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Commentary & Opinion

Blair Horner: New York Starts Early Voting This Week

Oct 21, 2019

New York has had a well-deserved reputation as a state with laws that discourage voter participation.  In the area of redistricting, elected officials have long conspired to deny voters competitive elections.  In the area of campaign finance, loopholes in the law make it possible for wealthy and powerful interests to shower candidates with contributions of unlimited amounts.  In the area of ethics, enforcement is controlled by the state’s elected leadership.  In the area of voting, state policies have created obstacles to registering to vote and casting a ballot.

POTUS’ decision to abandon the Kurds along the Turkish-Syria border was purportedly based upon his desire to pull troops out of harm’s way and keep us out of endless wars. Within days, however, he ordered additional troops and equipment into Saudi Arabia which is clearly engaged in a conflict with Iran.  We abandon one ally in an act that can only be described as one of cowardice, and put troops in harm’s way on behalf of another ally.  It looks like our decisions are based upon oil and money.  Virtually all members of Congress, former State and Defense department officials expressed dismay while our troops (Green Berets have described their feelings as those of shame).  POTUS announced on October 18th that ceasefire has been agreed to which gave away Kurdish land and appears to be without benefit to the US or the Kurds, and as one might expect, there are reports of continued fighting.  There is a rumor on the street that Turkey is investigating Elizabeth Warren and the Kurds are searching fir dirt on other democratic candidates.  Just kidding. 

David Nightingale: 2019 Physics Nobelists

Oct 20, 2019
The position of Alpha Centauri (Rigilkent, Rigel Kentaurus, Toliman)
Zwergelstern / Wikimedia Commons

In 1849 the horror writer Edgar Allan Poe wrote his prose-poem “Eureka!”, (“I have it!”) concerning the nature of the universe.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Guarding The Herd

Oct 19, 2019
Georgia Rainey of Kinderhook Farm with Wink and Sarge
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Our dog is a dismal guard dog. She barks all right, but at all the wrong times. For example, in the middle of the night, set off by sounds such as the furnace. On the other hand, a burglar could walk through the front door and she’d barely bat an eyelash.

Artwork from a radio-related World War II propaganda poster for the United States
Public Domain / WikiMedia Commons

Our listeners are seldom at a loss for words. Here are this week's highlights from the WAMC Listener Comment Line. 

Fred Kowal: To What Does This Lead?

Oct 17, 2019

Fear. Fear of the other. Fear of the outsider. Fear of change. Fear of everything. Anger and Rage. At the rich. At the system, whatever that means. At our innate powerlessness.

Now that October is here, fall has truly arrived. And in school districts across the state, students are gearing up for Halloween, whether they’re picking out costumes for trick or treating, or making plans for Halloween dances and parties.

Bryan Griffin: Our Precious Sovereignty

Oct 16, 2019

Two weeks ago, I attended the 2019 Warsaw Security Forum as a participant of the New Security Leaders fellowship. The gathering is an annual event that brings together NATO, European, and American political and thought leaders to discuss global security and the preservation of Western democratic institutions.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Threat Of The Alt-Armed Wing

Oct 15, 2019

I spoke last week about Trump’s intentions. His intentions are particularly scary because of the growth of wrong-wing violence. Time Magazine published an excellent summary as The Terror Within, in its August 19 issue.  Vera Bergengruen and W.J. Hennigan first broke their story on Time’s website. They explained that white nationalists are responsible for a multiple of the deaths and injuries from any other causes of terrorism in the U.S. since 9/11, more than all other causes put together. But Congress and this Administration frustrated FBI efforts to assign more agents to stop mass killers from mowing us down. As a result it gets worse.

Audrey Kupferberg: Mum And Detectorists

Oct 15, 2019

MUM is a Britcom, complete in three seasons or eighteen episodes, starring wonderful Lesley Manville as a recent widow.  One has the feeling that, if left alone, she would be living a rather dull middle-class existence, possibly buying new lawn chairs, or a new toaster for a pick-me-up.  However, Mum – or Cathy, is never left alone.  She is surrounded, engulfed, by seven other characters who make up her world.

The United Nations’ Climate Action Week wrapped up with intense speeches, promises and emotional pleas for action.  Here in New York, the battle over how best to respond to the unfolding climate catastrophe is intensifying.

The treasury has announced that Fannie and Freddie will be authorized to retain portions of their earnings in order to rebuild their capital position up to approximately 100 billion dollars as opposed to distributing these sums to the Treasury.  This makes great sense as these two entities are extremely important for all of us who purchase homes, as well as the strengthening of community banks and our economies in general. The process, although somewhat technical, basically has Fannie and Freddie purchasing mortgages from banks, which puts cash back into the hands of the banks, allowing the banks to continue to offer mortgages.  If that did not occur, then banks would only have that portion of their earnings and loan repayments that were not used for expenses or distributed to shareholders to reinvest, thus reducing their ability to continue to make home loans. All of these issues arose out of the 2008 crisis, when the Federal Government had to bail out these organizations after years of mismanagement.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Botswana Behind The Scenes

Oct 12, 2019

If things like impeachment inquiries, trade wars and climate change are getting you down I’d like to suggest a good nature documentary. Actually a three-part miniseries that PBS is airing starting October 23rd.

Peter Moloney: Why Should Americans Care About Brexit?

Oct 10, 2019

The events now unfolding in the UK have been described as the most significant political and constitutional crises there since the Second World War. Undoubtedly, this is an accurate reading of the situation, with the public polarized, parliament prorogued and the prime minister promising closure at any cost. Even the Queen herself has been sucked into this interminable Brexit black hole, as the British Supreme Court recently ruled that the suspension of parliament that she ordered, on the advice of her ministers, was in fact unlawful. We can only surmise that “one is not amused” to be placed in such a spotlight!

John Faso: Impeachment Follies

Oct 9, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently announced that she was directing three House committees to open an “impeachment inquiry” based upon the whistle-blower complaint filed with the CIA Inspector General. 

Stephen Gottlieb: Trump’s Dangerous Motives

Oct 8, 2019

I spoke last week about the importance of the whistle-blower’s complaint. It’s also the tip of the iceberg. Burt Neuborne was ACLU legal director and a founder of NYU’s Brennan Center.  I’ve known Burt for decades. His publisher accurately describes him as a leading constitutional lawyer who’s sued every president since LBJ.

This week is the deadline to register for those who wish to vote in the 2019 election in New York State.  That’s right, a full 25 days before the election is the deadline to register.  In many cases, busy New Yorkers may not be paying attention to the candidates until Election Day gets closer.  For those would-be New York voters, they will be shut out.

Ben Downing: Tiny Ripples Of Hope

Oct 7, 2019

In a speech to students in apartheid South Africa, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy declared, “this world demands the qualities of youth.” As I walked around the Boston Climate Strike last week, I heard those words over and over in my head. I heard those words and thought of the audacity of Greta Thunberg, fed up with adults doing nothing on climate change and choosing to do the opposite. A single teenager on strike, became 6 million people marching across the world. Six million of the “tiny ripples of hope” Kennedy would refer to later in the same speech.  

Ralph Gardner Jr: Who Says Cities Are More Civilized?

Oct 5, 2019
Ralph Gardner

The word civilization is related to “civitas,” the Latin word for city. It’s one of the few things I remember from 7th grade Latin, that and my grade point average – hovering somewhere in the mid-sixties. Flunking out territory.

Michael Meeropol: The Many Lives Of Roy Cohn

Oct 4, 2019

Today, I would like to take off my economist’s hat and put on my proud papa’s hat.   My daughter Ivy has just finished a documentary about the life of right wing Republican lawyer-fixer Roy Cohn.   The film is one of two documentaries about the former Joseph McCarthy and Donald Trump consiglieri.  Hers is entitled “Bully, Coward, Victim, The Story of Roy Cohn.”  The other is called “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”  (The title for that film comes from a quote from an exasperated Donald Trump as he complained bitterly that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not sufficiently “protective” of him [Trump].)

Another school year is under way. We’re off to a great start.

For students and parents, routines have been set or renewed. New locker combinations have been figured out. The tears at the bus stop have died down.  And new schedules are beginning to feel routine.

Hank Greenberg: Lawyers And Depression

Oct 2, 2019

One of America’s greatest lawyers, judges and public servants was Charles Evans Hughes.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Seriousness Of The Ukraine Meeting

Oct 1, 2019

Let’s clarify the problems with Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Blair Horner: Something In The Water

Sep 30, 2019

Earlier this summer, the state Health Department issued proposed drinking water standards for certain types of contaminants that have been found in the drinking water supplies serving millions of New Yorkers.

The controversy over POTUS’ conversation with the new President of the Ukraine has developed into a big story with lots of legs.  

David Nightingale: Global Warming Perspective

Sep 29, 2019

Let’s expand our view of global warming.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Moby Dick In Performance

Sep 28, 2019
Ros Kavanagh

There’s no need to feel inadequate if you haven’t read Moby Dick. And now you don’t have to in any case. Conor Lovett, Judy Hegarty Lovett and Ireland’s Gare St. Lazare theater company are bringing their adaptation of Herman Melville’s epic whaling novel to Hudson, NY’s Hudson Hall next Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Love It? Support It!

Sep 27, 2019

The Locked Box is open. The day the reaction to that statement is “so what” or “ho hum,” we are in real trouble and I mean REAL trouble. This is not a New York or Los Angeles station that brings in a hundred million dollars a year. This is WAMC which we all made together, right? 

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Fraternity And Fratricide

Sep 26, 2019

Once, when my siblings and I were very young, my parents made the mistake of putting me and my brother in charge of our sister while they went out for an appointment. Though we are very close today, when my brother and I were much younger, our competing claims to personal territory and parental attention often clashed, producing very unpleasant consequences for both of us and our parents.  Notwithstanding these animosities, he and I at times teamed up in our attempts to terrorize our little sister.   Who dreamed up that specific day’s covert operation I do not remember, but I do recall it being a brilliant exercise in mean stupidity.  We took a knife, placed it on the floor of our kitchen, took out a bottle of ketchup and spilled some of it near the knife.  I lay on the floor on my stomach and pretended to be dead, while my brother began yelling to my sister, “Come here quickly, I’ve killed Daniel!”  My sister, no more than six years old at the time, raced into the kitchen.  She stopped, got down on the floor beside me, took a small sniff of the red stuff and barked, “That’s not blood, it’s ketchup.  You’re in big trouble!”

Bryan Griffin: Rights That Can't Be Taken

Sep 25, 2019

They’re calling Beto O’Rourke the “AR-15 salesman of the year” after he forcefully stated in the last Democratic debate that an O’Rourke presidency would mean the mandatory government confiscation of such rifles. His exact quote was: “Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47-- We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”