Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

The swirling controversies and prognostications about the future of embattled Governor Cuomo have dominated New York headlines.  One of the big questions has been, “How will the governor and state lawmakers work together to hammer out a new state budget due by the end of this month?”

It looks like the honeymoon is over for President Biden, as he is drawing heat for not punishing Saudi Arabia for the actions of the crown Prince, relative to the Khashoggi murder, and his appointment for OMB Director has been withdrawn

Ralph Gardner Jr: Vaccinated

Mar 6, 2021
Vaccine site at Hudson Valley Community College’s McDonough Sports Complex
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Sometimes you don’t see the patterns in life until you look back from a distance. Other times you can detect them immediately. Pandemics have a way of crystallizing things, of offering contour to an occasionally nonsensical world. Concerns about one’s demise, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, not only tends wonderfully to concentrate the mind but also to divide its existence into before, during and after.

I wonder how many readers have heard of N. Gregory Mankiw.   He had a very distinguished career as a macro-economist in the 1980s and then in the 1990s was given a $1.4 million advance to write a textbook in Principles of Economics.  This was almost three times the previous high advance and it made him a celebrity.  That, plus his commitment to “Republican” principles of economics --- the negative effects of high marginal tax rates, the blame of persistent unemployment on the inability of prices to adjust completely – led to his being appointed head of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers in 2003.   He is now back teaching at Harvard and writes a regular column for the NY Times Sunday Business section.

Everyone talks about needing a national conversation. We’ve been hearing that for a long time. But without real proposals it’s either just talk or it’s an attack on the other guys for not listening. Mostly it’s aimed to tell decent folk to listen to extremists who of course already know everything. I love the Republican twist – blaming Democrats for Republican intransigence. Talk or attack, it’s not constructive without mechanisms to make it come about.  How?

Blair Horner: Albany Is Once Again In Turmoil

Mar 1, 2021

February was not a kind month to the governor.  Earlier, the state Attorney General issued a report that documented that the Administration had significantly undercounted COVID deaths in nursing homes.  That revelation and the Administration’s admission that they had withheld data from the Legislature and the public roiled the Capitol and became Albany’s focus. 

It was recently reported in the Press Republican that the Democratic and Republican County Committees have agreed to hold a joint event for the signing of petitions in Clinton County.  This is an excellent example of a mature common-sense activity that is in the public interest by political parties.  If this could be extended to voter registration and other voting related activities it would certainly be extremely beneficial.  Kudos go to the two County Committees and their Chairs Clark Currier (R) and Jerry Marking (D) for their actions, and we can only hope that other counties take-up this unique approach which can only benefit Parties’ local citizens’ and democracy, in general.

Photo of Alan Chartock, WAMC's President and CEO.
Eric Korenman / Eric Korenman

Dr. Alan Miller, a man who had an outsized impact on the formation of the version of WAMC you’re listening to today, has died. 

WAMC's President and CEO Dr. Alan Chartock joined host Lucas Willard on Midday Magazine on Saturday to share his story of meeting Dr. Miller on a train in 1979.  You can also read more about Dr. Miller's influence on WAMC in our March program guide. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Love At A Distance

Feb 27, 2021
The writer's daughter Gracie Gardner and her grandmother
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Disaster comes in different forms and orders of magnitude. I won’t attempt to define them here except for one: catastrophes that you’re happy your parents weren’t alive to see. That’s an admittedly personal and subjective metric. And generally more applicable to those of us of a certain age whose parents are less likely to be around. But some events are so profound and disturbing you’re glad your mother and father were spared the experience.

Bryan Griffin: Three Dangerous Trends In Our Politics

Feb 24, 2021

It’s time to speak plainly about some of the most dangerous trends of our current political climate.

Before we leave Black history month, I want to address what we used to call brotherhood – I’ve looked for a gender-neutral term but I haven’t found one with the same resonance so I hope you’ll understand my use of the older term.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Walking On Water

Feb 23, 2021

As an avid winter hiker, one of my favorite endeavors is walking across local bodies of frozen water.  From the tiny frog ponds of Delmar’s Pine Hollow Arboretum to the majestic spaces of Saratoga Lake, if there is a frozen body of water that I can safely traverse, I will cross it.  My wife and I recently escaped from the COVID-imposed boredom of our Albany home to Saratoga for what we called a “venue-cation.” We were working, but in someone else’s house, with four walls different from our own and a massive natural ice rink in our backyard beckoning to me to hike across it.

The Cuomo Administration has been taking a beating in the media over its months-long refusal to disclose public information to reporters and watchdog groups about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and other similar non-hospital settings.  The Legislature, a co-equal branch of government, had also been stonewalled by the Cuomo Administration.  Republicans have called for the governor to be impeached and for a special session to be called to address the Administration’s failures.  Democrats have threatened to subpoena Administration officials and to hold public hearings on the issue.

In some local AG news, the Willsboro Research Farm (Willsboro New York) is currently doing research on super fruits which is being funded by the farmer driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.  This spring they will focus on elderberries with American and European varieties being planted, alongside already established juneberry, erronea and honeyberry, which are also undergoing trials at the Willsboro farm.  Ninety-five percent of elderberries consumed in the United States are imported from Europe so there is an opportunity for American growers to build a substantial domestic market.  The four fruits mentioned above are known as super fruits for their high phytonutrient and antioxidant content.  The results of the trial so far indicate that these four berries have adapted well to the northern New York climate.  Hopefully, this gives an opportunity to our farmers to develop yet another crop which will help create economic stability. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Pleasure Of A Well-Sharpened Pencil

Feb 20, 2021
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Life, especially these days, turns on the ability to appreciate small pleasures. But might there be pleasures too small to appreciate? And even if not, then too small to waste listeners’ time by crafting a commentary about them? My wife thought so when I told her the subject of this week’s analysis. I think not, though a bit of justification may be required because is there any more solemn responsibility than not boring people within the sound of your voice?

The House of Representatives is getting ready to pass the American Rescue Plan. This is the $1.9 trillion dollar proposal from the Biden Administration to provide relief payments to individuals, expanded unemployment benefits, an expansion of the child tax credit, aid to state and local governments, an increase in the minimum wage and other expenditures.

Fred Kowal: An Ambitious Plan For SUNY

Feb 17, 2021

Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, America is inching toward the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

This should be a time to celebrate the romance of Valentine’s Day. My wife and I have now celebrated 54 as husband and wife, and we had a lovely dinner brought to our door. But I’m still overwhelmed by what happened Saturday.

Commentator Bill Owens shares his analysis of news and current events.

Blair Horner: NY Needs To Overhaul Its Elections

Feb 15, 2021

Last week, more than three months after the November 2020 election, a winner was finally chosen in the nation’s only undecided Congressional race.  In Central New York’s Congressional District 22, Claudia Tenney was declared the winner with a razor thin margin of victory over incumbent Representative Anthony Brindisi.  In addition to a new Representative, the race brought disturbing news to New Yorkers: The close scrutiny of the ballots identified serious flaws in the way the state runs its elections.

Photo of Alan Chartock, WAMC's President and CEO.
Eric Korenman / Eric Korenman

WAMC's political observer Dr. Alan Chartock discusses the Senate acquittal of former President Donald Trump.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Hunting For A Chocolate Heart

Feb 13, 2021
Jim Levulis / WAMC

I paid a visit Monday afternoon to Vasilow’s. That’s my go-to, old-fashioned, tin ceiling candy store in Hudson, NY and yearly Valentine’s Day provisioner. I was trying to get a jump on the holiday not because I feared a run on their homemade milk and dark chocolate assortment in heart-shaped boxes, the way there was on Christmas trees over the holidays, but because I was sending the gift to my daughter in western Canada and I wanted it to arrive before Valentine’s Day.

Bryan Griffin: The Decisionmakers

Feb 10, 2021

On February 4th, Molly Ball writing for Time Magazine wrote an article titled “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election.”

Stephen Gottlieb: The Senate

Feb 9, 2021

The “small” states at the Constitutional Convention insisted on equal representation in the Senate, which became two votes per state. As a result, a relatively small part of the American population can block what the rest of us want to do. For most of our history that meant that states which tried to break the US up by seceding and going to war on our country have been able to resist the equal rights and opportunity that the rest of us tried to secure for all Americans.

With over a decade in office, through his control of the budget process and state agencies, Governor Cuomo owns New York’s higher education policy.  As lawmakers considered his eleventh annual budget last week, there was a focus on the increasingly precarious financial situation for some of New York’s colleges and universities.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Modest Silver Lining

Feb 6, 2021
Ralph Gardner Jr.

The pandemic rages on, but with vaccines on the way and already in a bunch of arms, is it too soon to feel sentimental about small, discreet aspects of the plague? That thought occurred to me as I paused, while walking through the woods with our dog last week. Or was it the week before? That was, is, one of the aspects of the pandemic that might just be construed as beneficial. It’s easy to forget what day of the week it is because things like appointments feel a vestige of a different, more frantic era.

On January 26 released a report entitled “10 months into the crisis:  660 Billionaires see wealth rise 40%”.   The information contained in that report is quite dramatic.

Stephen Gottlieb: Section 230 And Free Speech

Feb 2, 2021

The spread of false claims, conspiracy theories, and organization for events at which people have shown up armed at state houses and the U.S. Capital, has led to a lot of commentary about section 230 of the 1996 copyright revisions. That section reads:

Andrew Pallotta: A Matter Of Will

Feb 2, 2021

While this legislative session will look different than previous years, the goal of my organization will be exactly the same. We will continue to highlight the need to fully fund public schools and colleges. This year, in particular, the need is overwhelming. The coronavirus has stretched many education budgets to the breaking point.

The big news in Albany last week was the dramatic report released by the New York State Attorney General’s office.  The report examined the Cuomo Administration’s estimates on the number of nursing home patients who died due to COVID-19.