Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

Ralph Gardner Jr: Generating Music

Nov 9, 2019
House concert at the Gardners
Ralph Gardner Jr

That does it. We’re getting a generator. We’ve been saying that for years, approximately every time the lights go out, which in our neck of the woods is pretty much when the wind does much beyond whisper through the woods.

Today I am presenting a very personal commentary.    Last May, I lost Annie, my darling life-partner of 53 years.   On November 2, former colleagues from both the Springfield and Longmeadow school systems as well as from the University of Massachusetts and the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center joined with family, friends and acquaintances at Mount Holyoke College’s Willetts-Hallowell Hall to honor her and celebrate her life.   I am taking this opportunity to share with my listeners a few things about this amazing wonderful beautiful human being --- a woman with whom I have been privileged to share over five decades of my life, a woman who lived a wonderful --- but of course much too short --- life.

Fred Kowal: Can We Make SUNY Matter?

Nov 7, 2019

Over the past two weeks, Sen. Toby Stavisky, chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education, has presided over public hearings on the cost of public higher education in New York. The cost of a SUNY education, as well as the underfunding of SUNY, its medical schools and public teaching hospitals were also discussed.

Dr. Alan Chartock
Eric Korenman

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock discusses reports upcoming public hearings in the House's impeachment proceedings involving President Trump.

Keith Strudler: Running Up The Score

Nov 6, 2019

You cannot watch any measurable amount of youth sports without eventually seeing what’s called a blowout. Basically where one team wins by such a lopsided margin it’s uncomfortable, no matter which side of ledger you’re on. That might be a 12-0 soccer match, or a 50-10 basketball game, or even a 15-50 cross country race, for those of you who know the sport. Assuming you keep score, uneven sports results are fairly endemic to the games our kids play, despite our often best intentions.

Stephen Gottlieb: Heaven In Hawaii

Nov 5, 2019

We were out of town most of last month and the trip back took three separate flights, all the hassle of traveling by plane, and more than 24 hours from leaving my wife’s cousin to walking into our front door. We’re still recovering from the time difference, the lack of sleep and the heat wave in heaven.

John Faso: Warren's Folly

Nov 5, 2019

Last week, after a long wait, Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her latest plan:  how to pay for her proposed “Medicare for All” program.

One of the big changes in how New York runs its elections is a measure to allow “early voting.”  Early voting allows for people to cast their ballots in advance of Election Day.  And early voting has been tested across the nation.

A variety of reports are sending negative signals with regard to large capital purchases which went down 1.1%, as well as the investment by business in large commercial products which also over a two-month period has dropped 1.1%.  It was also recently reported that our annual budget deficit is nearing $1 trillion for 2019 which is a 26% increase resulting from the 2017 tax cut and increased spending.  These three pieces of data become very important in an attempt to analyze the direction of the economy as opposed to the stock market which is the focus of much of the commentary.  Ask your Congress person what their position is on the growing deficit and debt.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Strange Magic Of A Favorite Mug

Nov 2, 2019
Ralph's favorite cup
Ralph Gardner Jr

There was nothing remarkable about my mug. It was white and tapered – wider at the top than the bottom – with a sturdy handle that offered a comfortable, confident grip as I sipped my morning coffee.

In many ways, WAMC is a miracle. You are the reason for that. It’s hard to believe that we just had a fund drive. Was that a dream? $700,000 dollars in the Locked Box -- I certainly never thought that was possible. We reminded folks during the course of regular programming why we needed to get it done and sure enough, it happened. I mean, $700,000 dollars! Of course, there were a few (very few) blue meanies who said that we had some nerve asking for the money. Our answer was that things were simply happening too quickly. The Trump impeachment story, for one, just kept coming. That was not something that we could afford to ignore and, like I said, all we kept getting from our listeners was love. Oh, a few people said that they wished for a longer fund drive and all the fun that goes with those efforts, but there you were!

Hank Greenberg: On Being Agreeably Disagreeable

Oct 31, 2019

There is an ancient saying: "May you live in interesting times." This expression is intended to be ironic. It reflects anxiety and fear about current events or perhaps even the future. 

Bryan Griffin: Come Together, Right Now, Over This

Oct 31, 2019

On a trip to Paris last week, I walked through the halls and stairwells of one of France’s oldest academic institutions: La Sorbonne. The university was founded as far back as the 1200s and has 24,000 students spread across twelve campuses.

This could be called a tale of two birthdays. While celebrating my wife’s birthday at a restaurant, she got an email in response to her request that the writer handle some things at an upcoming national conference.

In 2011, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature passed “SUNY2020,” a multi-part higher education bill which, among other things, increased tuition annually at the State University of New York and the City University of New York.   At the time of first passage, Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers promised to use the additional tuition dollars to enhance student services, including but not limited to; academic mentoring, counseling and advising. The tuition dollars were not intended to backfill budget holes, but rather enhance students’ education.

In a recent press conference Speaker Pelosi talked directly to Mr. Trump and allegedly posed to him the following: “You are a casino man, correct.  Then you should know not to bet against the house.” I thought this was an incredibly clever statement that plays well on so many levels.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Getting In Tune

Oct 26, 2019
Piano tuner Richard Lapo
Ralph Gardner Jr

I was reluctant to ask Richard Lapo too many questions since he was in the process of tuning my piano. It was an inherited Steinway baby grand that we recently decided to put to better, more strenuous use than during the previous seventy or so years that it shared my parents’ apartment.

John Faso: U.S. Deficit Follies Continue

Oct 25, 2019

As the House of Representatives and the Trump Administration spar over impeachment, the public can be excused for forgetting about our national debt and annual deficits. Forgetting it doesn’t change the fact that the nation’s finances are a mess.

Stephen Gottlieb: Environmental Mass Murder

Oct 22, 2019

I’ve spoken recently about the seriousness of Trump’s disloyalty as reflected in the whistle-blower’s complaint, his drive to imitate Hitler in exercising power, and the way rising wrong-wing violence is aggravating the threat from Trump. All are reasons to impeach or defeat Trump as soon as possible, and they combine to aggravate the danger of a dictatorial takeover.

Blair Horner: New York Starts Early Voting This Week

Oct 21, 2019

New York has had a well-deserved reputation as a state with laws that discourage voter participation.  In the area of redistricting, elected officials have long conspired to deny voters competitive elections.  In the area of campaign finance, loopholes in the law make it possible for wealthy and powerful interests to shower candidates with contributions of unlimited amounts.  In the area of ethics, enforcement is controlled by the state’s elected leadership.  In the area of voting, state policies have created obstacles to registering to vote and casting a ballot.

POTUS’ decision to abandon the Kurds along the Turkish-Syria border was purportedly based upon his desire to pull troops out of harm’s way and keep us out of endless wars. Within days, however, he ordered additional troops and equipment into Saudi Arabia which is clearly engaged in a conflict with Iran.  We abandon one ally in an act that can only be described as one of cowardice, and put troops in harm’s way on behalf of another ally.  It looks like our decisions are based upon oil and money.  Virtually all members of Congress, former State and Defense department officials expressed dismay while our troops (Green Berets have described their feelings as those of shame).  POTUS announced on October 18th that ceasefire has been agreed to which gave away Kurdish land and appears to be without benefit to the US or the Kurds, and as one might expect, there are reports of continued fighting.  There is a rumor on the street that Turkey is investigating Elizabeth Warren and the Kurds are searching fir dirt on other democratic candidates.  Just kidding. 

David Nightingale: 2019 Physics Nobelists

Oct 20, 2019
The position of Alpha Centauri (Rigilkent, Rigel Kentaurus, Toliman)
Zwergelstern / Wikimedia Commons

In 1849 the horror writer Edgar Allan Poe wrote his prose-poem “Eureka!”, (“I have it!”) concerning the nature of the universe.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Guarding The Herd

Oct 19, 2019
Georgia Rainey of Kinderhook Farm with Wink and Sarge
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Our dog is a dismal guard dog. She barks all right, but at all the wrong times. For example, in the middle of the night, set off by sounds such as the furnace. On the other hand, a burglar could walk through the front door and she’d barely bat an eyelash.

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

Our listeners are seldom at a loss for words. Here are this week's highlights from the WAMC Listener Comment Line. 

Fred Kowal: To What Does This Lead?

Oct 17, 2019

Fear. Fear of the other. Fear of the outsider. Fear of change. Fear of everything. Anger and Rage. At the rich. At the system, whatever that means. At our innate powerlessness.

Now that October is here, fall has truly arrived. And in school districts across the state, students are gearing up for Halloween, whether they’re picking out costumes for trick or treating, or making plans for Halloween dances and parties.

Bryan Griffin: Our Precious Sovereignty

Oct 16, 2019

Two weeks ago, I attended the 2019 Warsaw Security Forum as a participant of the New Security Leaders fellowship. The gathering is an annual event that brings together NATO, European, and American political and thought leaders to discuss global security and the preservation of Western democratic institutions.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Threat Of The Alt-Armed Wing

Oct 15, 2019

I spoke last week about Trump’s intentions. His intentions are particularly scary because of the growth of wrong-wing violence. Time Magazine published an excellent summary as The Terror Within, in its August 19 issue.  Vera Bergengruen and W.J. Hennigan first broke their story on Time’s website. They explained that white nationalists are responsible for a multiple of the deaths and injuries from any other causes of terrorism in the U.S. since 9/11, more than all other causes put together. But Congress and this Administration frustrated FBI efforts to assign more agents to stop mass killers from mowing us down. As a result it gets worse.

Audrey Kupferberg: Mum And Detectorists

Oct 15, 2019

MUM is a Britcom, complete in three seasons or eighteen episodes, starring wonderful Lesley Manville as a recent widow.  One has the feeling that, if left alone, she would be living a rather dull middle-class existence, possibly buying new lawn chairs, or a new toaster for a pick-me-up.  However, Mum – or Cathy, is never left alone.  She is surrounded, engulfed, by seven other characters who make up her world.

The United Nations’ Climate Action Week wrapped up with intense speeches, promises and emotional pleas for action.  Here in New York, the battle over how best to respond to the unfolding climate catastrophe is intensifying.