Commentary & Opinion

Ralph Gardner Jr: Earth Day 2019

15 hours ago
Ralph Gardner, celebrating Earth Day
Liz Neumark

I use Earth Day – this year it’s Monday, April 22nd – as an excuse to clean up the garbage that’s accumulated along our road over the previous twelve months. Actually, it’s not an excuse. That’s the point of Earth Day at least as I understand it, to respect and repair the planet.

Jane McManus: Woods' Second Act

Apr 18, 2019

When Tiger Woods won the Masters last weekend, it was a moment many thought would never happen again.

Bryan Griffin: Prudence And Total Cost

Apr 17, 2019

Every decision about our lives that we cede to the government has significant ramifications in the future.

Stephen Gottlieb: Climate Change And Flooding In Shiraz

Apr 16, 2019

Have you seen the pictures of the flooding in the city of Shiraz in Iran? I spent two years living in Shiraz, in the middle of the Iranian desert. Shiraz is near the ancient capital of Persepolis, its Greek name – the Iranians call it Takht-e-Jamshid, or the thrown of Jamshid. It was the winter capital of the legendary kings of Persia: Cyrus and Darius. It was the winter capital because it was warm, much warmer than their summer capital. My future wife was stationed in Hamadan, which the ancient kings used as their summer capital because it was cool. I visited her there and I can testify to the temperature difference.

John Faso: Defending The Electoral College

Apr 16, 2019

The last time I looked, the list of Democratic Party presidential candidates had grown to 18, reminding us of the GOP free-for-all with 17 candidates in 2016.

Blair Horner: Lobbying Spending In NY Hits A Record

Apr 15, 2019

After the frenzied fight over New York’s $175 billion budget, it’s not surprising to learn that special interests spent astronomically to influence policy in New York.  Last week, the public got to see just how much gets spent to influence government in New York. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: One Giant Soap Ball

Apr 14, 2019
The giant soap ball — found!
Ralph Gardner Jr.

As I go about cleaning out my parents apartment – my mother passed away in February, my father in 2005 -- two objects elude me and may well no longer exist, victims of those tidal forces that have a way of making things vanish over time, the equivalent of the human-induced shifting of tectonic plates.

Stephen Gottlieb: Guns Make Bullies Of Us All

Apr 9, 2019

We often use the tool at hand for whatever we’re trying to do. Got aspirin or alcohol?
Drink it down ‘cause everything feels like a pain. Got a wrench? Everything looks like a pipe. Got a hammer and everything looks like a nail. Pete Seeger sang If I Had a Hammer he’d have used it to hammer out justice. It’s a wonderful song but it seems like the wrong tool.

Tim Guinee: The House Is On Fire

Apr 9, 2019

New York state has failed us. By refusing to confront the climate crisis in a sweeping, fundamental way in the state budget, our public servants have abandoned us. They may trumpet the victory of the plastic bag ban and congestion-pricing (a good law, but one that merely addresses a series of blocks in Manhattan) and while this legislation was long in the making and our legislators are to be commended for it, it is middling in comparison to our need.

In the 1970s, scientists at major oil companies identified a growing threat – that the burning of oil, coal and gas was contributing to a rapid warming of the planet and that left unaddressed, the existence of civilization was at risk.

Interest rates are entering into what is known as inversion territory which means long term rates are lower than short rates.  This event has been a precursor to prior recessions and many economists see this as one of the key indicators.  This could very well begin to take shape in 2020 and have a dramatic impact on the Presidential Election. 

David Nightingale: J. Paxton, Gardener

Apr 7, 2019
Sir Joseph Paxton
Public Domain

For many gardeners today a greenhouse may be made of plastic, perhaps with aluminum framing.

However, in the 1830s, one builder of greenhouses was Joe Paxton, the relatively young head gardener for the Chatsworth Estate, owned by the Duke of Devonshire. By 1840 Paxton had already designed and been responsible for building a huge greenhouse there, a structure not much smaller in ground area than the area of a football field [ref.3]. Despite the known existence of alum for thousands of years, aluminum did not become a usable cheap metal until the 1880s, and Paxton’s greenhouse used cast iron for framework. Nor was it possible in the 1840s to make big sheets of glass, the maximum size of a glass pane then being only about 4 ft. by 1 ft.  So his football-field-sized greenhouse utilized many thousands of these small panes.

Ralph Gardner Jr: I Brake For Salamanders

Apr 6, 2019
Spotted salamander
Ralph Gardner Jr.

One should always exhibit caution when driving at night. But especially during March and April in these parts. That’s when some of our favorite amphibians – though I should probably speak only for myself – can be spotted crossing the road to get to the other side.

Ben Downing: Let's Get Transportation Moving

Apr 4, 2019

The transportation debate in Massachusetts has been locked in a battle of false choices for far too long. Failure to recognize this has left us a transportation system built in the 1970s, to serve the Massachusetts of the 80s, burdened by debt from the 90s, unable to help us grow in this century. Here is one proposal for moving forward.

Bryan Griffin: The Perils Of Betting On Benevolence

Apr 3, 2019

If the Democrats get their way, and nearly every aspect of life in America is controlled or appropriated in one form or another by the federal government, how can they be so sure the person or people in charge of that appropriation is someone they will like?

Two statutes add to the many issues that complicate the status of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Teachers play important roles in a child’s life. From teachers, students learn how to write their first sentences — or how to master long division, or write up a science lab. From the moment students enter the classroom, to the day they walk across the stage to accept their diploma, educators help provide them with the skills they need for success.

Blair Horner: New York Bans Plastic Bags

Apr 1, 2019

A lot happened in this year’s new state budget agreement – from increased spending to the establishment of a commission to develop a voluntary system of public financing for elections.  Many of these decisions were consequential, but one will be noticed by all New Yorkers – a ban on the use of plastic shopping bags.  The ban goes into effect in one year.

Mr. Trump announced that he was revoking sanctions that the Treasury Department was imposing on North Korea.  This is really confusing because the Treasury Department had not announced them before Mr. Trump revoked them.  It also appears that it was a surprise to the Treasury Department, including the Secretary as the revocation had not been discussed with them before it was announced. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Cleaning Up

Mar 31, 2019

I have trouble throwing things out. No matter what it is I can usually find some excuse for why it must be kept. How it will come in handy, return to breathless relevance, due to seen or unseen and even unseeable circumstance months or even years from now.

Now More Than Ever

Mar 29, 2019

Now more than ever, we need WAMC. We all know it. Of course, there are a few trolls who find that WAMC’s speaking truth to power is not to their liking. All I can say is “too bad” or “join the lumpenproletariat” (“lump it or leave it.”) We are doing our best under very trying circumstances. We know that Donald Trump is conducting a war against his perceived enemies, including the press. The First Amendment to the Constitution is a backstop against fascism and totalitarianism. I understand that the press can be self-serving and sometimes wrong but when you stop freedom of expression, you stop a civil society and you deal a body blow to democracy. This is the time to stand as tall as we can.

Laura Marx: The Losers When Cheaters Cheat

Mar 28, 2019

The recent Varsity Blues scandal was shocking news to some. But for many of us who work on social justice issues, it was a confirmation of our observations about the benefits of wealth which offer young people advantages from an early age. For too long, school districts that primarily serve low-income students and students of color have been underserved and underfunded. The students who attend these schools aren’t given the same access to resources and opportunities as their more affluent peers at every age and every stage.

John Faso: Marijuana - To Legalize Or not?

Mar 27, 2019

In the thank goodness for small favors category, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has removed marijuana legalization from his budget proposal.  This will allow the legislature and the public to have a more considered evaluation of the issue.

Mueller’s inability to find enough evidence to charge Trump or his staff with collusion or conspiracy doesn’t mean they’re innocent or can’t be charged in the future. Innocence is different from the sufficiency of evidence. The inference from their contacts and transactions with Russia remains. Guilty people and criminal organizations sometimes beat charges.

Last week, the debate came to a head over whether New York should create a voluntary system of public financing of elections.  The state Senate, which appears to be a supporter, held a public hearing to gather testimony on the governor’s proposed plan. 

On the tariff question, the Wall Street Journal recently concluded, “Government can always help a politically connected few at the expense of the many.  But on every other measure the steel tariffs have been a bust.”  This concluded an analysis of the impact tariffs had on deficits, steel pricing in the US, and wages in the US steel industry. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Runway Less Travelled

Mar 23, 2019
Bibhu Mohapatra fitting a model
Courtesy of Bibhu Mohapatra

There’s a TV commercial from a while back – I can’t remember whether it’s for a car company, cigarette manufacturer, or Metamucil – but it shows a lone automobile forking off a busy superhighway and heading off into the wilderness.

Bryan Griffin: In Support Of The Free Market

Mar 20, 2019

I am going to buck the trend of the latest national discourse, especially that which is coming from the Democratic candidates announcing for President.

Stephen Gottlieb: Take America Back

Mar 19, 2019

It is painful to see the forces of hate killing men, women and children on many continents and here in many states, in schools and public places, taking apart the work of what we have been honoring as the greatest American generation who spilt their blood for the America they loved. It is painful and frightening to see the effort of the alt-Wrong to rip apart the free world that this country took the lead in creating. It’s painful to see terrorists crediting an American president as their inspiration for murder.

Last week was Sunshine Week; an annual celebration of the benefits of open government and discussion about ways to safeguard and expand upon current transparency laws.  If the success of a representative democracy hinges on the informed consent of the governed, it is critical that the public know as much as possible about the information used and the processes by which its representatives spend tax dollars, act on policy recommendations and administer the laws.