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Commentary & Opinion

Stephen Gottlieb: Peace And Penalties

Dec 15, 2020

A recent email from Tom Huf struck me as a clear and succinct statement about the problem with American policy toward Iran. Tom, like my wife and myself, was a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran, and follows developments in Iran closely. Here’s what he wrote:

Monday, December 14th, the nation formally picks its President.  A full month after the popular election, delegates to the Electoral College will gather in each of the states to vote on whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump should be President.  Four years ago, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by the margin of three million votes, yet still lost the election since her opponent, now President Trump, won big in the Electoral College.

At President Trump’s rally in Georgia last Saturday evening, he is quoted as saying “you got to get out and vote.” Republicans are “not nearly as vicious” as Democrats when it comes to stealing elections. The only logical conclusion one can draw from that statement is that Republicans are trying to steal elections but just aren’t as good as Democrats appear to be. Of course, in both instances, that is not true. Have elections been stolen in the last 200 years? Of course, they have, but obviously those were most likely close elections and, in this instance, it wasn’t even close. The President has clearly gone off the rails.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Pleasures Of A Winter Bath

Dec 12, 2020
Ralph's bathtub, ready to go
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

As we descend into what’s predicted to be the darkest days of the pandemic here’s a low-cost, safe and convenient suggestion guaranteed to brighten your mood: take a bath.

Ben Downing: Grief, Loss And Leadership

Dec 10, 2020

Many have talked and written about how President-elect Joe Biden’s life has been shaped by loss. Surely that is true. What has been less discussed is how loss will shape his Presidential leadership. Biden knows what it is to be broken. Our country is broken now. The lessons learned from being broken teach you how to recover. I know that because I am broken too. From my experience and having watched Biden serve in the Senate, as Vice President and during this campaign, there are three key lessons grief and loss have taught him, which will shape his leadership: empathy, perspective and urgency. These less are the main reasons I am hopeful for the next 4 years.

One full month after Election Day, New York finally closed the books on 2020.  Although there is still one Congressional race outstanding, the final tallies are in for November’s elections.  What is most notable about the election is that by allowing the widespread use of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic, the outcome initially seen on Election Day was dramatically changed after all paper ballots were counted.

The Republican wall is beginning to crack with one of the biggest announcements to date, Mr. Barr admitted the Justice Department had found no widespread voter fraud and certainly not enough to overturn the election in any particular state. Mr. Giuliani continues to prattle on in a somewhat insane fashion. The idea of pardons have now erupted in public with Mr. Trump considering preemptive pardons for his three children, Jared Kushner and Mr. Giuliani. One of the great ironies of that conversation is that in order to be pardoned you have to have committed a crime or are believed to be guilty, so this effectively constitutes an admission that at least some of their actions were criminal in nature. There is also a question legally as to whether or not a pardon can be issued for someone not yet at least indicted if not convicted. This will provide years of litigation and likely create a scenario in which if some or all of them are indicted which they still can be under state law, and that they attempt to raise this pardon as a defense. The New York D.A. and NYS Attorney General should have some real fun come January 21, 2021.

Ralph Gardner Jr: To See Tanzania Shop Local

Dec 4, 2020
Fahari Wambura at Fahari Bazaar in Chatham, NY
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Shopping local is to be encouraged. It’s obviously harder during a pandemic, especially if you’re a merchant with the likes of Amazon breathing down your neck. But Fahari Wambura seems to be succeeding at Fahari Bazaar. That’s her store on Hudson Avenue in Chatham, NY." class="wysiwyg-break drupal-content" src="/sites/all/modules/contrib/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif" title="<--break-->">

On Tuesday, December 1, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Biden Team Re-envisions A Covid-Era Inauguration,” (written by Michael Shear and Nicholas Fandos. It was on page A19). The head of the Biden inaugural committee stated, “We will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe.” A number of traditional events (the signing ceremony in the President’s room off the Senate floor, the inaugural balls for example) might get cancelled. A Biden inauguration spokesperson “said the trick would be to combine in-person elements ….with virtual Internet-based moments that bring in voices of people who cannot travel to attend the celebration.

Andrew Pallotta: A New Year Brings A New Day

Dec 3, 2020

Elections are one of the great things about our democracy. Every two years, or every four years, we take a look at our nation’s direction, and the direction of our communities, and we decide if we want change, or if we want to stay the course.

Stephen Gottlieb: To Heal The Climate

Dec 1, 2020

I was delighted that President-elect Biden named John Kerry as special envoy to deal with the climate. Our earth and climate have been taking many hits. Unless we heal the damage and deal with global warming, things will get much worse fast. But talking about the threat of climate change paralyzes some people who make it harder to get anything done. So I’d like to focus on the positive.

Ralph Gardner Jr: My Antique Bottle Problem

Nov 28, 2020
Some antique bottles discovered in a 19th century dump at the writer’s house
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

During Phase 1 of the pandemic my wife turned her organizational skills to cleaning up our cavernous basement, a Herculean endeavor that took several weeks. For Phase 2 she’s tackling the garage.

Bryan Griffin: Great Reset? No Thanks.

Nov 25, 2020

Remember in 2009 when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Russia with a big, red, plastic button that she thought said “Reset”? Well, she presented it to her counterpart in the Russian Foreign Ministry only to be informed that the button read “overload” and was more reminiscent of an industrial emergency stop button than any sort of reset.

Stephen Gottlieb: To Heal The Pandemic Economy

Nov 24, 2020

I’d like to give thanks for those whose lives we can save and whose futures we can restore. To do that, there’s no choice between defeating the virus and rebuilding the economy; we've got to do both.

Scott Karson: Striking A Balance

Nov 24, 2020

Vaccines are a modern medical breakthrough and have helped save countless lives across the world. While this is widely acknowledged, a vocal minority has crusaded against all vaccines – including the inoculations for COVID-19 that are now undergoing clinical trials.

As the world continues to grapple with the deadly coronavirus pandemic, some potentially good medical news has developed.  In recent weeks, two major pharmaceutical companies claim to have developed vaccines that are far more successful than anyone had expected in protecting the public from COVID-19.

Mr. Biden has indicated that he will refuse to authorize the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. This is a matter that goes back to virtually the last decade, and it has been through the courts, through Congress, etc. This could be a major issue with Canada, but one that I am certain they anticipated given Mr. Biden’s views on the environment. The question for Canada will be on balance will Mr. Biden be a more friendly President than Mr. Trump. He certainly will be less insulting and obnoxious.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Joys Of Winter Grilling

Nov 21, 2020
Ralph's charcoal grill
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

I’ve heard and read lots of stories lately about how to pull off Thanksgiving safely in the middle of a pandemic. I’m not sure where or whether this suggestion fits in: why not consider grilling outdoors if turkey isn’t compulsory?

I gave my first commentary back in 2005. In it, I identified Alan Greenspan and John Kenneth Galbraith as economists occupying two ends of the spectrum of economic policy choices discussed within the economics profession in the US. I ended the presentation with the following sentence:

Fred Kowal: Patriots

Nov 19, 2020

So, here we are. The election is over. Sorry, President Trump. The results are clear. Joe Biden won fair and square, and by an electoral college margin that you defined as an historic landslide when you won in 2016.

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

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock discusses reports that President Trump has fired cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs, who recently described the 2020 election as "the most secure in American history."

Stephen Gottlieb: Blame And Public Safety

Nov 17, 2020

The Governor charged communities to re-examine their police departments, and several pieces in the local paper described the disproportionate treatment of African-Americans, ending up with the question whether police are racist. I like and respect the authors and there’s a lot of wisdom in those pieces but, to make progress, I question focusing on blame. Segregation was “inherently unequal” regardless of what the officials thought they were doing. Blame is about fault. I want improvement, not some Grand Inquisitor looking for purity. That makes everything harder.

As the nation – and the world – tries to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight to combat the ongoing climate catastrophe caused by global warming must be a priority. 

The election results in the US, although still being contested by Republicans clearly shows that Mr. Biden won the popular vote and electoral college votes. 

Just because our ancient stories are myths doesn’t mean that they aren’t true.

Keith Strudler: The Winter of Discontent

Nov 11, 2020

So perhaps the most pressing sports question in my household has nothing to do with the NFL, or the NBA, or about college football. It’s not about what happens to March Madness this year, or even if the Summer Olympics are still on. It’s about rec basketball. More to the point, will we have rec basketball this year?

Bryan Griffin: Election Wins And Losses

Nov 11, 2020

The dust is settling from the 2020 U.S. election season.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to address aspects of how we can heal from the damage of the Trump years. We’ll have to change the politics to communicate with each other, the economics to take care of the whole country, policies to protect the climate, gun rights to define where and when they belong, and we have to get to know each other better.

Audrey Kupferberg: Lizzie And First Cow

Nov 10, 2020
Audrey Kupferberg

The gruesome legend of Lizzie Borden has not faded from our popular culture, even after 108 years.  Remember the oft-quoted rhyme:  Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her father forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her mother forty-one. 

Blair Horner: Health Care Moves To The Front Burner

Nov 9, 2020

Last week American voters chose a new President.  The impacts of President Trump’s tumultuous presidency may last long after he leaves the White House.  For example, this week the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the question of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – known as “Obamacare.”