Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

As lawmakers scrambled to wrap up the session last month, they passed hundreds of bills, most of which were well outside of the public’s view.  Due to the intense interest in the COVID pandemic, the public unrest over race relations, and the deepening financial crisis, it’s not surprising that other important issues were decided outside of the limelight.

Bryan Griffin: Just Give Us The Facts

Aug 19, 2020

Is objective journalism dead?

It’s certainly been sacrificed on the altar of hate for the administration – and to the new truth of the progressive narrative.

I argued on this station that Trump should have been impeached for disloyalty. The American people understand disloyalty. They didn't understand the significance of the articles of impeachment.

Bloomberg reported that small businesses are dying by the thousands even as large business bankruptcies are growing.  Larger companies have the resources to file a Chapter 11 proceeding which means they can reorganize and effectively stay in business even if they lose some of the equity in the business, small businesses frequently do not have the capital and thus wind up liquidating the business with or without bankruptcy court protection. This leaves small business owners in many of those cases exposed to creditors depending upon how the business was structured including the loans which they have taken out from lenders and whether or not they have issued guarantees to lenders and vendors. Bloomberg also points out that the federal government is not, and I emphasize is not, tracking these small business closures. This is a wonderful way to hide the reality and make it appear that things are much better than they actually are.  This is a regular Trumpian tactic, and no one should be surprised, but you may be able to observe it on Main Street in your town.

David Nightingale: Antiscience

Aug 16, 2020

When I was a young man I knew I wanted to go into both art and science, and I realized that what they had in common was the aim for truth. In poetry, and art, including writing, one tries to describe things as they are; and for science I chose physics, which also tries to describe things as they are – exemplified by unshakeable laws. Those laws, revealed by Newton, and many others, in particular Maxwell and Einstein, were beautiful. So, truth and beauty became increasingly how I wanted to pursue things.

Fred Kowal: Making SUNY Safe

Aug 14, 2020

Over the past several months, United University Professions has publicly articulated our strong position about the need to safely reopen SUNY campuses this fall. To protect our students, staff and communities, we have argued for guidelines that mandate testing for all those—including our members—who will be starting the fall semester as part of the SUNY community.

Stephen Gottlieb: Statues And The Arc Of Justice

Aug 11, 2020

Let’s talk about statues. I love Michelangelo’s and was privileged to see his masterpieces in Rome. And I’m moved by Daniel Chester French’s sculpture of a seated Lincoln in the Washington memorial that bears his name. I think’s it’s ironic to tear down or even reconstruct the statue, erected by the freedmen themselves, of Lincoln with a former slave – the freedmen knew the difference between enslaving and freeing people and wanted to commemorate and honor their liberation while preserving the understanding of the great moral wrong that had been done to them.[1]

Blair Horner: NY State Shortchanges Tobacco Control

Aug 10, 2020

It is well established that tobacco use addicts and kills.  For decades, the power of the tobacco industry blocked measures that would have protected the public’s health and saved lives.  That power ebbed in the late 1990s as states’ attorneys general brought legal actions.  At the heart of the litigation was the charge that the tobacco companies deliberately misled the general public, and specifically smokers, about the dangers of their products.  As a result, more people smoked, more people got sick, and the states had to pick up additional – and significantly higher – health care costs, particularly through the Medicaid program.  Medicaid offers health insurance for the poor and states’ pick up much of the tab. 

Barron’s recently reported that consumer spending grew 21% in what they described as massive recovery, but then, in the body of the story, as opposed to the headline, they say that spending still is 9% below February, that $2.7 million mortgage forbearance payments are set to expire in September, setting the stage for a second housing crisis.  The latter dovetails with the expiration of the moratorium on evictions this past month, the cumulative effect will be extraordinary pressure brought to bear on millions of people relative to their housing situation.  This coupled with the failure to continue the extra UI payments of $600 a week will have to be carefully watched to determine what impact the combined events have on the overall economy.  Clearly, the Barron’s article had good and bad news, and depending how much you read, versus just reading the headline (which I note is true in much of the media), you could miss the complete facts of the story. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Saving Family History From The Dumpster

Aug 8, 2020
Photo contributed by Ralph Gardner Jr.

What’s our responsibility to our elders once they’re gone? That’s something I’ve been wrestling with over the last few months. It has nothing to do with the pandemic, at least not directly; even though mortality can’t help but focus the imagination. However, my mother passed away in 2019, my father fourteen years before that. 

When I first started these commentaries back in 2005 I noted that one of the major points of disagreement within the economics profession had to do with how much government intervention into “the market economy” was necessary.   Of course, there are anarchists who believe that there should be no government what so ever.   (In my opinion, the most detailed explication of how such a society would exist in reality is the fictionalized presentation by the anthropologist turned fantasy writer Ursula K. LeGuin in The Dispossessed.   It still makes a fabulous read almost 50 years after publication!)   In addition, supporters of the planned economy introduced into the Soviet Union in 1928 and copied by various communist governments between World War II and the 1990s (with North Korea still claiming to be centrally planned) believed that the government should make little or no provision for anything resembling a “free market.”

Bryan Griffin: The Disunited Tribes Of America

Aug 5, 2020

“Remember,” said John Adams, our second President, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Two weeks ago, I commented about Jefferson’s fear of a presidential coup. Last week I spoke about using nonviolent methods to prevent a takeover by the incumbent president, who told Chris Wallace on Fox that he might not leave the White House if he loses the coming election. Afterward, I expressed my concerns and showed a copy to Ian Shapiro, a friend and polymath who’s done brilliant work on both foreign and domestic policy. He sent me back a portion of a new book of his on economic insecurity, The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It. I quickly realized we were approaching the same problem from different angles. Insecurity makes people want to believe that Trump is leading them to better days. I’ll return to that next week. And the campaign itself will help protect us against a presidential takeover.

Blair Horner: Shopping Smart For Medicines

Aug 3, 2020

The crisis in the cost of medicines in America is well-known.  Americans spend more on prescription drugs — about $1,200 per person per year — than spent anywhere else in the world.  The prices can be staggeringly high.  For example, newly-approved cancer drugs in the U.S. can cost $10,000 a month.  

The week before last POTUS announced it was patriotic to wear a mask, last week his administration sought to defund the CDC, contact tracing and testing.  This is a remarkable journey that we are on as we see the inconsistent and illogical activities from Mr. Trump and his administration.  This may be just a political ploy to get some other item into the new relief bill, but how Secretary Mnuchin can deliver these messages with a straight face, truly indicates to me that he is in the wrong profession.  He should be a clown.

Ralph Gardner Jr: John Homans

Aug 1, 2020
John Homans
Marilynne Herbert

Writers sometimes become famous; their editors rarely do. The reasons are obvious. It’s the writer’s name or byline on the book or magazine article or newspaper story. It’s generally their words, but not always. Also, it’s fairly easy to understand what writers do since we all write in one form or another.

Keith Strudler: Marlins Taking On COVID Before NL East

Jul 29, 2020

If you’re an aspiring minor league baseball player whose season was cancelled, there’s good news, and there’s bad news. The good news is there may be some spots that are open on a major league roster to play in this condensed, fan free season. The bad news is that’s it’s with the Miami Marlins, the majority of whom are stuck in Philadelphia after a failed effort to start their season. 

Scott Karson: Wellness

Jul 29, 2020

We have long known about the toll the legal profession can take on lawyers’ bodies, minds and personal relationships, with high demands at the office and in the courtroom resulting in a lack of work-life balance.

I wonder what Germans could have done to stop Hitler in 1932, before or after he had the keys to power.

The on again, off again 2020 legislative session wrapped up last week, concluding with a flurry of activity.  While the big issue – what to do about New York’s cratering finances – was ignored, last week saw significant legislative activity on a wide range of issues.  The issue of the state’s finances will likely emerge in weeks or months to come.

The deployment of Federal Law Enforcement Personnel to Portland, Oregon is troubling on many levels.  The threat to send them into Chicago, New York, etc. is also problematic.  Do I think that the authorities in those cities have done a good job containing the riots – probably not, but it is a difficult balancing act to deal with rioting interspersed with peaceful and lawful demonstrations.  I would note POTUS and Mr. Barr make no distinction.  In their minds, anybody who disagrees with them, is a rioter.  

David Nightingale: Douglass

Jul 26, 2020
Frederick Douglass
National Archives and Records Administration - Public Domain

I became interested in Frederick Douglass after seeing his unsmiling and magnificent likeness on a US postage stamp in 1967. Now, I follow up.

Ralph Gardner Jr: It's Corn Season!

Jul 25, 2020
field of corn, ready for harvest
United Soybean Board / Wikimedia Commons

There’s a lot of grim news out there. But here’s some good news. Some very good news: it’s corn season again.

Michael Meeropol: "This Is How It Starts"

Jul 24, 2020

Early in the campaign for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, I stated that I believed Donald Trump was a fascist. Some people for whom I have a great deal of respect said that I was giving him too much credit --- that he was too dumb to really be a fascist. After, all, Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943, was a theorist of fascism. [Anyone interested can see the book he is credited with writing: The Doctrine of Fascism.]   Even insanely crazy Adolf Hitler had written Mein Kampf.   Trump, as his many ghost writers can attest, doesn’t have the attention span to write a decent set of paragraphs, let alone develop any coherent theory about anything.

Bryan Griffin: The Death Of The Pursuit Of Truth

Jul 22, 2020

“I cited their study, so they disavowed it,” writes Heather Mac Donald. Ms. Mac Donald is a political commentator and fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Stephen Gottlieb: Jefferson On Trump

Jul 21, 2020

I was weeding some of my papers last Saturday and found a copy of a letter sent by Thomas Jefferson from Paris, where he was representing this country, on December 20, 1787, to James Madison here in America. As a slave-holder, Jefferson committed grievous wrongs, but Thomas Jefferson wasn’t stupid and what he wrote struck me because he was precisely describing what we most fear today. Jefferson’s letter was about the Constitution. He played no part in writing it, stationed in Paris as he was. But having gotten a look, he wrote his friend about what he did and didn’t like.

Blair Horner: Voting Protections Are Still Needed

Jul 20, 2020

In New York, making new laws and changing old ones is supposed to be a deliberative process.  Normally, lawmakers introduce bills, the bills get referred to a committee, committee legislators and staff review the provisions, and then – sometimes – the bill is put to a vote.  From there the bill can be sent to the relevant floor of either the Senate or Assembly for final consideration.  If approved by both houses, that bill then goes to the governor and his staff for review before action. 

This past week large banks announced significant declines in net profit as a result of significant increases in reserves for loan losses.  This same phenomenon occurred in 2008-2009, when banking institutions suffered significant losses, as well.  These loan losses are estimates of what the anticipated losses will be, and as a result, if those loan losses do not come to fruition, those reserves are reversed and treated as profit in a later year.  Hopefully that is what we see.

Ralph Gardner Jr : What's That Plant?

Jul 18, 2020
Bull thistle plant
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Imagine if there was a way to make yourself more intelligent. A pill you could take without side effects – except, perhaps, to make you insufferable – or a breakfast drink after whose consumption you’d actually know what you were talking about.

Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on abortion, LGBTQ rights and protections for undocumented immigrants had liberals cheering Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and conservatives decrying his perceived leftward shift.

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