Commentary & Opinion | WAMC

Commentary & Opinion

Ralph Gardner Jr: Family Meal

Jun 15, 2019
Gracie Gardner, center, surrounded by friends and Blue Hill at Stone Barns co-workers
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Let me stipulate that the food was sublime, the service to match when we were invited to Blue Hill at Stone Barns last week by my older daughter Lucy and her fiancée Malcolm St. Clair as thanks for throwing their upcoming wedding.

Ben Downing: Never Say Never

Jun 13, 2019

The Baker administration recently announced a plan to double Massachusetts’ procurement of offshore wind. Given the mounting data about the severity climate crisis, the announcement is good news. Tapping into the potential of offshore wind is key to solving climate, especially in the Northeast. Just as important is the lesson about the scale of action needed.

Bryan Griffin: The Government Grows By Design

Jun 12, 2019

The federal government is ballooning in size. Government grows itself by its very nature.

Stephen Gottlieb: This Dishonorable Court

Jun 11, 2019

Last week we talked about ways to block appointments that could make this Court even worse. Is it worth it?

Fred Kowal: Bread And Circuses

Jun 11, 2019

Like millions of others, I watched the final episode of HBO’s epic series, Game of Thrones. I found it – like the entire series – immensely entertaining, with the final scenes carrying a sense of hope and peace. After all the violence of the previous seasons, it was welcome.

Last week, a blockbuster story ran in the New York Times: “Warning of ‘Pig Zero’: One Drugmaker’s Push to Sell More Antibiotics.”  The investigative report examined how the pharmaceutical industry is pushing the overuse and misuse of antibiotics on farm animals – in the case of the Times story, pigs.

Mr. Trump announced before traveling to the United Kingdom for a state visit that Meghan Markle was nasty, although he subsequently denied having said it, unfortunately for POTUS there were tapes of it.  It must be that fake news again.  He also suggested to Mrs. May that Britain not pay the $50 billion fee to exit Brexit, and offered support for Boris Johnson.  If Mrs. May had made the same incursions into our affairs the tweets would have been viral and nasty.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Shooting Practice

Jun 8, 2019

I recently inherited a gun. Actually, a .22 rifle. I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking the same thing: Get rid of it. Sell it. Donate it. This will not end well.

Michael Meeropol: How To Pay For The Green New Deal

Jun 7, 2019

In my last commentary delivered in March, I focused on critics of the Green New Deal.  I argued that the demonization of federal budget deficits was a red herring not to taken seriously when discussing the pros and cons of the series of proposals called the “Green New Deal.”


There comes a point in many young athletes' lives when they are forced to confront a difficult question. That is, am I afraid of getting hit by a baseball? I say this without even a hint of insult or derision, speaking as someone who personally is quite afraid of that very potential reality. I have two athletic boys, both who play team sports. My nine-year-old doesn’t seem to be afraid of getting hit – granted, he doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything, which I hope eventually changes. So he still plays. My oldest son decided after last season, after getting hit by a couple of pitches, that he’s done.

John Faso: Tariff Man

Jun 5, 2019

President Trump has had varying political positions over the past 30 years. In shifting his positions, Mr. Trump is not unique.  Times change; issues change as does public opinion. Emerson once said:  “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

Stephen Gottlieb: To Protect The Court

Jun 4, 2019

There's a lot going on this week. I've put on my blog some information about funding legal services for the asylum-seeking immigrants at the Mexican-American border and on the struggle for marijuana legalization in New York.

Blair Horner: What's In New York's Drinking Water?

Jun 3, 2019

States in the northeast, including New York, are lucky to have access to an abundance of fresh water supplies. New York’s fresh water supplies were critical to the state’s earliest economic development – for example, access to the Great Lakes, the Hudson River, and the building of the Erie Canal. Since colonial times, those clean drinking water supplies helped make possible the rapid growth in the state’s population.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader in a speech on May 28, uttered one of the most hypocritical and cynical statements that have been made in recent memory.  Mr. McConnell made it clear that if a vacancy appeared in the Supreme Court in 2020, that he would move it through the Senate because there was a Republican President.  All of the nonsense which he spewed in 2016 about Judge Garland was a lie.  He wallows deep in the swamp. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Books, Books, Books

Jun 1, 2019

Cleaning out the apartment where my parents lived for the last sixty years after my mother died in February, and where I grew up – the task was completed last week -- presented various challenges. Logistical, sentimental, financial, political.

Here We Go!

May 31, 2019

On June 3rd we go once more unto the breach. That’s the beginning of our summer fund drive when, once more, we begin what we have always referred to as “The Great Schlep Forward.” Since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the amount of time it takes to make a million dollars has been sliced by a great deal. Sometimes we do it in a day. I have assumed that from Day One of Trump, WAMC has been the main, if not only, place on the radio dial to hear about the latest tragedy and trauma confronting our country. Our Roundtable Panel has gained a huge following, becoming the go-to place for so many people each morning as we discuss the news of the day. We know that tens of thousands of people are listening. As I meet people in the street or read their mail, they tell me that they are addicted to WAMC and the Panel.

Ask any educator and they’ll tell you — it takes more than teachers to make a school run smoothly. It takes dedicated teaching aides and assistants, who provide help in everything from math, to reading, to science. It takes bus drivers, who safely transport students to school, and back home again. And it takes cafeteria workers, secretaries and custodians.

Bryan Griffin: The Myth Of Scandinavian Socialism

May 29, 2019

Confront an advocate for socialism with its dark history, and the deflection will typically be some variety of “What about Norway, Sweden, Finland, or Denmark?”

Stephen Gottlieb: No Time For Moderates

May 28, 2019

We’re suffering a worldwide attack on tolerance, the brotherhood and sisterhood of all peoples, and the principles of democracy and equality that make it possible to share the country and much of the globe in peace. The results, from Brexit to White Nationalism, the resurgence of Nazism in Europe, intolerance in India and China and ethnic warfare over the scraps of economic failure endanger us all. America, founded on tolerance, equality and democracy, should be leading the world out of this dangerous morass instead of smoothing the path to hell.

Economist, Judy Shelton, appears to be Mr. Trump’s next nominee to the Fed.  Ms. Shelton has sent mixed messages in terms of her agenda and priorities, but clearly does support positions that Mr. Trump has taken on the economy.  Her record as an economist clearly qualifies her for the Fed, whether you agree with her positions or not.  This is a person who should be confirmed to the Fed, in contrast to Mr. Trump’s previous unqualified nominees.

David Nightingale: Lusitania & More

May 26, 2019
RMS Lusitania broadside. George C. Bain Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-61939
Public Domain / National Museum of the U.S. Navy

The ocean-going liner Lusitania was torpedoed in 1915, and it sank in 18 minutes. Just under 1,200 desperate American and European men, women and babies drowned – dragged into the Atlantic ten miles south of Ireland.  There were 764 survivors, saved by assorted fishing boats from County Cork. [Ref.2, Ch.1]

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

May 25, 2019
Malcolm St. Clair, center, and Lucy Gardner, right, planting a tree in Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Other than having a baby – perhaps even including having a baby – what’s a more profound vote of confidence in the future than planting a tree?

Stephen Gottlieb: For Elizabeth Warren

May 21, 2019

We’ve all been told the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, and pass it on with pride and pleasure. Although the actual events probably differed in some respects from the story we’re told, it speaks well of us that we remember her bravery and the love and marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. They had a son, Thomas, who was brought up by English relatives after Pocahontas died there. I’ve often wondered how they described his heritage and hope they remembered his Native American mother with pride and pleasure. Children were born from similar marriages through much of the American frontier. I hope their descendants think of their native ancestors with the same warmth. In that vein, I was happy to discover that Senator Warren’s family took pleasure in knowing that a native union was blended into their family story, and that Senator Warren grew up thinking about it with pleasure. Some have pummeled her for it, but I think her attitude says more about her kindness and decency.

Blair Horner: Whither Ethics Reform?

May 20, 2019

By now it’s been drummed into New Yorkers – after scores of controversies, scandals and prison sentences handed out from the actions of top public officials – the state is considered one of the most corrupt in the nation.  

It appears that much of the Canadian internet data is transmitted and stored in the United States.  This data is not accorded the same level of security as data which is generated and stored in Canada and it is not protected by the same privacy rights as those accorded to US domestic data and its owners.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Charm Of A Sparkling Dashboard

May 18, 2019
1947 Ford dashboard
Joe Ross / Wikimedia Commons

There are two kinds of people in this world. I know, I know: those who don’t divide people into two groups and dorks who do.

Fred Kowal: For Mom...

May 15, 2019

My mother, Mary Kowal, passed away on April 2nd after 98 incredible years. She was born in 1920, when Woodrow Wilson was president. As many know, Wilson was an arch segregationist. But mom, who was born the year that women were first allowed to vote in the United States, lived long enough to vote for America’s first African American president – twice.

Bryan Griffin: The Incremental March Towards Socialism

May 15, 2019


It means belief in or advocacy of change by degrees. Gradualism.

Stephen Gottlieb: Iran And The United States

May 14, 2019

I can’t update the news from the Persian Gulf except to express my skepticism. I intended to go behind the news to look at Iranian and American views of each other. I still think that’s useful.

In 1966, then-Speaker of the California Assembly Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh aptly observed “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”  If so, in Albany, our elected officials are extremely well-nourished.  New York law makes it easy to pull in donations from those with deep pockets; the state has the largest campaign contribution limits (of any state that has limits) in the nation.  Under state law, one can make a legal campaign contribution of over $115,000 to a political party and can donate nearly $70,000 to candidates for governor.