Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

John Faso: New York's Bail Reform Mess

Feb 25, 2020

Last Friday, Albany County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a 23-year old Schenectady man for driving without a license.  According to the Albany Times Union, the man’s license had been suspended 26—yes 26— times.  Such aggravated unlicensed operation is a felony under New York law.  The license suspensions had been issued because the driver repeatedly failed to pay fines and appear in court over the past three years. 

State lawmakers return from their Presidents’ Week “mini-break” and begin to seriously debate the next state budget.  New York’s fiscal year starts on April first, thus giving Albany 5 weeks to negotiate the proposed $178 billion state budget.

Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday after much consternation arising out of the Justice Department’s action in response to a tweet from Mr. Trump (maybe?) and Mr. Barr coming under intense pressure after making comments in the news about his desire that Mr. Trump cease criticizing the DOJ and that those actions were making his job impossible.  It’s very difficult to know what the game really is with Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr.  The results of Mr. Stone’s sentencing hearing indicated to me that the Court has ignored the noise from the President and from Mr. Barr.  The Judge issued an independent sentence.  Where the Justice Department goes from here is truly concerning.  Mr. Barr seems to have bent over backwards to help Mr. Trump on an ongoing basis, yet he seemed to take umbrage at recent comments by Mr. Trump.  We will see where all this takes us, but maybe it’s to a new Attorney General.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Take A Tree To Lunch

Feb 22, 2020
Tree on Central Avenue in Albany, NY
Jackie Orchard / WAMC

Maybe it’s because of the book I’m reading at the moment – The Overstory by Richard Powers – as well as the current transgressions against life in general and nature in particular but when I saw a bunch of mature trees slayed to make way for new, bigger power lines near our home in Columbia County it hit me hard.

In January, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp from its horrific Nazi founders. The director of the museum, Piotr Cywinski, made the following remark:

Stephen Gottlieb: Political Dream Team

Feb 18, 2020

I keep hearing people who should know better, chattering about Democrats not having good candidates for the White House. Just the reverse, there are too many. In fact, each and every one is terrific. Except for primary rules that make them competitors, this would be the political Dream Team ready to wipe away all opposition as if it were the ‘92 Olympics.

Last week, Governor Cuomo made a push for environmental initiatives contained in his budget plan.  The governor advanced what he described as an “historic $33 billion, five-year commitment to fight climate change.”

Dr. Alan Chartock
Eric Korenman

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock discusses worries surrounding Nevada's Democratic presidential caucus and the role of public media in today's political landscape.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The News From Over The Rainbow

Feb 15, 2020
Lucy Gardner
Ralph Gardner Jr

For a news junkie, I picked one heck of a week to go away. Trump got acquitted. The coronavirus, since named COVID-19, continued to spread. The Iowa caucuses imploded, with no clear winner emerging from the dust and debris. If I were one of the leading candidates I’d be upset, too. So much for the importance of a good ground game.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Going Digital

Feb 13, 2020

A friend of mine is dragging me kicking and screaming into creating a social media presence.  Like a personal trainer who refuses to let his lazy,  wannabe-buff client off the hook, he’s pushing me to make waves in the endless seas of social media because I’ve asked him to do this.  Truth be told, at this stage of my career, I need to do this. 

The cast of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank” at Russell Sage College
Tamara Hansen / Russell Sage College

TROY - Seeing “The Diary of Anne Frank” at Russell Sage College in Troy and “The New Colossus” at Proctors in Schenectady, within a 24 hour period can be a jarring and terrifying experience.  Both plays tell of people trying to save themselves from brutal governments who rule through fear and brutality.

Stephen Gottlieb: Too Liberal?

Feb 11, 2020

People claim Elizabeth and Bernie are too liberal, that their projects would beggar the country, so we can’t select them.

Hank Greenberg: It's Time To Legalize Pot In NY

Feb 11, 2020

You may be surprised to hear that the New York State Bar Association supports the legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana.

Last week, as the state budget hearings continued, lawmakers heard pleas from academics, faculty and students that higher educational institutions are struggling, and that New York’s public policies make things worse.

Brexit was completed last week, sort of, and now the negotiations for what type of trade deal Britain will have with the EU takes hold.  Mr. Johnson indicated that Britain will not accept demands from the EU to comply with its regulations or the rulings of its court.  He has previously indicated that there are other areas that he would not agree to, as well.  Mr. Johnson has also asserted that Britain is entitled to a similar deal to that signed with Canada which the EU has failed to respond to, to date.  There are many reasons why the EU would not afford Britain the same deal as Canada.  Simultaneously, Mr. Johnson continues to assert that Britain will prosper even without a deal.  I am not sure the British business community is in sync with that analysis, of course, then again, that assumes that Mr. Johnson analyzed his statements.

David Nightingale: Ernst Mach (1838 – 1916)

Feb 9, 2020
Ernst Mach, 1902
H. F. Jütte / Public Domain,

Everyone has heard of a fast plane having its speed described in terms of its Mach number. Mach 2, for example, means twice the speed of sound in air, Mach 3 is three times, and so on.

I didn’t watch the State of the Union.    I am glad I didn’t.   I cannot imagine the frustration of Democrats who sat there (some couldn’t take it and walked out --- a few decided to boycott it) listening to lie after lie after lie.

We are beginning a season of renewal. It’s the start of the New Year and the start of the new state legislative session. In his State of the State address earlier this month, the governor shared his economic vision for the year ahead. And in his budget proposal last week, he offered his plan for funding those priorities. 

The Israeli-Palestinian peace plan proposed by the Trump Administration last week is a serious offer at a mutually beneficial solution to a long-time conflict. However, the Palestinians aren’t serious.

I’ve been writing about gerrymandering and election law since I was in law school, long enough to feel very discouraged. When Anthony Kennedy didn’t take advantage of his last crack at gerrymandering while still on the U.S. Supreme Court, after having teased us for years about his willingness to deal with it, I was sad to the core of my being. Ezra Klein’s “Polarization and the Parties” which came out a week ago in the Sunday Times galvanized my thinking, if not my hopes.

2020 Presidential Election: The Wall Street Journal reported recently on the biggest swing county in Iowa, which is Howard County.  It went for President Obama twice, and then for President Trump, in all instances by 20 points. The county is heavily independent and one that could clearly tip the scales in who takes Iowa in the general election.  The Journal reported that many of those who voted for President Trump in 2016 are still leaning his way, although not all, and what was more interesting was that those voters crossed party lines.  We still have 10 months to go before the election, and almost anything can happen with the people of Howard County focusing on healthcare and trade more than virtually any other issues.  Hopefully, the Journal will continue to report on polling trends in that county so we can get a better picture as we get closer. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: And A Very Happy Chinese New Year

Feb 1, 2020
Carrie Chen
Ralph Gardner Jr

My concerns about the Chinese New Year had nothing to do with the coronavirus. My fear was that nobody would invite me to celebrate the holiday.

Keep It Going

Jan 31, 2020

Here comes the Fund Drive. It’s where we live and I mean where all of us who care about this radio station live. We all know that there can be no WAMC unless we all pull together. My job is to be the guy in the back of the crew boat who yells at the top of his voice, “Pull!” I’m yelling and I’m yelling loudly because I know and you kow that we HAVE to do it.

Stephen Gottlieb: Kangaroo Court For Whitewash

Jan 28, 2020

Republicans charge Democrats with trying to impeach Trump since the day he took office, never mentioning that Trump announced his intention to violate the Constitution’s prohibition on foreign corrupt influence, the emoluments clause, from day one. Democrats were apparently supposed to do their patriotic duty by lying down and rolling over. Now we’re involved in a trial of exactly what the clause prohibited – foreign corrupt influence, that affected our handling of national defense, and may have affected much more. Foreign corrupt influence is serious.

Blair Horner: Big Tobacco Strikes Back

Jan 27, 2020

On January 11, 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General issued his first report on the dangers of smoking.  Based on more than 7,000 articles relating to smoking and disease then available in the medical literature, the Surgeon General’s report concluded that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer. 

An Iranian lawmaker apparently has placed a $3 million bounty on President Trump’s head.  The is certainly an escalation of the conflict and raises substantial questions about the ethnicity of assassinating General Soleimani, and whether or not that puts many of our leaders at risk.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A TV Timeout

Jan 25, 2020
Old Phillips television photographed at the museum Terug in de Tijd, Horn, The Netherlands.
Alf van Beem / Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

I couldn’t pick a worse time to take a vacation. I’m speaking only in terms of all the great TV I’m probably going to miss. The Super Bowl. The Iowa caucuses. The Oscars. The Trump Impeachment trial. And I’ll be gone for only a week.

Fred Kowal: NY25 - A Vision For The Future

Jan 24, 2020

In 2011, the State University of New York and the Office of the Governor launched “SUNY 2020,” a long-range plan to promote SUNY as a catalyst for regional economic development and affordable education.

Bryan Griffin: Good Government Needs Renewal

Jan 23, 2020

As the Senate hosts the President’s impeachment trial, I think back to the process that brought us here.

Stephen Gottlieb: Cry The Beloved

Jan 21, 2020

ALL our office-holders have sworn to protect and defend our country and our Constitution. Some of us fought and died for it. We’ve argued about the meaning of the Constitution because we cared what it meant for America. We’ve fought over amendments to the Constitution to make it better but also to preserve the strengths of our heritage.