities.

Bill Everhart: Baker Gives Democrats An Opening

Apr 13, 2021
Bill Everhart
Josh Landes / WAMC

Twice-elected Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has consistently polled high enough to win the unofficial title of nation’s most popular governor. Controversy over his recent handling of the COVID-19 crisis has deflated those numbers, however, and raised questions about how the Republican will fare if he runs for a third term next year.

Last week, state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo finally wrapped up a budget.  As it has in the past, the agreement was days past the deadline for the beginning of the new fiscal year – April 1st – but it was approved in time to spare state workers and the public of an interruption in services or paychecks.  In terms of the timing of the agreement, this year was not exceptional.

Secretary Yellen is pushing for a global minimum tax rate for multi-national corporations.  This is all part of the discussion regarding President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure program.  Many countries, such as Ireland, have very low tax rates which obviously draw multi-national corporations to their shores to take advantage of these rates, and in particular, intellectual property can easily be parked in those jurisdictions with royalties paid by the parent entities to the Irish corporation, and thus, we see dramatically reduced overall tax bills associated with these transactions.  Taking Ireland as an example, would it agree to a minimum tax rate which was significantly higher than the one they currently utilize to attract business, seems somewhat unlikely to me unless there is another carrot out there which is being offered.  The pitch being made by Ms. Yellen is best summarized in the following quote from her subsidiary: “It is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in the central public goods, and respond to crisis, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.”  This is certainly a lofty proposition, and it will be interesting to see how it is not only received, but acted upon, or not to.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Live Performance, Finally

Apr 10, 2021
Irina Muresanu, Max Levinson and Yehuda Hanani performing at the Mahaiwe theater in April 7, 2021
Ralph Gardner Jr.

When opera comes back it’s going to be big. I’m not even a particular opera fan but that thought crossed my mind as I watched cellist Yehuda Hanani and his fellow musicians perform several works, among them Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2, at Great Barrington’s beautifully restored Mahaiwe Theater Wednesday afternoon. That’s the piece whose third movement includes Chopin’s famous funeral march.

I assume everyone reading this already knows the basis of the Republican opposition to the Infrastructure Bill proposed by President Biden. One after the other, Republicans are falling all over themselves asserting that it goes “way beyond infrastructure.” For example, let’s take South Dakota Governor, Kristi Noem who said, "I was shocked by how much doesn't go into infrastructure.