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Commentary & Opinion

The Biden Administration’s plans to tackle the nation’s infrastructure woes and to combat climate change are among the top policy issues stuck in the U.S. Senate.  The President’s plans have passed the House of Representatives, but the razor-thin Democratic majority in the Senate makes progress slow going.


Some interesting statistics from Advent Health regarding COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Advent Health reports 97% of roughly 12,700 COVID patients treated this year were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, while vaccinated people account for less than 1% of its COVID-19 patients.

Ralph Gardner Jr: And Now For Some Good News

Jul 24, 2021
Fresh corn in a frying pan
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Is America better off today than it was one year ago, in July 2020. Absolutely! Prove it you say. This time last year I was glued to my TV, glued being a relative term. Anybody watching TV on a warm summer night, rather than dining al fresco to a chorus of crickets and tree frogs meets the dictionary definition of a loser. Still, it was challenging to go cold turkey completely on the Trump Administration’s nightly ratings grab.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Fasting

Jul 23, 2021

With a recent religious fast on the Jewish calendar fast approaching, I was curious to find out how the modern English word, fast, came to mean simultaneously, the verb for refraining from eating and drinking as well as the adverb for speed.

Those of you who are regular listeners to my commentary may have guessed that I’ve been working on a study of the American Constitutional Convention. So, going systematically through some of the records, I happened on a statement by Gouverneur Morris – that’s his name, not a title. He and his family were quite wealthy – they owned much of what is now the Bronx – but he had good friends in Pennsylvania and his friends there invited him to join the Pennsylvania delegation to the Constitutional Convention, in which he played a prominent role. A few years later, he wrote a letter to the President of the New York State Senate about the method of choosing the President of the United States, a subject which drew a lot of discussion in the Convention, both for and against. Morris wrote:

The world is in crisis: climate change has triggered once-in-a-millennium catastrophic weather events and we are all enduring the second year of a worldwide pandemic. 

On the Covid front, summer camps in Texas, Illinois, Florida, Missouri and Kansas experienced significant Covid outbreaks, and in some cases, they have spread to the local community.  Obviously, the reason for this is the youngsters attending the camps have not been vaccinated.  Does this portend outbreaks in the fall when school resumes?  It seems only logical.  Hopefully, we can move the vaccination age even lower since this could have a devastating effect on the children, as well as the families.

On the current term’s last day, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the 9th Circuit and allowed Arizona to minimize the number of African-American and other minorities who could get to the polls to vote.

For over a decade the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has been the state’s leading ethics watchdog agency.  Its job is to oversee compliance with ethics standards set for the executive branch, in a limited way to do the same for the legislative branch, and to regulate state and local lobbyists and their clients.  Since its inception critics have charged that the structure of the agency is not independent and it is, in fact, a political agency – one in which the leaders of the executive and legislative branches controlled the actions of the agency.

One of the interesting phenomena occurring as the pandemic recedes, is millions of workers are quitting with a record 4 million doing so in April of 2021.  Many of the stories being related about the “why” go back to issues with commuting great distances for work, (particularly in metropolitan areas), inadequate time to spend with family, as well as the significant changes that have occurred in the manner in which we work. The latter is to a large extent the result of technology and the ability to receive and respond to e-mails at virtually any hour of the day.  It is particularly difficult for those of us who lack the self-discipline to turn off the electronics.  It is certainly a phenomenon that employers are going to have to watch and determine how to respond in order to keep a quality well-trained workforce. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: My Swimming Pool At Forty

Jul 10, 2021
Ralph's pool
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Just because you’re getting old doesn’t mean you can’t change and improve. I’m not talking about myself. I’m referring to our swimming pool. The pool, built in the early 1980’s, was my mother’s idea, though it also bore distinct resemblance to a folly.

Having just celebrated Independence Day, the birthday of our country, it’s worth looking at a letter from GEORGE WASHINGTON, long celebrated as the Father of Our Country, to the Marquis de LA FAYETTE who had crossed the ocean to help the Revolutionary cause. Washington wrote him from his home in Mount Vernon, on April 28th, 1788, a few months after the Constitutional Convention, over which Washington presided. Here is what Washington wrote:

Andrew Brown: Applying Lessons Learned

Jul 6, 2021
Andrew Brown

The past year presented monumental difficulties as well as opportunities – if not an outright mandate – to effect change for members of vulnerable communities of color who paid a disproportionate price, both physical and financial, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Blair Horner: NYC Uses Ranked Choice Voting

Jul 5, 2021

In New York City’s recent primary a new system of voting was implemented: ranked choice voting (RCV).  RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, instead of limiting their decision to one candidate.  The new system was put in place after New York City voters overwhelmingly approved it (73.5%) for municipal and primary elections in 2019.  RCV is rare in the U.S., existing in several municipalities as well as in the states of Maine and Alaska.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Rewards Trap

Jul 3, 2021
Online rewards notification
Ralph Gardner Jr.

“You have $6.00 in rewards to spend at your local Staples store!” the email said. Six bucks isn’t a lot of money these days unless you’re a cheapskate. I proudly plead guilty to that description, though I prefer to think of the impulse in more morally defensible terms. Why let a good reward go to waste? If you spotted six dollar bills on the street or even a five and a one would you ignore them? Of course not.

Both the long run and the short run issues of Climate Change were available in bold stark messages the week of June 21-27.   To start in the short run, we saw one immediate effect of climate change in the collapse of the building in South Florida (possibly caused by water undermining the building’s foundation --- water seepage caused by sea level rise).

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, UUP has focused on keeping our members, our students and our communities safe from COVID-19, which has taken more than 600,000 lives nationally—and 53,000 lives in New York state alone.

So the latest seems to be that the political wrong wants their kids taught fairy tales and shielded from reality. Imagine – some schools and teachers are teaching what they call “critical race theory.” I would defy anyone to define it – academic language is like that and we fight endlessly about meaning and method. But never mind, whatever it is, that’s what they claim they’re attacking. In one form or another they want to make sure that their kids, and our kids, are never exposed to the idea that white people in America could have done something wrong or white cops either – wrong behavior is only for people of color but white people are by definition correct. Woopy, nothing new there.

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock shares his thoughts on a vote expected this week on legislation released by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday that would create a House committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Last week, western North America suffered through a record-breaking heat wave.  In the month of June, nearly 90 percent of the western US was in a state of drought made worse by climate change.  Lakes have been at historically low levels and restrictions were imposed on water use across the region.  Canada is getting hit too.  As one Canadian climatologist commented, “I like to break a record, but this is like shattering and pulverizing them.  It’s warmer in parts of western Canada than in Dubai.”

This week, on Thursday morning, Fed Chairman Powell said that inflation will drop back towards it’s longer run goals after transitory supply effects abate, and further indicated that the Fed will keep interest rates low for the moment. 

Dr. Alan Chartock's Morning Commentary

Jun 28, 2021

WAMC's Alan Chartock shares his thoughts on former President Trump’s rally in Ohio over the weekend, made on behalf of a challenger to a Republican congressman who voted to impeach Trump.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Space Of One's Own

Jun 26, 2021
The writer’s former storage locker
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Tuesday was bittersweet. I bid farewell to my storage locker, the one I’ve rented since May 2019. That’s more than forty-eight months. I required the space for approximately sixty-five boxes of stuff I’d assembled after cleaning out the apartment where I grew up and my parents lived for sixty years.

Bill Everhart: Dirty Questions, Dirty Answers

Jun 25, 2021
Bill Everhart
Josh Landes / WAMC

Not many people have read the Pentagon Papers, which were published 50 years ago this month. After all, this insider chronicle of the tragedy that was the Vietnam War did include 47 volumes of documents.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Barberville Falls

Jun 24, 2021

The Barberville Falls in Rensselaer County rush with noisy, furious joy down an imposing, ninety- foot wall of wafer-like stacks of sandstone, limestone and slate.  The Falls divide the upper and lower sections of the Poestenkill, a beautiful creek that flows from Dyken Pond in Grafton and Berlin, down into the Hudson River near Troy. One can walk a short ribbon of the Poestenkill to stand around just above the Falls, a risky proposition at best.  The more conventional path of choice down to the Falls is a quarter mile stretch of carved trail from the Falls Preserve parking lot, which dead ends at the roaring cataract. 

Garett Argianas' Evening Forecast

Jun 23, 2021

Meteorologist Garett Argianas delivers the evening weather forecast for Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

Stephen Gottlieb: Mass Suicide, From Jonestown To America

Jun 22, 2021

I recently met a woman who grew up near the site of the Jonestown mass suicide. Digging through the rubble to find the bodies, tore her father’s heart out. Many civilizations died for lack of knowledge of impending disaster. We have the knowledge and can prevent the extinction of humanity just by making our votes depend on it. Most of our religious traditions categorically prohibit suicide. So why are so many of us talking about the impending mass suicide of humanity, and then why haven’t we been able to stop it?

The ongoing ideological fight over whether the United States should ensure that all Americans have health care coverage came to a head last week with the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.  While that decision rested on technical grounds – the Court ruled that the states and individuals bringing the challenge did not have legal standing to force a decision on the legal merits – it was widely viewed as a victory for the ACA law itself.

Commentator Bill Owens takes a look at world events of the past week.

Aubree Carr: Dynamic Dads

Jun 20, 2021

Some families are celebrating in double measure this Father's Day. Western New England University student Aubree Carr talks about her dynamic dads.