Commentary & Opinion

Last time we talked about how influencing our politicians to do the right thing can be fun. So this time let’s talk about some very serious issues with an eye toward enjoying the process of moving our politics to do the right things, even though the issues, like climate change, sometimes feel out of our control. But we do have power. We live in a democracy and can demand that our representatives deal with these problems first and foremost. Motivating them is our job. So let’s look and then return to our responsibility. Two issues involve the likely suicide of humanity: what has been termed the sixth mass extinction, this time of us.

Blair Horner: Earth Day 2018

Apr 23, 2018

This week we celebrate Earth Day.  Earth Day is an annual event that started in 1970 and is an important opportunity for our society to examine how well we are protecting the environment.  In a sense, Earth Day is the day we issue a “report card” on our stewardship of the planet’s natural resources.

Ralph Gardner Jr: An Hour Of Grace

Apr 21, 2018
Elisabeth Grace at Ooms Pond, Chatham, NY April, 2017
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Exactly one year ago my commentary involved a walk I took at the start of migratory season with birder and WAMC contributor Elisabeth Grace. Our walk occurred at Ooms Pond in Chatham, NY.

Andrew Pallotta: A National Lesson In Unionism

Apr 19, 2018

You can hear it building: A movement growing from a quiet whisper to a full roar.

In West Virginia and Oklahoma --- and in Kentucky and Arizona – teachers are finding their voices. They are standing with their unions to use that collective voice to improve their lives and their communities.

Bill Owens: What's The Plan For Syria?

Apr 19, 2018

Let me note that I have enormous concern for the suffering people of Syria, but ask do we have a strategy to assist them.

Some people tell me it’s hard to deal with global dangers and dangers to our health that aren’t fun to think about and that feel out of our control as well. How can we deal with it?

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock discusses President Trump's rejection of new sanctions against Russia.  Dr. Chartock also discusses this year's Pulitzer Prizes, which were announced Monday.


Air emissions from the combustion engine cause many health problems.  When it comes to the emissions of diesel powered engines, the impacts are serious and potentially deadly.

la Piazza Amendola, Avellino, Campania, Italy
Daniel Jünger / Wikimedia Commons

In the ‘60s, if you were young and had little money, it was difficult to see the world unless (maybe) by hitch-hiking.

I had less than a week, and had slept on deck since Istanbul, no meals – and as the ship approached Brindisi I felt that, after the bare dry stretches of Turkey and Greece, Italy might well turn into love at first sight.

So I walked through Brindisi and waited for two hours at a junction. Three females I’d seen on the boat got immediate rides, and after an hour a sputtering Fiat took me a few miles up the coast before I began to walk again. Reaching Bari after dark I found a cheap room.

Ralph Gardner: Counting Down To Springtime

Apr 14, 2018
Wren house
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Some years, this being one of them, spring needs a little encouragement. So I went out and bought a wren box at my local hardware store, Mario’s True Value in Valatie, NY.

Stephen Gottlieb: Impeachment For Corruption

Apr 10, 2018

We’ve discussed how impeachment organizes the disparate issues surrounding Donald Trump. We’ve focused on the poor political prospects of presidents who faced impeachment and the poor prospects of those presidents’ parties. We’ve examined the history of the constitutional language, especially “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” We found that a major purpose of the language was to enable Congress to stop corruption in its tracks. Corruption of public officials was a major target of impeachments in both England and America, leading to our constitutional text.

Bill Owens: What Is Next With NAFTA?

Apr 10, 2018

In a recent trip to Ottawa with Representative Elise Stefanik, along with Gary Douglas of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, Paul Grasso of The Development Corporation of Clinton County, Ron Kissen of the Franklin County Development Corporation, Jeremy Miller of the Franklin County IDA, Dave Zembeck of the Jefferson County Development Corporation, and Pat Kelly of the St. Lawrence County Development Corporation, we learned in a series of meetings the Canadian perspective on NAFTA. 

Last week, the Trump Administration moved to roll back the nation’s auto emission and fuel economy standards.  The current regulations are aimed at cutting tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming.  The Trump Administration also demanded that California, which has its own state-based, more stringent auto emission standards, must follow the federal decision or face legal challenge. 

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock discusses U.S.-North Korean relations, a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria and a memo from President Trump directing his administration to end the "catch and release" border practice. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Shaker Dinner Party

Apr 7, 2018
Stone Barn / Shaker Village, Mt. Lebanon, NY
Shaker Museum

These are times that test men’s, and even more so, women’s souls, especially when it comes to dinner parties. The mark of a decent dinner party with resourceful guests is one where the name of our Commander-In-Chief (I can already hear the indignation, not to mention the indigestion, rising) isn’t mentioned for at least half an hour.

So the Department of Commerce has decided to add a question about citizenship to the Census short form. A number of states have either sued or threatened to sue arguing that this is in contradiction to the whole point of the census as stated explicitly in the Constitution.

Fred Kowal: The Why Was Justice

Apr 5, 2018

Yesterday, Americans remembered the day fifty years ago, when our nation lost a prophet. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of freedom and equality, with a dignity and persistence that caused him to be beloved, and the target of vile hatred and violence. It was the latter that led to his death from an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4, 1968. He was just 39 years old. His young age stuns me. I have a son who is already 31 years old. He seems so young, and yet he is only 8 years from the age when King was lost to us. Martin’s youth belied a wisdom and grace that is timeless. His commitment to a better nation and world for all cannot be denied, even today, decades after his death.

Herbert London: Britain’s Lost Consciousness

Apr 4, 2018

In the midst of world changing events in Asia, Putin’s serial aggressions in Europe suggest the collapse of Western principles, specifically the defense of national interest. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom said it is “overwhelmingly likely” Putin personally ordered the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury. Hours before these revelations, Scotland Yard said it was treating the death of Nikolai Glushov, another Russian expatriate and an associate of Putin’s critic, as murder.

Stephen Gottlieb: Impeachment – The Legal Question

Apr 3, 2018

For the past two weeks we’ve talked about how impeachment changes the issues surrounding Donald Trump and the political impact of prior impeachments in America. Now we turn to the constitutional language: “The President … shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”[1]

Ben Downing: Addressing Poverty

Apr 3, 2018

Earlier this year I commented here that policymakers were missing the mark if they did not turn their focus to poverty. Which begs the question, if they did focus on poverty, what should they do about it?

Blair Horner: The Budget Wraps Up

Apr 2, 2018


After three months of discussions and posturing, Governor Cuomo and the legislature finalized a state budget late last week.  Lawmakers took their final votes in the hours after midnight Saturday morning and met the deadline for getting the budget completed on time.

House Calls

Apr 2, 2018

This is a column about moderating Medical Monday on Vox Pop.

The problem is that the people who call in rightly believe they should have more time than I might allow. That’s because the phone lines are all always filled up and you want to give everyone a chance. For example, after a caller makes his or her point and we move on, they may call and tell me that they had more to say. Occasionally they will suggest that their particular political agenda may have influenced the decision to limit their time. Sometimes some of these good folks think that fluoridation is a communist plot or that various diseases are caused by some government action or that the chem trails you see in the sky are really people trying to poison the population. But these accusations are few and far between.

Kenneth Stratton: The New Roommate

Apr 1, 2018

Before the school year even started, I was convinced it was going to be uncomfortable. I didn’t know a lot about this guy I’d be living with, but I knew he was…different.

Ralph Gardner Jr: King And The Comic

Mar 31, 2018
President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 1966
Public Domain / Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

Martin Luther King Jr. and comedian Garry Shandling are rarely mentioned in the same breath. I’d venture to guess this is the first time.

Both of them are the subject of excellent new documentaries on HBO and may even have something in common.

Herbert London: The Ideological Crackup

Mar 28, 2018

The ideological crack-up between Left and Right was readily apparent when thousands of students marched against guns – guns that killed 17 Florida students in a violence that would awaken passion in even the most cold blooded. What it means, however, is seemingly less significant than the symbolism. Educators and politicians who should know better encouraged students to engage in protests. Mayor De Blasio in New York said students would not be punished if they left their desks to participate in the rallies.

Stephen Gottlieb: Impeachment - The Political Question

Mar 27, 2018

Last week I commented that the issue of impeachment refocuses the flood of presidential moves. The possibility of impeaching the president raises another critical political question – would impeachment so annoy the public that Democrats would be defeated for trying to impeach Trump? Or will the focus in the impeachment process on Trump’s misbehavior leave the public sufficiently disgusted that the next election would go to his opponents? There have been attempts to remove presidents by impeachment. They resulted in two trials in the Senate and one resignation to avoid impeachment. That’s too few cases to draw firm conclusions but they deserve a look.

Blair Horner: The NY State Budget Deadline Looms

Mar 26, 2018

Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers are now into the final week of the fiscal year.  New York’s fiscal year starts on April 1st.  Given the holidays this year, there is a push to get a budget agreement in place by Thursday, March 29th.

David Nightingale: Xi Jinping (1953 – )

Mar 25, 2018
Xi Jinping, prior to a meeting in Beijing China, Sept. 19, 2012
DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo / Public Domain

Many of us know little of 65-year-old Xi Jinping, recently elected ‘President-for-life’ of China. His other titles are “General Secretary of the Communist Party of China”, and “President of the People’s Republic of China”.

Ralph Gardner Jr: What's The Matter With The View?

Mar 24, 2018
Photograph  airplane window
RobLa / Wikimedia Commons

Fair warning – this is a rant. But not on the subject you might expect. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with politics. Though, come to think of it, the phenomenon I’m here to discuss may actually speak to a larger vitamin deficiency in our culture, a spiritual malaise of which our current politics is but a symptom.

With the deadline for passing a State Budget right around the corner, our lawmakers are cramming like a student studying for finals. 

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