Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

Ralph Gardner Jr: Milestones You Don't See Coming

Sep 14, 2019

There are all those well-known milestones – births, marriages, deaths. But then there are the ones that come upon you suddenly, that you hadn’t given any thought to, that nobody warned you about.

The field in the Democratic Party presidential sweepstakes is finally beginning to narrow.  Three candidates have seen the writing on the wall and have dropped out.  One new candidate, California billionaire Tom Steyer who has spent many millions promoting impeachment of President Trump, has jumped in. 

Bryan Griffin: Values Independent Of Government

Sep 11, 2019

At the end of August, the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, unanimously passed a resolution that identified the “religiously unaffiliated” as the “largest religious group within the Democratic Party.” The resolution stated that “Religiously unaffiliated Americans overwhelmingly share the Democratic Party’s values,” and further went on to affirm that “morals, values, and patriotism are not unique to any particular religion, and are not necessarily reliant on having a religious worldview at all.”

Stephen Gottlieb: Never Again Means Never Again

Sep 10, 2019

I joined a demonstration Sunday afternoon. It was called partly to make clear that Jews are not slaves to Trump regardless of his policies toward Israel. It was part of Never Again Action across the country to protest the use of concentration camps to hold people fleeing from persecution, now most urgently on our Mexican border. We were joined by good people of all colors, origins and faiths, many of whom I know and admire.

Fred Kowal: Broken Words, Broken Treaties

Sep 10, 2019

Labor Day has passed, and the common expression is that summer is unofficially over. I reject that statement; I’ll go with the astronomical calendar because I want as much summer as possible! However, a clearer sign that the season is changing is the arrival of hundreds of thousands of students at the SUNY campuses at which members of United University Professions serve. The fall semester is underway and the faculty and staff at our 30-plus campuses are undertaking their sacred work of building wisdom-seeking communities.

Blair Horner: Campaign Finance Overhaul Begins

Sep 9, 2019

Campaign finance reform, long-promised but never enacted, is starting to take shape in New York.  As part of this year’s budget agreement, Governor Cuomo and the legislative majorities agreed to establish a Commission to create a voluntary system of public financing of elections.  In and of itself, the creation of a commission was not new; there have been other blue-ribbon panels that have examined the issue.  What was new was that the Commission’s recommendations would have the force of law when approved by December 1st of this year.

The riots in Hong Kong continue on with varying intensity. The local police force began spraying water filled with dye to more easily identify the protesters. One has to wonder if the Chinese have not inspired these protests in order to clamp down on Hong Kong. The way in which this has been handled, raises significant questions in my mind as to whether or not this is not another Chinese ruse.

David Nightingale: Arrhenius & Greta

Sep 8, 2019
Svante Arrhenius, ca. 1910
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

This essay is about two Swedish people – one who has already shown youthfully strong determination to benefit humanity; and one who first benefited humanity a while back. The younger one is Greta Thunberg, 16, who will address the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23, 2019 (as she did also in 2018) and the other – a distant and famous relative – would be 160 if he were still alive.  

On August 27, the economics profession lost a great man, Martin Weitzman, Professor Emeritus at Harvard University.   The world has also lost a very important citizen.   I was at Swarthmore College with him in the early 1960s and even then, he displayed a creative brilliance.   He never became a pundit on television or in the newspapers, but in many areas of economic research he left his mark.   His most important contribution, in my opinion, was in making it crystal clear that the cost of doing nothing to drastically cut carbon emissions in order to head off global warming ---no matter how uncertain the potential damages and no matter how far in the future those damages will occur will be so high that we must make the changes that reduce those emissions now.   For that contribution, he deserved the Nobel Prize in economics.  The entire world needed his strong voice to add support for the growing chorus --- led today by the young people of the world who have the most to lose from the inaction of the politicians – demanding action.

There are few parts of life in the UK that the Brexit saga does not seem to have impacted, as the normal cycle of political events have been hijacked by the prospect of the UK leaving the EU. With just weeks to go until the Halloween deadline, stockpiling food and medicine, fuel rationing and travel chaos have become daily news topics. This is hardly a sign of good times ahead!

Stephen Gottlieb: What’s Up With Iran?

Sep 3, 2019

This Administration continues to try to inflame the relationship between the US and Iran. So let’s look at how we got here, for which we have to go back to about 1981. We could start earlier but that’s about the US and Iran screaming about which was worse and which was justified – our deposing their Prime Minister and installing the Shah in 1953, or their seizure of the Embassy and holding Americans hostage in 1979. Both sides are equally convinced they win that argument. So let’s start with 1981.

Remembering Judy Grunberg

Sep 3, 2019

Judy Grunberg is gone, slipped away into the cluster of stars of which she was one. For me, this is a tragedy of the first order. She was one of those rare individuals who makes such a difference that you just don’t know how you can go on without her. 

A British Government report was leaked indicating that if there was a no-deal Brexit, that there would be shortages of food, fuel and medicine. This obviously raises the stakes for Mr. Johnson as he goes forward in negotiations, the risk of failure got a bit higher. The Northern Ireland/ Republic of Ireland border is another major potential pitfall, which could devolve into the violence and chaos that existed during the “troubles.”

Jim Crowe: Fighting Irish

Sep 1, 2019

On Labor Day weekend, the new Sportsbook at Rivers Casino in Schenectady is offering legal betting on a slew of opening college football games, and fan anticipation is high. If you want to take a chance on some top games, like Baylor vs. Kalamazoo, this is your shot.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Crimes Against The Earth

Aug 31, 2019
Workers using high-pressure, hot-water washing to clean an oiled shoreline. In this treatment method, used on many Prince William Sound beaches, oil is hosed from beaches, collected within floating boom, then skimmed from the water surface
NOAA / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

I recently clicked on a opinion piece by Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development. The title of the story was, “Trump’s Failure to Fight Climate Change is a Crime Against Humanity.”

Bryan Griffin: Big Government Big Corruption

Aug 28, 2019

Crony capitalism is a problem. Big businesses can have disproportionately high influence on our government. This is a problem that both the left and the right traditionally agree upon.

Stephen Gottlieb: Democracy And Globalization

Aug 27, 2019

Amy Chua wrote World on Fire two decades ago, arguing that globalism and democracy would collide by bringing out ethnic and religious resentments around the globe. She identified animosities country by country that would explode when times got tough.

Kristina Johnson: Campus Safety Is A SUNY Priority

Aug 27, 2019

We know that dropping off your child at college can be one of life’s most heart wrenching moments. Especially the first year, when the campus is still unfamiliar, and your child has yet to make friends. Most parents can’t help but worry. Will my child be ok? Will my child be safe?

There is a clear need for a new campaign financing system.  Under New York State’s current campaign financing system, a small number of big contributors dominate the system and have an outsized influence over policymaking.  As a result, seemingly endless campaign finance “pay-to-play” controversies and scandals have occurred over the decades.  Reformers, academics, blue-ribbon commissions, and others have consistently advanced plans that would shift that paradigm to a system to fund runs for state government offices that relies on a large number of small contributors, thus reducing the corruption risk and engaging more voters.

POTUS retweeted a conspiracy claim by right-wing commentators that Bill Clinton was involved in the death of Mr. Epstein.  This is problematic on just so many levels, and demonstrates how little regard for facts that POTUS has.  I am sure his supporters will dismiss it, if not believe it.  Can you imagine the uproar if President Obama has done something similar?  When do we reach the tipping point, or did we go over so long ago that we no longer realize it?

Ralph Gardner Jr: I'm Honored

Aug 24, 2019
Great Stone Barn
Lisa Malone Jackson / Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon

The clouds were low and billowing, and that apocalyptic steel grey color that in science fiction movies portends the arrival of alien invaders and the end of life as we know it.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Talmud Camp

Aug 22, 2019

Over the last hundred years, The American Jewish community has built an extraordinary system of Jewish summer camping programs. Their goal is to give our well- integrated American kids the chance for total immersion in a thriving Jewish community experience, 24/7.  In this way they strengthen their Jewish identities while they continue to grow as Americans. 

Stephen Gottlieb: Corruption Overwhelming America

Aug 20, 2019

This commentary was drafted in anger when I learned that pig farmers are refusing to allow inspections to look for the microbes that are killing people. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle exposed the filth of the meat-packing industry in 1906 and led directly to the Pure Food and Drug Act and the creation of the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration. Now they want to undo a century of relatively clean food by claiming regulation is bad – yes, particularly bad for filth in the food industry.

New York is notorious when it comes to a cornerstone of its democracy: voting.  For decades, voter turnout rates have been abysmal, typically ranking at, or near, the bottom in the nation.  An important reason for New York’s pathetic voter participation rates has been its confusing and cumbersome registration system.

Andrew Pallotta: New Commissioner Offers A Fresh Start

Aug 19, 2019

We got unexpected news last month. New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia submitted her resignation to the state board of regents. She will leave her post at the end of August. We wish her well in her future endeavors.

David Nightingale: Chandrasekhar (1910- 1995)

Aug 18, 2019

First, I’d like to comment that 90% of my essays this year have had nothing to do with science! They’ve all been emphatically non-science-related, and in fact, have that theme in common with our current political administration – no science at all!

Ralph Gardner Jr: Dancing To Nature

Aug 17, 2019
Stephen Petronio at Crow’s Nest, the Petronio Residency Center in Roundtop,NY
Ralph Gardner, JR.

There are studies coming out every day about the therapeutic benefits of nature. A walk in the woods, besides being pretty and good exercise, increases mental health, not to mention spiritual development.

Bryan Griffin: What Is A Human Right?

Aug 14, 2019

With the 2020 election cycle in full swing, we’re going to be hearing more discussion of exactly what the American government owes to its citizens as a “human right.” Many politicians will make lofty promises of adding things to this precious list.

Stephen Gottlieb: Greenhouse Gas Tax

Aug 13, 2019

Governor Cuomo recently announced a wind farm off of Long Island. Sounds big. But it made clear to me that we have to turn to a carbon or greenhouse gas tax. Big as that wind farm is, new government wind farms are rare. And government projects somehow have to compete with and make up for all the carbon released by private sources. As the economy improves, private sources just make more. That process has to stop.

Over the last two years, top aides to Governor Cuomo, a political ally, and big campaign contributors were convicted of bid-rigging and other offenses stemming from state contracts tied to New York State’s economic development projects.  While the governor was never accused of wrongdoing, it was clear that better oversight was needed in the way state contracts are awarded.