Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

Ben Downing: Choosing To Become Stronger

Apr 14, 2020

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” I have read those words thousands of times. They ring through my head as all our worlds break. I hear them and I remind myself that being strong at the broken places does not mean better, but it does mean different. Nothing good will come out of COVID-19. The vast majority of the death and pain was avoidable. But the blessing in grief, in suffering is that we choose how we respond. We can honor the memories of those we lost with our response. We can choose to become stronger. But it is a choice we must make, individually and as a society.

Stephen Gottlieb: What Lessons Will We Learn?

Apr 14, 2020

I’d like to look beyond this epidemic, beyond the people telecomputing and those taking bicycles to work instead of busses, beyond our fears of going to meetings to see and greet each other and work together, beyond elbow bumps at funerals as I had to recently, and think ahead to a better future.

Blair Horner: NY Allows "No Excuse" Voting By Mail

Apr 13, 2020

As the pandemic rages, the impact it is having on all aspects of our lives becomes clearer.  Take for example, voting.  We saw the stunning scenes in Wisconsin where partisan differences blocked a voting-by-mail reform that would have allowed Wisconsin residents to avoid the risk of contagion at polling sites.

Politico observed in recent article that the US is viewed as the culprit in the global scrum for personal protection equipment (PPE).  A recent order directed DHS to prohibit the export of PPE to Canada and South America in particular which is further evidence of the short-sighted view of the Trump administration.  

David Nightingale: Plagues, Bacteria & Viruses

Apr 12, 2020
Hospital in Vienna during the plague 1679. Contemporary copperplate engraving.
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Let’s look at a few examples of the world’s previous plagues, some caused by bacteria, some by viruses. My background is only in physics, so anything I say here must come from experts, and my only aim is to understand. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: An Adequate Matzo Ball

Apr 11, 2020
Virtual family Seder at the Gardner house
Ralph Gardner Jr

The current crisis has caused all of us to improvise in ways both great and small.

Rogovoy Report 4/10/20

Apr 10, 2020

This week I report on a typical day in life under quarantine.

I wake up. Should I have tea or coffee? I can’t make up my mind. Should I have a shower first? I can’t make up my mind. Such are the existential dilemmas brought about by life in quarantine. I skip the shower and have tea.

Hank Greenberg: The Pandemic And The Election

Apr 9, 2020

In 1864, the nation was deep in the throes of the Civil War, yet incumbent President Abraham Lincoln was determined to go forward with the scheduled election that would decide his fate in the White House. 

Stephen Gottlieb: What Is Mr. Trump Accomplishing?

Apr 7, 2020

President Trump insists on painting a rosy picture. He’s great. He’s solved every problem. We were the first to stop people coming from China. We have great tests. And medical professionals have all they need.  Things are so good that America will be going to church for Easter. And it would be a shame not to have sports to watch.

Jane McManus: Not A Game

Apr 7, 2020

This Saturday, as the toll of coronavirus deaths in the United States approached 10,000, President Trump called together a meeting of sports league commissioners.

Blair Horner: The NY State Budget Gets Approved

Apr 6, 2020

Despite New York being at the epicenter of a growing pandemic, Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers were able to cobble together a budget for the fiscal year that started on April 1st,  “cobbled together” because it was a budget assembled under unprecedented pressure and based on the understanding that many of its assumptions may be dashed by what happens over the next few months.  In that way, it is a budget more written in the sand than etched in stone.

During this last week, a barrel of oil was cheaper than a pint of beer in Canada falling below $5.00. Canadian oil is cheaper than in the United States, but our crude is of somewhat better quality, nonetheless, oil has fallen dramatically well over 60% since the beginning of the year.

COVID-19 Diagram
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the United States and the world.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Lots Of Time For Chores

Apr 4, 2020
A selection of Gardner family memorabilia to be filed
Ralph Gardner Jr

I’m reluctant to describe the coronavirus as having a silver lining. But I am finding time to get chores done that I doubted I’d accomplish in this or several subsequent lifetimes. They present such a plethora of opportunities that I’m not sure where one starts; perhaps by listing them. I’m thinking of them as indoor and outdoor – those that can be accomplished when it’s bright and sunny and those that can wait until rain or cold drive you inside your home.

If you watch enough television, you will often see a doctor or nurse describing in agonizing detail the pressures they are under treating Coronavirus patients.  I am in awe at their courage, their devotion to their calling, and the risks they take to care for patients.

Fred Kowal: A Test For Us All

Apr 2, 2020

We are now in the Coronavirus Era. Our social interactions, our institutions, our economy are being restructured moment by moment. Few of us have experienced anything like this.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: A Sheppard And His Shadows

Apr 2, 2020

Many years ago, a young shepherd dreamed that he was a sheep being carried off in the mouth of a predator. When he woke up in the morning, he realized for the first time in his life that he was going to die.

The Coronavirus pandemic has once again shown the world the failures of big government. I hope people take notice.

Stephen Gottlieb: Paying For The Virus

Mar 31, 2020

In his discussion of the financial consequences of the pandemic to New York, Gov. Cuomo has not mentioned that New York isn’t permitted to borrow the money it needs. The reason is a New York State constitutional prohibition. Many states prohibit borrowing except for capital expenses. When states were permitted to borrow for current expenses, they ran up large debts and the practice needed to be stopped. So, many state constitutions barred the practice. With some exceptions, New York requires a law to be submitted to the voters for specific purposes. The Governor does not have the time to satisfy New York’s constitutional rules. For the moment, he’s stuck.

For those confronting it, a crisis hits first with the shock and then unfolds – hopefully – as a growing recognition of what has to be done to respond to that crisis.  Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature (like the rest of us) was presented with the shock of a growing pandemic.

The Corona Virus continues to wreak havoc throughout the United States and the world.  Cases are growing rapidly and deaths are increasing.  The reaction of government, at least at the state level, has been to take steps in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus and it seems the majority of people are taking these actions seriously, although there appears to be a significant number of people who still resist and are likely facilitating the spread.  The federal government is getting better at the process, but we still have a President who provides erroneous information which is contradictory to scientists on the stage with him at the daily briefings.  One of the drugs POTUS was pushing was discovered early last week to have poisoned some of the patients receiving it.  Dr. Fauci has been clear that more research and testing needs to go on before these purported cures are appropriate for use as a treatment regimen, yet POTUS keeps giving false hope.

A Nintendo Switch Lite and copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Sarah LaDuke / WAMC

If you’ve been glued to social media for the last couple weeks like me, you have may noticed something between updates on coronavirus and videos from stir-crazy quarantinees.

Michael Meeropol: Lives Versus Economics

Mar 29, 2020

So I was watching TV the other night when they showed a clip from the appearance of Dan Patrick the Lieutenant Governor of Texas on the Tucker Carlson show.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Cocktails In The Age Of Coronavirus

Mar 28, 2020
Cocktail hour at the Gardner house
Ralph Gardner Jr

We’ve held four cocktail parties this week and counting. Don’t panic. These aren’t in-person events. They’ve been conducted from the safety of our living room over the Zoom video-conferencing app.

Ben Downing: Learning Lessons

Mar 25, 2020

I hope this finds you well. Typing those words in an email or speaking them here seems surreal. Instead, let me say this: I hope this finds you healthy, safe and coping with life during COVID19. I say during, because there will be an after. And when we get there, we must have learned the lessons this crisis is teaching us in real time. Chief among those lessons is how our current priorities set us up to prevent, respond to, and recover from this crisis. Each day that goes by, sadly, the evidence mounts that dominant priorities of the last 40 years have set us up to fail on all fronts. If we want that to change, we must change our priorities. Change them away from the prioritizing tax cuts, corporate profits and efficiency and refocus on public investments, strong social safety nets and resilience. 

Stephen Gottlieb: Worth Fussing About In This Pandemic

Mar 24, 2020

I don’t want to talk about topic no. 1. I thought talking about politics might provide comic relief. But what’s funny about that? Politics is deadly serious, precisely because people’s lives depend on how elected officials take care of the rest of us, or whether they’re focused only on optics.

The fast-moving novel coronavirus has upended life as we know it in a blink of an eye.

COVID-19 continues its rampage through our population, our healthcare system and our economy.  It is clear that some significant steps, not unlike 2008, need to be taken by the federal government to provide income for full and partially laid-off workers, so that they have the funds with which to buy things and continue the economic flow at least at some level.  There are many workers who will not be able to work remotely, and many others who will not be able to work efficiently remotely, not for any fault of their own, but based upon the nature of the work that they do.

David Nightingale: Harriet Tubman (~1821-1913)

Mar 22, 2020
Harriet Tubman
Horatio Seymour Squyer, 1848 - 18 Dec 1905 / National Portrait Gallery - Public Domain

It may seem superfluous to write about Harriet Tubman, for she has not only been played by the Caribbean-born Cicely Tyson in the 1978 TV miniseries “A woman called Moses”, but also in the 2019 movie “Harriet.”

Ralph Gardner Jr: One Quick Visit

Mar 21, 2020
A potted plant
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I paid a quick visit to New York City this week to pick up the mail, clothes and some prescriptions. And when I say quick I mean quick. Fifteen minutes from the time we rolled up to our apartment, collected the things we needed, and headed back upstate.