Commentary & Opinion

 IAEA experts depart Unit 4 of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013 as part of a mission to review Japan's plans to decommission the facility.
Greg Webb / IAEA / IAEA Imagebank / Flickr.com

Last weekend was the seventh anniversary of the disaster at the Japanese nuclear power plant located in Fukushima.  On March 11, 2011, an earthquake occurred in the Pacific Ocean that spawned a huge tsunami.  The quake itself caused considerable damage to the Japanese islands near the center of the quake, but the tsunami’s impact was catastrophic.

Ralph Gardner Jr: When The Lights Go Out

Mar 10, 2018
candles
mikecpeck / Flickr.com

That does it. We’re getting a generator.

The lights went out during last week’s Nor’easter. Not once. Not twice. But three times.

Bill Owens: NAFTA - Round 7 With A Twist

Mar 8, 2018

The seventh round of NAFTA negotiations are set to begin in Mexico City in the next several weeks, with the word coming out of Canada that the Canadians are very pessimistic about this process.  In particular, they view the Americans as having little, if any, flexibility due to the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration. 

Keith Strudler: The Four Minute Mile

Mar 7, 2018

Virtually every college distance runner wishes two things. One, that coach doesn’t call an early morning Sunday practice. And two, that you had just a little more leg speed so you could run the mile. See, if you’re a 5000 or 10,000 meter runner, down deep you knew that meant you couldn’t turn it over quick enough to do something shorter. So you just kept going longer and longer until you kind of outlasted people. That’s my story at least, a former mediocre college 10K guy. The same goes for a friend who’s now an ultra-marathoner, who saw the marathon as just a bit too speedy.

Herbert London: Defending Western Civilization

Mar 7, 2018

For those in the West who have lost their way, no longer sure of whether to believe in their traditions or believe at all, it is useful to recall that liberty is our overarching concern. Liberty, as Edmund Burke counsels, “must inhere in some sensible object; and every nation has formed to itself some favorite point, which… becomes the criterion of happiness.”

Stephen Gottlieb: Images Of America

Mar 6, 2018

When the Metropolitan Opera came on with Madame Butterfly recently, I began to puzzle about why the opera is so strongly anti-American. In Butterfly, an American naval lieutenant trifles with the heart of a young Japanese woman ending with her ritual suicide, leaving their baby to him and his new American wife.

Ben Downing: Ending Hunger

Mar 6, 2018

Massachusetts is one of the richest states in the richest nation on earth and yet, 1 in 10 people and 1 in 7 children struggle with hunger. That’s 701,630 of our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. It’s 187,920 kids. That is a moral outrage and it should spur action to ensure no one goes hungry. Unfortunately, this hasn’t proven to be the case. Thanks to a recent study by Children’s Health Watch of Boston Medical Center we have a new way of thinking about the costs of hunger and with it hope for renewed action.

Blair Horner: New York's Ethical Failings

Mar 5, 2018


New York State’s long running corruption crisis continues to this day.  For each of the first seven months of this year, a new high-profile corruption case goes to trial.  Last week the first of those cases went to the jury for deliberations and in the second case, a trial was averted when a former legislator pleaded guilty.

David Nightingale: Lake Baikal And Neutrinos

Mar 4, 2018
Sunset in Baikal
Emilianka / Wikimedia

Those who have traveled to Lake Baikal – and I have not – know it not only as long and thin, but also as the deepest lake in the world. Its greatest depth is a mile, and it lies between southern Siberia and Mongolia. The lake is fed by over 300 rivers and contains more fresh water than all the Great Lakes combined.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Ski Bum For A Day

Mar 3, 2018
Cable car on Czarna Góra, top station (Śnieżnik Mountains, Sudetes, Poland)
Marek Tomaszewski, Barlinek / Wikimedia Commons

Of all the days to go skiing we had to pick the one last week where the conditions more closely resembled those on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe (I’m using Guadeloupe but feel free to insert a different tropical locale) than they typically do this time of year in northern Vermont. That’s where we happened to be heading.

Michael Meeropol: Don't Be Fooled By The Story Of Bonuses

Mar 2, 2018

In January 2018, I delivered a commentary in which I quoted economist Dean Baker comparing the savings that major corporations were getting from the tax cut with the amount of money they were committing to the highly touted bonuses they were giving out.   It appeared that about ONE TENTH of the benefit from the increase in after-tax profits was going to these one “time bonuses.

Sometimes programming decisions are mutually exclusive. Take the opera, for instance. 

We know that there are relatively few people who listen to the opera. The big “but” is that those who do listen are passionate about the art form. WAMC has been playing the opera for years. Our philosophy has always been that a great public station will feature programming that may not be readily available and that certainly is the case every Saturday afternoon on WAMC. Imagine you were drawing the audience for opera. The so-called “N” (number) circle would be pretty small compared to the circle representing the audience who listens to news and public affairs on the station. So the question is, should opera take up time during which the majority of listeners would rather be listening to something else? 

30 years ago, Healthcare accounted for 16 percent of the $20 billion Massachusetts state budget. 10 years ago, it accounted for 30 percent of a $28 billion budget. In 2018, it was 40 percent of a $39.4B budget. You don’t have to be a policy wonk to realize that’s an unsustainable trend.

Keith Strudler: Shopping For Sporting Goods

Feb 28, 2018

If you have two kids of a certain age like I do, you spend a whole lot of time in sporting good stores. We tend to do a weekly pilgrimage to buy anything from soccer cleats to compression shirts to running shoes that aren’t even necessarily used for running. It’s an expensive hobby, having kids. And of course, that means we spend a whole lot of time in Dick’s Sporting Goods, the largest retail sporting goods chain in the US. And every time I go to Dick’s, I have an uncomfortable moment when I have to walk my kids by the hunting section of the store. Because there, among other things, is a wall full of guns. There’s also bullets, and scopes and all the other things that make guns work – most of which I’m largely unfamiliar with, despite my three summers of Boy Scout camp in Texas. I tend not to spend much time staring, and I certainly don’t encourage my kids to peruse – which isn’t usually that hard, since they’re busy trying to convince me to buy them $100 basketball shoes they don’t need. It hasn’t stopped me from shopping there, obviously. But the feeling is there, and perhaps one reason I wish I was at Nike Store or a Foot Locker – something I never thought I’d say.

Herbert London: The U.S.-China Relations

Feb 28, 2018

It was part and parcel of the “new world order” espoused by Bush and Obama that a China integrated into the organizational structure of global affairs would not challenge the status-quo. Yet try as Washington has, China has its own agenda somewhat impervious to post-Cold War optimism.

Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of our Nature, argued we’ve become less bloody over the centuries. But so many issues involve life and death. For two weeks this country has been discussing how to stop school shootings. This week let’s address life and death in the Middle East. Next week, events permitting, let’s discuss two issues that threaten life worldwide.

Andrew Pallotta: Janus Case An Attack On All Workers

Feb 27, 2018

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that may forever change the ability of working people to successfully fight for better pay, good health insurance, job security and a secure retirement.


New York lawmakers return to the Capitol this week to begin their push to agree on a state budget, due by April 1.  There are a number of issues on which they must agree: first the amount of money that is available and then how to spend it. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Enjoying Dinner With Our Community

Feb 24, 2018
community members dine at Eat Here Ghent community dinner
Marianne Rossant

Here’s some advice if you’ve been invited to a community dinner. Get there early. By the time we wandered in halfway through Eat Here Ghent, an event last Sunday afternoon to celebrate the farms and farmers of Ghent, NY, a town with a thriving local food scene in Columbia County, much of the feast had been consumed.

Bill Owens: The New Players In Healthcare

Feb 23, 2018

The announcement that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J. P. Morgan Chase are combining in some fashion to enter the healthcare marketplace, has the potential to create a new dynamic in healthcare. The number of employees under the control of these entities is significant as Amazon employs 154,000; Berkshire Hathaway employs 257,000; and J. P. Morgan Chase employs 191,000 for a total of 602,000. Tens of millions of Americans are insured through traditional insurance products.

Alan Chartock

WAMC's political observer Dr. Alan Chartock discusses President Trump's calls for arming trained teachers as part of an effort to fortify schools against shootings, comments by the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre and new unsealed charges against President Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort. 

Bill Owens: Law And Order

Feb 22, 2018

The Republicans have always touted themselves as the “Law and Order Party”, I am not quite sure what that means. They have branded themselves as the Law and Order Party and Strong Defense Party. It is always interesting to delve behind the facts and see who has been most supportive of defense and veterans rather than simply listening to the rhetoric. You might be surprised.

Keith Strudler: The Best Or Worst Of Olympic Times

Feb 21, 2018


No one is going to confuse Liz Swaney with Lindsey Vonn. They do both compete in winter downhill Olympic sports. But the comparisons stop there. This is Swaney’s first Olympic Games, compared to Vonn’s fourth. And Swaney does the snowboard half pipe, while Lindsey Vonn is a downhill skier. So those are some differences. But that kind of buries the lead. It's like saying the difference between Brad Pitt and John Candy is that Pitt prefers to wear brown shoes.

Herbert London: Due Process Circa 2018

Feb 21, 2018

In defending an aide accused of wife beating, President Trump asked, “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” Alas, without defending all such claims, the president has a point that allegation often translates into culpability without an adherence to due process.

Alan Chartock

WAMC's political observer Dr. Alan Chartock discusses President Trump's ordering the Justice Department to propose regulations to ban so-called bump stocks and a report showing more than twice as many women are running for Congress this year compared to 2016. 

Stephen Gottlieb: Response To School Shootings

Feb 20, 2018

After this latest school shooting with 17 dead, I’ve read wonderful pieces by people who lost loved ones to guns, and banal pieces by wonderful writers whose imaginations were fried by the horror. What’s left? Sometimes I try to convince, or fire the choir. Here I’m trying to understand why we can’t put the guns away.

Fred Kowal: A Hero For SUNY

Feb 20, 2018

I knew it was going to be a lean year for SUNY, especially after the governor began talking about a $4.4 billion budget deficit, and how it was going to be a financially difficult year.

Alan Chartock

WAMC's political observer Dr. Alan Chartock discusses indications that President Trump is open to supporting a bipartisan congressional effort to revise federal background checks for prospective gun buyers and President Trump's endorsement of Mitt Romney in the Utah Senate race. 

Blair Horner: Lead Poisoning Threat Persists In NY

Feb 19, 2018

Almost 50 years after New York banned the sale of lead in paint, each year some 1,800 children are found to be lead poisoned in New York.  This epidemic affects mostly young children of color from low-income communities who live in poorly maintained housing, where windows, doors, walls and ceilings produce invisible lead dust that is ingested by infants and toddlers through hand-to-mouth behavior and inhalation.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Under The Weather

Feb 18, 2018
The Sick Bed
Edward Prentis (1797–1854) / Public Domain

You’ve probably heard that this is a particularly nasty flu season. Apologies for my cough. As a matter of fact, you may be listening to this commentary with a thermometer in your mouth and a bottle of Tylenol by your side.

Pages