Commentary & Opinion

Ben Downing: Gun Laws And Common Sense

Oct 24, 2017

My Dad had been district attorney for less than 2 years when Wayne Lo opened fire on Simon’s Rock campus the night of December 14, 1992. He killed one fellow student, one professor and injured 4 others before his semi-automatic rifle jammed.

In an era of growing poverty, homelessness and hunger, it’s amazing how little attention the problem of food waste gets by policymakers.  According to a 2016 report (in the Guardian), roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually, an amount constituting “one third of all foodstuffs.”

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Bittersweet Season

Oct 21, 2017
Ransom Hall, Kenyon College
Cbc717 / Wikimedia Commons

I shouldn’t be talking to you right now. I should be at parents weekend. That’s where you could have found me on this weekend, or thereabouts, for much of the last decade.

Bill Owens: NAFTA Update

Oct 19, 2017

It appears that few of the critical issues have been resolved in the first two rounds of negotiations. Most of the press reports and insider commentary indicates that the process is not going particularly well, which was confirmed by two recent events. On Friday, October 6, 2017, the announcement by the U.S.’ chief negotiator that vehicles would have to have a specific level of US content as opposed to NAFTA content is a significant departure from previous positions held by the United States, though no specifics were provided. On October 11, 2017 Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit included threats from Mr. Trump to withdraw from NAFTA.

Herbert London: Defense Reality And Mythology

Oct 18, 2017

Tocsin is in the air. The North Korean representative to the U.N. said President Trump’s recent speech was tantamount to a declaration to war. While this kind of verbal saber-rattling has occurred in the past, it is worth asking whether U.S. forces have the technological superiority to thwart any potential foe and the nuclear superiority to deter a “first strike.”

Stephen Gottlieb: Generosity And Vegas

Oct 17, 2017

Two weeks ago, I’d prepared commentary about the value of generosity in foreign affairs but awoke to the horrible reports from Las Vegas. I went ahead with it while I caught my breath and planned commentary about guns. But generosity is very relevant and I want to return to it. Gun rights definitions which don't account for the thousands of people killed with guns every year are simply selfish. The it’s-my-gun-so-you-have-no-right-to-regulate-it attitude is selfishness, not liberty.


We live in a representative democracy.  We elect our representatives to go to national, state or local office to represent our interests and solve problems.  Of course, not all problems can be solved and the policy triage of what gets attention and what doesn’t is the decision of the representative based on what his or her constituents want or need.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Visiting Consider Bardwell

Oct 14, 2017
Angela Miller in the brining room at Consider Bardwell Farm
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

I don’t know if it’s a sign of the growing sophistication and success of their operation, Obama era rules and regulations, or a combination of the two; but on a visit last weekend to the brining room at Consider Bardwell, our friend Angela Miller’s prize-winning goat cheese farm in West Pawlet, Vermont, I was required to scrub down and suit up almost as thoroughly as if I were about to perform open heart surgery.

Herbert London: Withdraw From The Nuclear Deal Now

Oct 11, 2017

There is a season for acceptance and a season for rejection. When it comes to compliance with the Obama nuclear weapons deal, it is time to withdraw completely at the congressionally mandated October 15 certification deadline.

Stephen Gottlieb: Guns And Vegas

Oct 10, 2017

Why, after Vegas, Sandy Hook and other mass killings of decent men, women and children, is it so hard to get real gun control?

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court began its look into the widespread practice of gerrymandering.  Gerrymandering is the manipulation of political boundaries (for the state legislature, for example) to favor one party.

David Nightingale: Marco Polo (1254-1324)

Oct 8, 2017
photo of a mosaic representing Marco Polo at Villa Hanbury, Ventimiglia, Italy
Lotho2 / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

As a follow-up to my essay on Ghenghis Khan, here's another from the 13th century. As to why someone with only a training in physics would write about these things -- well, the answer might be simply 'so as to work upon my own ignorance'!

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Tesla Of Chickens

Oct 7, 2017
Anna Hodson at Kinderhook Farm
Ralph Gardner, Jr

Does a pampered, pasture-raised, animal welfare approved, and all around well loved chicken taste better and is it healthier for you than your typical supermarket broiler? Is it worth paying multiples of the price for the former? Or is the enhanced flavor mostly a figment of your imagination?

On September 24 something beautiful to behold happened.   A group of black athletes and some white allies refused to be bullied by our so-called President.  Even more stepped forward on October 1.  Of course I am referring to the group of football players who took knees in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.   Ever since September 24, Donald Trump has railed against the players and particularly Kaepernick because he was allegedly disrespecting the flag, the military, first responders and the entire nation.   This is so typical of Trump that it should not require explanation but here goes anyway:   Kaepernick was very explicit in stating that he took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem as a way of protesting the wanton unpunished killing of too many unarmed black people by police officers.   He was also protesting police brutality in general.   Trump, of course, ignores this completely and has turned the entire story into one of “disrespect.”   Too many people have fallen for this “misdirection play.”

“An injury to one is an injury to all.”

That cry is a stirring call to action for the labor movement. Its message of solidarity – of reminding fellow workers that ‘we got your back’ – has reassured ordinary New Yorkers in political battles and resounded on picket lines during contract disputes for decades.

MaryEllen Elia: Back To School

Oct 5, 2017


Another school year is well underway. Teachers, students and parents are getting comfortable with new classes, schedules and routines. It’s an exciting time of year.

Herbert London: Kneeling For Recognition

Oct 4, 2017

It is now a Sunday ritual. Petulant NFL football players joined by their colleagues in other professional sports have colluded to dishonor the flag and what it represents by kneeling during a performance of the national anthem.

I awoke yesterday to the horrible reports from Las Vegas but I decided to take a week to organize what I want to say, and deal with guns and Vegas next week. This week I want to tell a story about generosity.

Despite the nonsense that Americans hear from their national elected leaders, climate change is the single biggest policy challenge we face.  There is no doubt that the planet is heating up and that human activities are the primary driver of global warming.  The burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, are the most significant culprits in those human activities.

Many Sides

Oct 2, 2017

I have some very strong beliefs in life. I believe that health care is a right for every American. I just can't fathom why some people think that if you are poor, you and your kids don't have any such right. In fact, universal health care is just one example of something I believe in. 

candy
Ralph Gardner, Jr

On a visit to WAMC’s studio in Albany last week a friendly staffer offered me a marshmallow peep. I hesitated and finally had to reject her generosity.

Hilary Dunne Ferrone: Shared Space

Sep 28, 2017

It’s nice to be back in the WAMC studio. I took the summer off from my commentary to work with some new clients, but I was constantly coming across news items related to nonprofit management and philanthropy that I wanted to write about: mismanagement and malfeasance in nonprofits; disaster relief; the responsibility of philanthropists and nonprofits to speak out against hate…The news this summer provided many instances for reflection on such critical issues. However, another news item from this summer, the mega lottery jackpot, really got me dreaming… What would I do for my community if I had that kind of money?

Herbert London: Watermelons v. Cherry Pie

Sep 27, 2017

For news junkies there is one consistent story at the moment: an ongoing and systematic attack on President Trump from without and within. On the outside is a web of the Fourth Estate, the Democratic Party, the Republican Establishment, the Academy and Corporate America that see in the president a threat to the prevailing left-wing cultural agenda. On the inside are the reformers who by dint of influence persuaded the president to rid his staff of Trump partisans so that the administration is essentially anti-Trump in ideology and orientation.

Stephen Gottlieb: My Undocumented Friend

Sep 26, 2017

A friend since my law school days knew he’d been adopted. We saw a lot of each other when we both lived in New York City, where I met his adoptive parents. In a distinguished career, he’s been president of his professional society, recipient of honorary degrees in the US, France, and Greece, an advisor to the Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and he taught at several of this country’s finest universities and war colleges.

Ben Downing: Graham-Cassidy

Sep 26, 2017

On our national seal, you find a motto of the United States in Latin - “E pluribus Unum” … “Out of Many, One” … it was adopted to represent the coming together of the separate states to form the Union and the basis for our country. We are at our best as a nation when we look at that motto not as a description of the legal arrangement among states, but as the spirit that has guided us for 2 and a half centuries since. Out of many, one.

If you promised to do something, but you found out that if you fulfilled your promise tens of millions of people would be hurt, and some may die, would you do it?

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Master Gardener Offers His Diagnosis

Sep 23, 2017
Master Gardener Gerry Weber at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties
Ralph Gardner Jr.

When my brothers and I were born my grandmother planted spruce trees for each of us on the front lawn of the house that has now passed down to me.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Lost World

Sep 22, 2017

THE LOST WORLD.  It’s a Hollywood silent movie that first startled audiences in 1925 and has since proven to be a cult favorite for those who savor fantasy and science fiction genres.  In THE LOST WORLD, pterodactylus fly, and brontosaurus and stegosaurus roam.  The story, which stems from a novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was written in 1912.  It is evidence that Conan Doyle’s appeal was not limited to Sherlock Holmes.  This story features two of Conan Doyle’s lesser-known but repeated characters, hot-tempered explorer Professor George Edward Challenger and his friend, adventurer and big-game hunter Sir John Roxton. 

Judith Enck: Toxic Legacy

Sep 21, 2017

On a recent beautiful Saturday afternoon, I joined a group of professors from Bennington College who were going door to door in Hoosick Falls.   We were asking residents to fill out a new health questionnaire.

Herbert London: The Emerging New World

Sep 20, 2017

It is clear that the free exchange of opinion that once characterized university life is now being challenged. The avatars of social justice have arrogated to themselves the role of arbiter in the university curriculum. But it hasn’t stopped there. Now monuments of the past are being put through the probity of present standards as one statue after another is in jeopardy of tumbling. Here is a foreshadowing of a “new America”, one in which the evils of the past are to be redressed by the self-appointed czars of the moment.

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