Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

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?

The world’s leaders met in Madrid to discuss new steps to combat the threat posed by global warming.  The Conference was convened by the United Nations two weeks ago and finished its work with far too little progress toward curbing a rapidly heating planet.  The Conference wrapped up with a modest agreement, too weak to have any effect on the warming of the planet – a warming that is heating up at a pace that exceeds even the direst predictions from a few years ago.

POTUS announced his next major focus for the environment.  He is ordering a study of whether Americans flush too often.  He referenced people flushing 10 to 15 times.  Is this for a single use, is it for sport.  Most importantly, where did he get the information and what is his concern?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Time For The Tree

Dec 14, 2019
The 2019 Gardner Christmas tree
Ralph Gardner Jr.

We have this road trip game we play in our family that I like to think we invented – actually my wife invented it – but lots of other families probably play it, too.

John Faso: Impeachment Mistake

Dec 13, 2019

Last March, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that, “impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.  And he's just not worth it.”

Fred Kowal: We Will Not Be Silent

Dec 12, 2019

United University Professions abhors racism and hate speech in all its forms, and this union will always stand up to and fight efforts by any individual or group that embraces and propagates these vile beliefs.

Bryan Griffin: Free First

Dec 11, 2019

The American design was not of a generous government that gave citizens rights, but of a people who held freedom by their very nature and mutually agreed to allow the government to regulate in limited capacities.

Arguments about what should be in articles of impeachment divert our attention from the main point. Donald’s phone call with the new president of Ukraine should have made clear to all of us that the president is disloyal to America, willing to sell our security for a foreign leader’s press conference to make Donald look like a wizard instead of a duck. If we can’t trust the patriotism of the president, we can’t trust him to get anything right – except by accident.

North Korea announced that the United States may well receive an unwelcome “Christmas gift”.  POTUS seems unphased, although he is struggling through a NATO meeting where he is criticizing French President Macron for stating that NATO is braindead, when he, in fact, has frequently questioned the value of the alliance.  Then, POTUS abruptly left when other leaders made fun of him in what they thought were private conversations- really!

David Nightingale: Sailing

Dec 8, 2019
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Waves were curling behind us, some higher than our little boat. Although the night was black, we could just make out the ominous white tops, as they advanced towards the stern. In the sudden storm we were being pushed away from the land we had just camped on, pushed into the Atlantic. Every time we feared a wave might break and swamp us Ken managed to steer slightly broadside, so that we only rocked violently from side to side before resuming our terrifying drive forward.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Perfect Storm

Dec 7, 2019
Lucy Gardner and Malcom St Clair stacking wood.
Ralph Gardner Jr.

One tries not to repeat oneself. And I did a commentary about snow and snowstorms less than a year ago. But the one that hit us last Sunday and continued into Monday and early Tuesday morning deserves congratulations. It was about as good as it gets. At least if you didn’t have to get anywhere.

Michael Meeropol: President Trump Must Be Impeached

Dec 6, 2019

On May 23, 2017, I delivered a commentary in which I tried to argue that attempting to impeach Trump was a waste of time --- and potentially would do more harm than good.

Mark Zuckerberg has not been willing to take responsibility for the lies distributed on Facebook. And by now everybody but Donald is aware that social media are the major repositories of fake news. And that’s not an accident.

New York looks like it will have some form of a voluntary system for publicly financing state government elections. Unfortunately, far too much of the program is unnecessarily complicated and untested.  In addition, while the commission lowers New York State’s ridiculously high campaign contribution limits, it still allows donations far in excess of those allowed for runs for federal office, including the President.  Lastly, the commission has advanced new schemes to make it harder for minor political parties to operate.

We celebrated Thanksgiving this past week.  I hope it was joyous, filling and crammed with family and friends. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Holiday Gift Ideas

Nov 30, 2019
Ralph Gardner Jr.

This year’s holiday shopping season – that hectic wallet-emptying interval between Thanksgiving and Christmas – is about as short as it gets. So I thought I’d share a recent gift that’s made a major difference in my life. You may want to consider getting one for yourself or a friend or family member.

Hank Greenberg: Simplifying The NY Court System

Nov 27, 2019

For decades, leaders of the judiciary, bar associations and good government groups have highlighted the need to modernize New York’s court system.

Stephen Gottlieb: Stiffing The Subpoenas And The Charges

Nov 26, 2019

The White House orders members of the govenment not to testify and refuses to produce documents requested by House committees. It stonewalls subpoenas or turns to the courts, which could delay proceedings well past the 2020 elections. Is the possibility of impeachment stymied?

One of the most important things unions do for their members is fight to protect and preserve their professions.  As educators that also means fighting to protect the people we serve — the students we help to inspire, motivate and nurture every day.

Job One

Nov 26, 2019

As I write this the impeachment process continues.

To many of the people who are WAMC listeners the Trump presidency represents a turning point in American history. Are we like the Holy Roman Empire doomed after so much power and promise? Is this point in our history that proves to be crucial to the future? To those who believe that Trump is a dangerous demagogue it is so important that every piece of information be out there. Believe me it will count. There are those who think that in a time of extraordinary  privilege for some that those on top are determined not to let go of their advantage. The question, of course, is whether Donald Trump, as Nancy Pelosi asserts, is a crook. This is when Americans have to be tuned in and decide whether Trump is worthy or whether he should be thrown out.

Thanksgiving is the kick off of the holiday shopping season.  It’s a time when many adults look for gifts for children.  And while the holidays are a time for fun and giving, it is important that it gift givers keep safety in mind when shopping for kids.

It has been reported that a 5-year old brought cocaine to class, saying it makes him feel like Spiderman. His father was arrested which is not really a surprise. Unfortunately, parental irresponsibility has existed since the beginning of time. It was wooly mammoth’s endangering children, and now its drugs. Ah, the human condition.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Thanksgiving Without The Parade

Nov 23, 2019
Central Park West View of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Ralph Gardner Jr

Do I or don’t I watch this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV? I may be one of the few people in America for whom this is an emotionally fraught question.

Stephen Gottlieb: Time To Fight Fire With Fire

Nov 19, 2019

We’re in the middle of a campaign about whether Democrats should nominate a centrist and reject people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who understand who and what is hurting most people in America – citizens, middle class and struggling, guests, refugees, union members, farmers, and consumers – most of us. Elizabeth and Bernie are the reasonable ones while most others avert their eyes or hold their noses. Three cheers for reasonable, straight talking, clear-eyed candidates.