Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

Ralph Gardner Jr: Taking A Pond's Temperature

May 23, 2020
Ralph's new pool thermometer
Ralph Gardner Jr,

During a pandemic you have to take your pleasure where you can. So I was probably more excited than I should or would have been in a normal world as I anticipated the arrival of a swimming pool thermometer that I’d purchased over the Internet.

There is an emerging consensus that life after the COVID-19 pandemic – if there ever will be such a thing – will not look exactly like life before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor should it. And I’m not only referring to changes that will be made in direct response to the spreading of disease, or an enhanced awareness of viral and bacterial transmission and efforts that can, and will, be taken to minimize the spread of disease.

The Trump Administration and some of the companies that run large meat-packing plants are behaving reprehensibly towards their workers. When hot spot outbreaks of COVID-19 began to occur at many meat-packing plants, some of them closed down temporarily. As more and more workers got sick, some started to stay home out of fear for their own health. The result was a decline in production. It got so bad, that farmers – particularly those that raised pigs for slaughter – found no place to sell their maturing products.

Bryan Griffin: One Person, One Vote

May 20, 2020

Will the coronavirus pandemic take the American election system’s integrity as another casualty?

Stephen Gottlieb: For Those Who Can’t Work From Home

May 19, 2020

As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. The fact that Trump has handled the virus badly, stupidly, doesn’t mean that everything out of his mouth is wrong even if he says it for all the wrong reasons and without any understanding of the impact.

The words "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" have long been associated with U.S. Postal Service’s workers.  The Postal Service has its historical roots in the 1775 Second Continental Congress and its first postmaster general was Benjamin Franklin.  It is one of the few government agencies explicitly referred to in the U.S. Constitution.

The reopening of America is a complex calculation, comprised of the need for a recovering economy and a significant health risk.  There has been little clear information about a number of factors that are troubling to me and I hope they may be of at least concern to you.  With 30 million plus people out of work as the enhanced unemployment expires, what will the citizens be able to pay for, obviously, it will be significantly diminished as compared to their recent consumer history.  Will businesses that open have enough customers to survive, or will these business owners deplete their last remaining resources to open and then find that they are in a worse economic position a few weeks into this process?  Given the fact that no state has met the criteria for testing, we will only know the results- more, less cases or the same.  The latter would be an interesting result.  Will the public simply stay away in large numbers, will there be a mix of all of these things occurring simultaneously throughout the country with different outcomes in regions, counties, cities, etc.? 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Some Of My Favorite NYC Things

May 16, 2020
Central Park, May 2019
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Cities in general and New York City in particular are facing an existential crisis, if they’re not completely doomed. That’s what some of the news, opinion and navel gazing I’ve been reading lately would have us believe. The approximate cause is that once people realize they can work from home, in their slippers, they’ll be loath to return to the office. The reasons people have congregated in New York for the last four hundred years and the services that followed to feed, house and entertain them will become superfluous.

There are two kinds of people during a pandemic: Those who take the opportunity to read “The Plague” by Albert Camus, and those who don’t. I, like thousands if not millions of others, am in the first category. I’ve always been a fan of Camus, but I had never read “The Plague,” which, for those who don’t know, is a novel about how a handful of residents in the French Algerian city of Oran respond to the bubonic plague. Published in 1947, and wholly a work of imagination – there was neither a plague in Oran in the 20th century nor did Camus ever live through a plague or pandemic -- it garnered Camus the Nobel Prize for Literature ten years later.

Hank Greenberg: Busy Times Ahead

May 14, 2020

When the clock struck eight on the night of Sunday, March 22, our economy was put on “pause.”  In order to try to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus Governor Andrew Cuomo had no choice but to issue an executive order putting most of the state on lockdown.

Ben Downing: Hunger, Pandemics And Politics

May 14, 2020

On the one hand - skyrocketing unemployment and surging demand for emergency food assistance from Food Banks, pantries and soup kitchens. On the other hand - farms dumping milk, smashing eggs, plowing vegetables into the ground and farms closing. How can this be?

Stephen Gottlieb: Not If We Rest On Our Laurels

May 12, 2020

Americans like to say we’re no. 1, we’re the greatest, the world’s only superpower. So this is for the America greatsters. Not if we rest on our laurels, we’re not. Our genes came from all over the world. The science that’s been our glory, had many stages of development off our shores. The world doesn’t sit still waiting for the U.S. to create the next big thing. Several Asian countries have nuclear weapons. Several are challenging our digital developments, invading our privacy and platforms in ways that threaten the utility of what gets designed here.

Fred Kowal: Our Day, Our Future

May 12, 2020

The Mohawk people, one of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, lived in northern New York near where I live, and many still do. Their leaders had a rule that every decision must be made considering its effects seven generations in the future.

Julianne Viviano is an ICU nurse in New York City.
Julianne Viviano

I am a Covid ICU nurse in New York City, and the other day, like many others lately, I couldn’t fix my patient. Sure, that happens all the time in the ICU. It definitely wasn’t the first time. It certainly won’t be the last. What makes this patient noteworthy? A few things, actually. He was infected with Covid-19, and he will lose his battle with Covid-19. He is only 23 years old.

Blair Horner: The Legislature May Be Starting Up

May 11, 2020

In March, the Legislature granted Governor Cuomo unprecedented power to make laws.  No New York Legislature had ever granted its executive the power to change and make new laws without legislative consent. 

POTUS and the head of the Federal Reserve, Mr. Powell, are now proposing negative interest rates which means, in effect, Banks would be paying customers to borrow.  It also means that if you have a positive checking or savings balance you may be being charged that negative interest rate as well to maintain your money in the Bank.  This  nuance of negative interest rates  is unlikely to be disclosed by the Trump administration as POTUS tries to pass off the blame for the result on the Banks.  This is clearly complex economic theory, but this theory does have claws that might scratch you.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Columbia County's Family Meal

May 9, 2020
Chefs Jaime Parry (left) and Jon Carr
Carole Clark

One of the most compelling but I suspect overlooked reasons that people enter the cooking profession and the restaurant world is because they’re drawn to doing things for other people; to give their guests an experience that might bring a little joy to their lives.

At a press conference this past weekend, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a stern warning to those gathering for social events in the city: “"We will take you to jail, period."

Stephen Gottlieb: The System Subverts Our Values

May 5, 2020

This virus has been bringing out how much we depend on each other, rich and poor, black and white, men and women, immigrant and native. We used to talk about brotherhood and I’ve never found a good substitute for the vision of mutual concern and respect that people in my generation meant by brotherhood. Now two people who shouldn’t be named claim that Blue states don’t deserve help though we do a lot for the rest of the country, through our taxes, the business we generate and by repeatedly jumping to the aid of people all over this country when they suffer from natural disasters. What they’re really saying is that they feel no responsibility for those among us who need help, especially if they don’t have the skin color and ancestry that they honor.

New York State has flattened the curve of new coronavirus infections. Entering the final week of April, the daily totals of new hospitalizations and deaths have significantly declined.  Shutdowns of “non-essential” economic activity and social distancing are having the desired effect by reducing the spread of the virus, though those same shutdowns are wreaking havoc on both private and public sector finances. 

As the nation struggles to deal with the COVID pandemic, it's clear that "essential workers" are carrying the load on behalf of the rest of us.  Our health care workers and first responders often have to deal with incredibly sick and contagious people; others considered "essential" have to continue to go to work to keep our transit systems running, lights on and grocery store shelves stocked, even if it means potential life-threatening exposure.  Many of us continue to work, but from the relative safety of our residences.

Commentator Bill Owens shares his thoughts on the headlines of the past week. 

David Nightingale: The Dalai Lamas

May 3, 2020

During this COVID-19 era there’s time, for some, to catch up on books. One of the unread books [ref.1] I took from my shelf recently is about the present Dalai Lama – which takes us to Tibet.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Doing Well Making Due

May 2, 2020

Some important instructions to follow to ease the pain of the current moment. The first, obviously, is to stay home if your life and work allows, so that you reduce your risk of exposing yourself or others to the virus. Another is to support your favorite local merchants so their businesses don’t go under.

In a recent Commentary, I argued that the Democrats in Congress needed to stand strong against Republican efforts, led by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, to push through bills that bailed out the giant corporations leaving ordinary people to fend for themselves.   To a certain extent, they were able (by standing strong in the Senate) to force compromises on the last two bills passed. 

Rogovoy Report 5/1/20

May 1, 2020

I’ve always believed in the wisdom and power of positive pessimism. Over the years, I have adopted it as something of a creed, a belief system, a world view, and a healthy approach to life. Plan for the worst and you will never be disappointed. If all hell breaks loose, you have the satisfaction of having been proven right, of having had the foresight and wisdom to correctly predict the outcome. If things go better than you expect, you will be relieved at the very least, or even possibly made happy that the disaster for which you had planned was averted.

Blair Horner: Earth Week 2020

Apr 30, 2020

Last Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.  For five decades, the world has marked Earth Day as a time to reflect on the state of the environment and to debate how best to improve the only habitat we have.

Stephen Gottlieb: No Time To Be Stingy

Apr 28, 2020

There’s no good time to be stingy about public health. It costs more, and it kills our own.

Well, we continue to keep our heads above water here at WAMC. When I say “we,” I mean it. We have been saying, “We’re all in this together” forever. So now we have a fund drive coming up.  Most of us are at home. We don’t venture out without PPE, masks and gloves, and frankly, we are all pretty scared. One thing that I do know is that an awful lot of folks are listening to WAMC for longer periods of time than ever before. Maybe some of them aren’t driving to work and listening in their cars, but people are listening. We know how many of you are writing to the Panel and, anecdotally, how many people are in touch with each of us.

Oil prices plummeted on Monday to zero and below. The industry was in free-fall and panic. Amongst the causes of this, was the drop in gas usage and pushed further down by the flooding of the market with Saudi Arabian and Russian oil production, the level of supply is so high that there is essentially no future’s market for oil. That stabilized somewhat as the week wore on. What is really interesting is the two countries involved, Saudi Arabia and Russia are purportedly friends of Mr. Trump. Looks to me like their friends who want to destabilize our economy and potentially the world economy for who knows what nefarious reason.