Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

Lots of people believe their countries are best. We do too. Caring for one’s country is good. Economic objections to admitting refugees don’t justify brutality. Strategic disagreements about Iran’s objectives don’t require going to war. But demonizing people changes the stakes. Treating them as nothing but vandals and killers, unworthy of concern, drives the ugliest implications of both the refugee and Iran crises, and threatens everyone in a chorus of hate.

Blair Horner: The State Of New York State

Jan 13, 2020

In many ways, Governor Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State address last week was like many that have preceded it.  In modern times, the state of the State address mimics the pomp of the national State of the Union address: lots of rhetorical flourishes, calls for actions on important issues, with little in the way of real details. 

China in 2020. As we move into the new decade, the First Phase Deal, as it has been described, leaves on the table most of the important issues to American business and those are unresolved including the Chinese requirement to provide technology in order to do business in China, its currency manipulation practices, and a more subtle but less well known issue is of course its vast army of subsidies which it provides to its businesses. This tilts the table in a way which dramatically effects any number of industries, but its particularly problematic in the technology sector. We will have to watch very carefully what occurs, but it appears that the First Phase was merely an attempt by Mr. Trump to satisfy the AG Sector by purportedly increasing purchases which appear to be largely an illusion.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Einstein In The Adirondacks

Jan 11, 2020
Taff and Jack Fitterer
Ralph Gardner Jr

My wife proposed calling it a staycation. But that wasn’t strictly accurate because we traveled a couple of hours north – even longer if you include the wrong turn we took, or rather the right turn we didn’t take – and the trip included an overnight. 

Laura Marx: Setting A Firm Foundation

Jan 10, 2020

Your childhood neighborhood shouldn’t determine your future success. The American Dream is predicated on the belief that anyone, if they work hard enough, can succeed and lift themselves beyond the circumstances of their birth. We’ve seen time and again that talent and ambition exist in every zip code, yet opportunities are not as liberally distributed.

Reactions to the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani are troubling. Some media and political figures are seizing upon Iran-backed narratives and legitimizing an incredulous Iranian talking point that that nation is merely a victim of a disproportionate American attack. The responses reek of as much partisanship as the recent impeachment hearings. This is a critical moment for the world to unify against a longstanding opponent. Instead, we see partisanship and equivocation.

Hank Greenberg: A Cancer In The Body Politic

Jan 8, 2020

The holiday season is a time of joy and goodwill.  We join in celebration with friends and family in the presumably safe havens of our homes and houses of worship.

What’s wrong with Trump’s approach to Iran? Let me count the ways.

Jane McManus: Compensating College Athletes

Jan 7, 2020

There are two things on the horizon that will change the landscape of American sports forever. The first is sports gambling. As states legalize and regulate it, the money flooding the system will change the way American games are broadcast and consumed. 

Blair Horner: The 2020 Legislative Session

Jan 6, 2020

The 2020 legislative session gets underway this week with the governor’s “State of the State” address.  The big issue casting a shadow over the session will be the state’s looming budget deficit.  The budget shortfall has been projected to exceed $6 billion and how it gets addressed will drive the policies for the budget and, most likely, the remainder of the session.

The impact of Chinese tariffs on US consumers is being thwarted by what is known as the de minimis rule under the US Customs law. I have written about this previously, describing the movement of a package valued at less than $800.00 which is processed under this rule and thus, no duty is paid. This is particularly problematic if it avoids the 25% tariff on Chinese goods. Contrast it with a product purchased by a US merchant from China who pays the duty and obviously must either swallow the duty as part of the purchase price or tack it on to the purchase price, thus increasing it over the amount that the Chinese merchant is selling it in the US for.  A convenient loophole the Trump Administration missed.  

Ralph Gardner Jr: Things Change

Jan 4, 2020
A Christmas Carol, Christmas dinner at the Cratchits', published by Harper's Magazine
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes your kids get married and move away. Sometimes they move away and then get married. Occasionally they move away and don’t get married. Or they get married and stay put.

I assume most listeners have heard of Bret Stephens.  He is a conservative columnist for the New York Times and recently he has appointed himself the chief adviser to Democrats on how to defeat Trump.  Stephens’ column on December 26 introduced an interesting metaphor.   What we need to defeat Trump, he opines, is SOAP.   His point is we don’t need to make any major changes to our economy and society --- such as a wealth tax, Medicare for all, a Green New Deal.   (No surgery needed!)   All we need is to have a Democrat running for President who promises to wash away the “dirt” of the Trump presidency and leave us Americans, clean (and pure?) again.

Ben Downing: Income Tax Cuts Make Us Weaker

Jan 2, 2020

Recently, Governor Charlie Baker celebrated the decline of Massachusetts income tax to 5%. Twenty years ago, Massachusetts taxed income at 5.95%. Through ballot initiative and legislative compromises, over time it dropped to the current rate. Unfortunately, neither the final reduction, nor the total decrease, will make Massachusetts fairer or stronger. Rather, the reduction of the fairest statewide tax benefits the top 1% of earners and makes it that much harder for the rest to prosper. The reduction in the income tax hampers our ability to make investments needed to reduce inequality, combat climate change and revitalize economies outside of Greater Boston. It might look like good politics, but it’s bad policy and all of Massachusetts is weaker for it.

Hank Greenberg: The Oath

Jan 2, 2020

“I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of President Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.''

Dr. Alan Chartock
Eric Korenman

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock makes his 2020 political predictions on this New Year's Day. 

Stephen Gottlieb: Happy New Year

Dec 31, 2019

I’ve been recording commentary on WAMC for approximately 15 years. Christmas and New Year’s are always different. It doesn’t feel like a time for argument, for praising some and condemning others. So I and many in similar positions usually talk about the joys of the holiday season and individual plans for the New Year. I tend to do it a bit multi-culturally but it really doesn’t matter; we all share the same dreams.

Bryan Griffin: Voluntary Trade And Open Information

Dec 31, 2019

There are two economic concepts that get little public attention but make a significant difference on our lives when our domestic policies embody them. If as voters we used these two concepts as standards for judging the policy proposals of candidates, we would find marked improvement in our daily lives.

Blair Horner: News "Deserts" Threaten Democracy

Dec 30, 2019

As the decade comes to an end, one disturbing trend has been the accelerating loss of local newspapers and other media outlets.  Over the last 15 years, local newspapers across the U.S. have lost more than $35 billion in advertising revenue and shed half of their staff, and at least 2,000 news outlets have closed during that time.

Audrey Kupferberg: Mrs. Maisel

Dec 30, 2019

Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the popular series offered on Amazon Prime, recently became available to subscribers.  Midge Maisel, played brilliantly by Rachel Brosnahan, is the main character. Every other character serves as a satellite to her egocentric personality.  This thirty-something year old sees herself as the focus of her universe. With few exceptions, any other character serves her bidding—or serves to further the plot which revolves around her most of the time, although maybe a little less in season 3.  And that in itself is an interesting script decision.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Thanks A Latke

Dec 28, 2019
Sylvia Center participants at the 11th Annual Latke Festival.
Sylvia Center

How often must you do something for it to qualify as a family tradition? Obviously, once isn’t enough because you don’t know if you’ll ever do it again.

Andrew Pallotta: Fully Fund NYS Schools

Dec 27, 2019

Students don’t get a do-over when it comes to their education. They only have one chance to prepare for future success -- whether that means entering college or the work force.

Every year I offer my fearless WAMC predictions. I do that with some trepidation because sometimes I have been wrong. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Here are the rules: I predict some of these things because I want them to happen. Some I predict in order to put the whammy on them so that they don’t happen and some I actually think will happen. It’s up to you to figure out which is which.

This is the holiday season. For the Gottlieb family, half the days in December are occasions for giving – birthdays, anniversaries, the 12 days of Christmas and the 8 days of Hanukah, plus remembering my dad who died on the first night of Hanukah. When my in-laws were alive, Christmas did indeed take quite a while as waves of relatives came to town or we stopped to see them. Now that we have two granddaughters, every day we get to see them seems like a holiday whether it has an official name or not. Officially, the family comes to us in Albany for some holidays, while they go to our daughter-in-law’s mother for others. It’s a wonderful time, caring in ever widening circles.

Across The State University of New York, we are celebrating the landmark achievement of Professor M. Stanley Whittingham, who on October 9, was one of three scientists to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Dr. Whittingham joins 15 other SUNY faculty members who have received this momentous honor. It has us reflecting on the global reach of our work, our students’ exposure to knowledge creation of this magnitude, and our commitment to making good on the public’s investment in SUNY.  

Reports out of New York’s Capitol paint a worsening picture of the state’s finances.  It’s been reported that the state is facing an upcoming budget deficit in excess of $6 billion.  Half of the deficit is attributed to costs relating to the state Medicaid program – the health insurance coverage for the poor and disabled.

On the USMCA front, several prominent Senate Republicans have announced that they may delay the vote in the Senate on the USMCA after receiving it from the House which passed it this week.  It appears that this change of heart from being gung-ho USMCA to – wait a minute USMCA, is based upon the fact that President Trump compromised with Democrats and these Republicans feel that the USMCA has become a Democratic trade bill and not a Republican one.  The complaints were nonspecific, but appeared to focus on the enforcement provisions against Mexico which the Mexican Congress has already agreed to, and the shortening of protected status for certain drugs which apparently big Pharma opposes – no surprise there.  It looks like the Republican Senators who are opposed favor big Pharma more than they do American workers.  Don’t you think drug prices are high enough?

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Bending Light

Dec 22, 2019

Having barely passed high school physics, I surprised myself some time ago when I took on the daunting, thankless task of teaching a lesson about light, prisms and rainbows for a Hanukkah program in our community religious school.  Hanukkah is a great religious celebration of the Jewish people’s victory over its oppressors during the Maccabean War against the Syrian Greeks in 165 BCE.  Modern Jews’ readings of the story through the lenses of minority and smaller-nation status emphasize timeless values such as maintaining one’s identity and political freedom.  Yet Hanukkah’s religious fame is also founded upon its core legend, the miracle of the Menorah lamp that remained lit in the holy Jerusalem temple despite an insufficient amount of olive oil, after the Maccabean War ended.  Because light is so prominent a Hanukkah theme, I reasoned that talking a little about the physics of light and optics with families would be a cool way of emphasizing its symbolism: white light and the spectrum as metaphors for unity and diversity, waves and particles as symbols for the spiritual and the physical, common features of science as a window on God’s miracles.  What could be so hard about such a lesson, especially for an experienced, fun loving, boundary bending religion teacher like me?  What fun we would all have shining lights through prisms in a dark room, watching in amazement all the pretty rainbow colors on the ceiling.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Scents And Sensibility

Dec 21, 2019
Carolyn Mix (left) and Darcy Doniger of 2 Note in Hudson,NY
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I was walking through Greenwich Village – after scoring stocking stuffers at Myers of Keswick, a store that specializes in British treats -- when I observed what seemed like contradictory trends. On the one hand, there were lots of empty storefronts; the forces at work said to be landlords asking exorbitant rents as well as the demise of brick and mortar stores as more and more shopping moves online.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Supreme Court On The Trump Subpoenas

Dec 17, 2019

The Supreme Court decided to hear the Trump Administration’s appeals from lower court orders that tax returns and other documents be provided. What does that mean?