Commentary & Opinion

Sean Philpott-Jones: Toxic Turf

Feb 25, 2016

Last summer, to great fanfare, the high school that my husband teaches at unveiled its new artificial turf field. Installed at considerable cost, that field was lauded as yet one more way that the school was working to protect the safety of its students.

Herbert London: Europe’s Civil War

Feb 24, 2016

The civil war has begun. This is not a war recognized by European leaders. In fact, they deny it exists. But the evidence is now overwhelming. Europeans want to take their countries back from foreign invaders who are often criminals.


Justice Scalia’s death creates a vacancy on the Supreme Court. The next president may have more to fill. Deciding cases as if it were the Sheriff of Nottingham, The Roberts Court is having a major impact on the economy. How those vacancies are filled will make a big difference to all of us.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Words

Feb 23, 2016

Emily Dickinson included the following poem in a letter she wrote:

A word is dead

When it is said

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.

Blair Horner: The Next Phase Of The Ethics "Debate"

Feb 22, 2016

Lawmakers return to Albany this week to tackle an agreement on the upcoming budget.  The state’s fiscal year starts on April 1st.  As part of his budget, and in reaction to the political crime wave that has swept the Capitol, Governor Cuomo included ethics reforms.

David Nightingale: Gravity Waves

Feb 21, 2016

When flying, it's sometimes possible to look down the domes of ordinary observatories such as in Hawaii or Chile, or onto radio telescopes in Puerto Rico or Jodrell Bank, but now, looking down on Italy or Germany or Louisiana or Washington state, it is possible, if not flying too high, to see L-shaped labs which are observatories for gravity waves. The arms of those 'L's are typically ~2 miles long each, and they house the laser beams that travel inside them.

MaryEllen Elia: Improving State Assessments

Feb 20, 2016

This summer, I returned to New York to take the job of State Education Commissioner. I was born, raised, and began my career here as a social studies teacher before moving to Florida in 1986. While in Florida, I continued teaching before moving onto administrative roles. I eventually became a school district superintendent.

Fred Kowal: Adjuncts

Feb 18, 2016

Rebekah Tolley is an artist whose works have been displayed at the National Library of Quebec, and art galleries in the U.S., France, China and Japan.

Herbert London: Selling Out

Feb 17, 2016

In its emphasis on defeating ISIS, the U.S. delegation in Geneva has sold out the rebels fighting against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. A new chapter in the Middle East has unfolded as America’s perceived interests have tilted in the direction of Iran and Russia. Instead of a transitional government that would ease the Syrian dictator out of power, Secretary of State Kerry said there should be a national unity government for the foreseeable future – a euphemism for Assad stays. In fact, that is the essence of the recently signed cease-fire accord.

Stephen Gottlieb: Scalia’s Legacy

Feb 16, 2016

As my dear friend Vincent Bonventre has written, “All good Americans are saddened by the news that Justice Antonin Scalia has died.” But this is also a moment to consider his role on the Court.

Some of you listening to me might remember the Savings and Loan Crisis of the late 1980s.  Over 1000 Savings and Loan Associations (S & Ls) went bankrupt between 1986 and 1995 because they made high risk investments in a period (after 1980) when they were artificially valuing their assets at historical (original) values rather than at current values.   Mortgages issued in the low interest 1960s had, in the high interest 1970s, fallen in resale value.   Had these institutions been forced to write down the value of these mortgages, their liabilities would have exceeded their assets – they would have been forced into bankruptcy.   [For details of the causes of the problem see Meeropol, Surrender, How The Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution:  188-190].  

Sean Philpott-Jones: Shutting Down The Pill Mills

Feb 11, 2016

Last Friday, for the first time ever, a physician was convicted of second-degree murder for recklessly prescribing pain-killing drugs to patients. Dr. Lisa Tseng was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for her role in the overdose deaths of three young men, each who whom had been given prescriptions for large amounts of opiate-based painkillers and other potent narcotics despite having no medical need.

The winds of change in Europe have circled back to the 1930’s as public attitudes have grown dark and bitter. It was recently reported that more than forty percent of European Union citizens hold anti-Semitic views and agree with the oft repeated claim that Israel is committing genocidal acts against Palestinians. In fact, there is the common refrain that Israelis are the new Nazis.

Stephen Gottlieb: For Valentines Day 2016

Feb 9, 2016

It's the time of year to think about love. I used to think that if you hadn't heard Cho Cho San sing in Madame Butterfly about that fine day when Lieutenant Pinkerton would return to her, one had never heard a love song. Musically, I still think so. But what it really communicates is longing. Is that love?

It seems most of the media coverage and much of the country is focused on the presidential election of 2016. What will impact your life more: oil and China, or presidential politics?

Five years ago, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature approved annual tuition hikes for public colleges and universities.  At that time, the argument had two simple rationales to support the plan:

David Nightingale: John Burroughs (4/3/1837 - 3/29/1921)

Feb 7, 2016

My younger son suggested an essay on John Burroughs, but I told him that probably everyone in the N-E knew more about the famous naturalist than I ever did. Apart from seeing a plaque at the top of Slide Mountain and a long-ago visit to his cabin, Slabsides, I knew very little.

Not to play too much pop psychology, but we all like to feel wanted. It’s why we date, why we fight, it’s what gets us up in the morning and sometimes keeps us up at night. Down deep inside, most all of us crave the self-worth that comes, for better or worse, from someone else.

From 2009 to the present, the Obama administration has been committed to the withdrawal of American forces from the Middle East, replaced by the management of regional state players. But this position is entirely ahistoric. From the Romans to the Crusades, from the Mamelukes, to the Ottomans, British and French, the Middle East never ruled itself or managed stability through nation states.

Stephen Gottlieb: Preserving Republican Government

Feb 2, 2016

Americans began to think about preserving and protecting their form of government even before the Constitution was signed.

This, as always, is where the rubber hits the road. Monday, February 1st is where and when we gather as a group to see whether we still have the will to keep WAMC going; so far, so good. We need a million dollars three times a year to make it happen. That’s a lot of money and the fact that we can do it makes us the talk of the nation. Some of our colleagues just don’t believe it. That’s because this is more than a radio station. It is a group of people who are intellectually curious and committed to ethical behavior. When someone calls me up and tries to typecast us, either on the right or the left, the first thing I ask is whether they’d like to do a commentary, laying out a position on a contemporary problem.

It’s not easy to be a mother these days. Despite all of the advances in gender equality, the rearing of children still remains by default “women’s work.” This is not to say that fathers are not increasingly involved in caring for their kids, but most studies have shown that women still do the bulk of the work. Not only do they have to put up with nine months of discomfort while pregnant, once the child comes mothers are more likely than fathers to be responsible for changing diapers, looking after a sick kid, arranging for daycare and play dates, and even cooking, cleaning, laundry and other household chores.

Herbert London: Europe’s Migration Cancer

Jan 27, 2016

Roberta Flack, years earlier, sang what has become the Europeans theme song “Killing Me Softly.” Despite the reported wilding spree of at least a thousand North African refugees who groped women at the New Year celebration in Cologne, Germany, despite allegations of two rapes, despite condemnation by Prime Minister Merkel, the mayor of the city has requested that women monitor their “code of conduct.” Apparently German authorities will contest to their last breath that tolerance dedication will not yield. This is the tolerance that kills, softly at first and violently in time.

Stephen Gottlieb: What Is Limited Government Anyway?

Jan 26, 2016

With the presidential primaries underway, the media is choked with talk about getting the government off the people’s backs, restoring limited government, making government let the people alone. But the Koch brothers, the Tea Party, their candidates and supporters are actually saying something very different – they want government to support their definition of their rights and push everyone else out of their way, and most important they want the courts to decide in their favor when others complain that they are trespassing on public land or polluting the air, land and water in ways that injure and interfere with the lives of others. That’s government in their favor.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Sacred Study

Jan 26, 2016

A dear friend of mine recently moved with his family from Albany to another state.  Having tasted the bitter pill of friendships that die slowly, I worried about ours.  Would our fifteen-year relationship weather the wear and tear of distance, long pauses in communication, and the normal blunting of adult relationships caused by our respective distractions?  I am lucky to have friends with whom I could pick up the thread of a conversation after decades of not talking, as if we had just seen each other yesterday.  Yet with more years of my life behind me than ahead of me, I did not want to risk waiting too long to stay in touch with him, until it was too late to do so.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama designated Vice President Biden to lead the Administration’s “moon shot” to attack cancer.  Cancer touches the lives of all of us and is the second leading cause of death in America.  It is one term that covers a very wide range of diseases, including those of the lung, prostate, pancreas, breast and colon.

Rob Edelman: Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next

Jan 25, 2016

Michael Moore is one of contemporary American culture’s most polarizing figures. Your response to his films more often than not will directly relate to your politics. But one thing is certain: Michael Moore craves attention. He yearns to be the focal point of the conversation, and his almost exhibitionistic presence in his various documentaries transcends their content. Such is the case in his latest film, which is titled WHERE TO INVADE NEXT.

David Nightingale: Granny D

Jan 24, 2016

"Back home in New Hampshire," wrote Mrs Doris Haddock, "I began walking my 10 miles a day with a heavy backpack. I am already a little stooped over, but it was manageable ..." [Ref.1, p.13]

Thus "Granny D", a then 88 year old retired shoe factory worker, described the plans for her walk across America, to raise awareness for Clean Elections and Campaign Finance reform.

Karen Magee: Progress Toward Teach And Inspire

Jan 21, 2016

As I sat listening to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address, I was struck by the more positive tone he took toward public education. His words of respect for the great work that New York’s dedicated teachers do in their classrooms are much appreciated. 

Although they often disagreed, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had a mutually agreeable conversation – when the mantle of authority was being transferred (1800) – over the impressment of American seaman by Muslim leaders in North Africa. As U.S. commercial interests in the Mediterranean increased at the beginning of the 19th century, our ships were seized and seamen were forced into imprisonment and slavery.