Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

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.

The two shootings in Dayton and El Paso have many similarities to many prior mass shootings. The manifesto left behind by the El Paso shooter is obviously very problematic, and by happenstance I was reading some material from Fordam University, which included a remembrance of Robert Kennedy’s graduation speech in 1967. Senator Kennedy said at that time, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy, and daring. Those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Those words are worth contemplating given today’s circumstances. We clearly need to get control in some fashion of automatic weapons, including better background checks and call out that Mr. Trump is a racist, and not as I jokingly said last week, a Trumpsapien, as the first step to addressing the issue of white nationalism.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Jamesian Era Ends At Vassar

Aug 10, 2019
James Mundy, Director Emeritus of Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Ralph Gardner, JR.

Some didactic panels – those identifying placards to the side of paintings in museums – are more descriptive than others. But few, to my recollection, are as revealing as those currently on view at Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.

[This commentary was recorded before the terrorist attack in El Paso Texas and the subsequent one in Dayton, Ohio.]

Last week (ten days ago) , I watched the CNN debates and follow-up coverage and I’m so mad, I could spit!

It was reported recently that the current Administration is trying to eliminate so-called disparate impact cases under the Fair Housing Act.[1] The press reported it as forcing plaintiffs to prove intent to discriminate. Actually it would make it all but impossible to prove housing discrimination in any form. So, even though the regulations haven’t been finalized, I’d like to get out ahead of it.

Summertime means barbecues, sunny days and relaxing visits to the beach. But for education professionals, summer is much more. July and August means professional development, sometimes second jobs and for those teaching summer school, lessons plans and paper grading.

We all know the terrible statistics about smoking.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans die each year due to tobacco use.  It is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women.  Tobacco use is also addicting.  It’s an unusual product, that when used as directed, addicts and kills.

Bill Owens: Confounding Events 8/5/19

Aug 5, 2019

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently issued a report, although heavily redacted, which concludes that all 50 states election systems were tampered with by the Russians, and that the Russians were engaged in substantial interference in 2016 election.  This is, of course, dramatically different than the House report which was issued under the Chairmanship of Mr. Nunes and constituted the worst of “fake news”.  The real test here, however, is what will the Senate do with this information, and are they willing to push back against the administration to ensure that the 2020 election and all subsequent elections are not tampered with by the Russians or any other source.

One Friday, my wife helped organize the local Lights for Liberty rally against the border detention camps. Then on Saturday, we joined with our local elected officials recognizing my great Grand Uncle Albert Downing, an immigrant who gave his life serving his adopted country in WWI. And On Sunday, the President slandered my Congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley, with racist taunts and jeers. Sadly, this weekend seemed to capture every aspect of immigration debates during the Trump presidency - hate, history and hope competing for what will shape our future. I am optimistic it will be hope, but hope is not enough. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: My Personal Moonwalk

Aug 3, 2019

I realize I’m a little late to the “where were you during the moonwalk?” party. If I were going to write on the subject I should have done so a few weeks ago.

Rogovoy Report 8/2/19

Aug 2, 2019

The highlights of the cultural weekend in our region include cutting edge dance; 19th century music; early 20th century opera; new music; avant-garde music; Indian classical music … plus a whole lot more.

Bryan Griffin: Too Many Lives Bet On The Nuance

Jul 31, 2019

I recently returned from missions work in rural parts of Cuba. What I witnessed there appalled me: dismal, oppressive living conditions, a shortage of food and clean water, the lack of basic necessities available for purchase, and a generally oppressed and tortured people. This sad reality is the manifestation of communism. The Cuban people are doomed to eternally suffer under the communist Castro regime as long as it remains in power.

In the hearings on the Mueller Report, some of the President’s supporters tried to describe “innocent until proven guilty” as meaning that the president is innocent of any crime and that the special prosecutor made that finding.

Blair Horner: Plastic Pollution

Jul 29, 2019

Plastic pollution is a major problem for the world.  Not only does plastic pollution choke waterways, devastate sea life, and pose a health threat, but plastic manufacturing also plays a significant role in the fight over curbing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Bill Owens: More Confusing And Confounding Events

Jul 29, 2019

Brexit pops back in the news, only in the sense that people are wondering where it is going, or if it is with Boris Johnson’s election as Prime Minister it clearly tilts toward a no deal Brexit.  It seems that the British people are greatly divided between those who wanted Brexit and those who want to redo Brexit.  One fascinating aspect is the tremendous divide between 18 to 24-year old’s and those over 60.  There have been a number of polls, all of them show the younger generation in favor of staying, and the older generation in favor of going.  While the percentages move somewhat in each poll, they are extreme with at least 80% of the younger generation wanting to stay, and about 65% of the older generation wanting to go.  One of the interesting arguments of the younger generation is that they do not have the same benefits as the older generation (cheaper housing, free education and a solid economy). 

David Nightingale: Presidential Candidates, So Far

Jul 28, 2019

As of July 2019, there are 3 or 4 democratic candidates I’d consider voting for, but although I lean that way I am not a registered Democrat. So far, my personal favorite is ‘Mayor Pete’ of Indiana.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Robert Morgenthau

Jul 27, 2019
Robert Morgenthau at Fishkill Farm's store in 2016
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I don’t remember when I first met Robert Morgenthau, the legendary district attorney who passed away on July 21st, but he would have. His memory remained sharp well into his late nineties.

Michael Meeropol: Demonizing "The Squad"

Jul 26, 2019

By now everyone has heard of “the squad” ---  Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY), Ayanna Pressley (D, MA), Ilhan Omar(D, MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D, MI) – four young left wing Democratic women of color.   Ocasio-Cortez is Puerto Rican, Pressley is African American, Omar is Somali-American and Tlaib is Palestinian-American.   All are citizens – all except for Omar were born here in the United States.

Artwork from a radio-related World War II propaganda poster for the United States
Public Domain / WikiMedia Commons

What do you think? Let's find out!  Here are this week's highlights from the WAMC Listener Comment Line. 

Stephen Gottlieb: John Paul Stevens

Jul 23, 2019

A lot of us will miss Justice Stevens. As a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Chicago, Stevens had a reputation as the sharpest mind on the Court. President Ford’s nomination of Stevens for the Supreme Court was widely hailed as an excellent appointment.

When I was in college, our professors encouraged us to find applied learning experiences. Whether it was getting an internship, doing research in a lab, studying abroad, or finding an apprenticeship, at that time it was simply an idea, and certainly far from a requirement. Regardless of the type of experience, these opportunities give students a chance to apply knowledge acquired in a classroom to real world situations.

The big state news last week was Governor Cuomo’s approval of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.  The governor signed the legislation with considerable fanfare.  His team organized an event and invited a large crowd of activists, lobbyists, labor groups, businesses and elected officials.

Secretary Mnuchin and Chairman Powell both recently advised about the need to raise the debt ceiling, with Chairman Powell indicating dire consequences would flow if the debt ceiling was not raised.  In fact, he called it “unimaginable”, a less sophisticated description is “are you kidding? You really don’t understand the consequences”. This battle has been ongoing for more years than I can count, and it was Republicans from 2010 through 2016 who railed against raising the debt, of course they are same group that railed against deficits, yet they voted to impose a tax cut which is on target to raise the debt by almost $1 trillion.  One of the interesting aspects of this crisis is that tax revenue has fallen well short of what was projected by the Trump administration resulting in less revenue.  To the most rational economist, this is not a surprise, and to most people with common sense, it is not a surprise.  It will be interesting to see how Republicans respond to this call from Secretary Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Powell in the Senate.  Democrats have a long history of agreeing to raise the debt ceiling as they recognized the consequences of a failure to do so.  So far, no tweets from POTUS. 

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Fireflies

Jul 21, 2019

At the close of July 4th, the sky darkened to its blackest point.  Sluggish from a filling Barbecue out in the hot sun earlier in the afternoon, I decided to take a walk into the quiet of my backyard, braving the nightly kamikaze pilot attacks of the mosquitos.  My motivation wasn’t to watch the fireworks being shot off downtown at the plaza; as it was, I couldn’t really see them, though their barrage of explosions was noisy enough.  I came outside for nature’s nightly month-of-July performance by the fireflies.