Commentary | St. Louis Public Radio


This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 26, 2009 - As of this writing, former financial genius Bernard Madoff sits in the clink awaiting sentencing for defrauding investors of about $50 billion-$65 billon. His attorneys have appealed his incarceration, arguing that justice would be better served were he allowed to reside in his penthouse during this transitional period rather than in a facility designed for less accomplished criminals.

Thus far, the judiciary has been unsympathetic.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 5, 2009 - The country is in the midst of an intense debate regarding whether the federal government should make health insurance affordable for all. Such an expansion of the health-care system will likely cost between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan policy think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP). This, of course, comes on top of the financial sector bail-out and the economic stimulus package, each costing several hundred billions of dollars.

Beacon blog: An end to big-shoulders envy

May 10, 2019

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 28, 2010 - In journeys past, when I've made the very short trip from St. Louis to Chicago, I've experienced a "Why Not Us" discontent fueled by what I long have regarded as civic timidity and a rather smug complacency in the St. Louis region that chokes effective change and progress.

Commentary: Illinois needs help beyond government

Apr 16, 2019

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 20, 2010 - The late John Kenneth Galbraith, an economist and Harvard professor who served in four presidential administrations, wryly observed: "Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable."

For several years now, Illinois' politicians have cowered from the unpalatable and defaulted to the disastrous. We certainly cannot count on them to become more statesmanlike on the campaign trail as November beckons. So, we must hope other influential Illinoisans step forward to make more productive use of the months ahead.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 26, 2010 - A very big part of a trip I'm now on in Central America can be summed up in a story of two mangos.

The first part of the trip was with my daughter who is in San Salvador with a group of students from the University of Santa Clara. She is taking courses -- Spanish, philosophy, history -- at the University of Central America in El Salvador. She is also taking a graduate-level course in life.

Commentary: War is no laughing matter

Mar 8, 2019

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 7, 2010 - Readers of a certain age will no doubt remember "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." The program was the cutting edge of televised comedy in the late '60s and early '70s, operating on the premise that if you threw five to six jokes a minute at the audience, somebody was bound to laugh at something. And indeed they did.

Commentary: Another massacre

Feb 24, 2019

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 11, 2011 - The attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' life, the murder of six citizens and the wounding of 13 more is surely a dreadful event, but hardly unimaginable or unthinkable. Indeed, if anything the tragic event in Tucson was in some sense foreseeable.

Of course I don't mean that the bloodshed that occurred a few days ago in Arizona was bound to happen then and there. But I do mean that the history, culture, policy and politics of this country -- the socio-political context -- make such violence both possible and predictable.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 17, 2011 - Only 146 years after Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Missouri has finally decided to take a side in the Civil War. We've elected to join the Confederacy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 4, 2008 - Wednesday's major event outside of the convention was a tribute to Sen. Bob Dole from the Kansas and Missouri delegations. Sens. Sam Brownback, Jack Danforth, Fred Thompson, U.S. Rep. and Missouri gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof, and U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Wichita stood on stage to honor this great American.

With frustration and anger still boiling over the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, protesters returned to the streets Sunday to make themselves heard.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

It feels like we’ve been here before. Three years ago, the region and the nation witnessed the passion and furor of protesters in Ferguson who came out to decry the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, at the hands of a white police officer.

And now, the region and nation are watching us again as demonstrators take to the streets to express outrage over a judge's verdict that found Jason Stockley, a white police officer, not guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, after a high-speed chase in 2011.

Courtesy, the Sheldon Art Gallery

A visitor finds it difficult to move along to the next picture when he’s looking at Radcliffe Bailey’s absorbing and  many-layered glittery print, “Tricky 3.” This large, complex and challenging picture at the Sheldon Art Galleries sets the tone for a new exhibition, “Printmaking in St. Louis Now.” In size,  scope, substance and intention, the show qualifies as a respectable blockbuster.

Sam Sextro lights candles across the street from the Edward Jones Dome while mourning the city's loss of the Rams. Sextro and a friend, who ran a St. Louis University High Rams fan club, met outside the stadium Wednesday for a "final tailgate."
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

This commentary was originally posted on St. Louis Public Radio reporter Maria Altman’s Facebook page on January 14, 2016. It was recorded for “St. Louis on the Air” on January 19, 2016. Listen to the radio commentary here:

Some thought on the Rams leaving for L.A.:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 9, 2013 - Too frequently those who examine public policy dwell on the creation of a law and then on results, usually quantifiable. How the law is implemented is overlooked. Yet, implementation may be key to policy success or failure.

This article first appeared in The St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 5, 2013 - “The trouble with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along.”

--Arnold Glasow

Convenient ignorance explains most of the folly in human affairs. The things we don’t know really can hurt us.  Worse, the things we think we know are often wrong.

Kelly, a calico cat, lived in Lafayette Square
Donna Korando | St. Louis Beacon Archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 29, 2013 - "From Our Homes To You” — that’s the theme of this year’s parlor tour in Lafayette Square.

In little ways the press release tells how far the area has come. "Enjoy one of the finest neighborhood examples of urban rebirth,” it says.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 28, 2013 - I really didn’t want to write about it. In fact, I intentionally avoided the subject. My previous column, which ran on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the DAY THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING, dealt with the hazard posed to Thanksgiving by the commercialization of Christmas. I thought it was a topic worthy of discussion, but admit that it was also a dodge.

Commentary: Disparity Among School Districts

Oct 14, 2013

In Missouri, as in most states, public schools are administered by local school boards.  The boundaries of school districts are drawn in accordance with state law. Schools are funded primarily through local property taxes. Districts with higher per capita incomes tend to have better schools.  The districts most in danger of losing their accreditation tend to be those with lower per capita incomes.

(Courtesy of D.J. Wilson)

Cost is factor no matter what you are buying – a six-pack of beer, a pair of jeans, a house, or for a state government, a public education for school-age children.

 Much has been said about the cost of the region’s current inter-district student transfer program. Much of what has been said about that cost has been incomplete, or ill informed.  

The one price tag that’s been floated is $35 million. Let’s break that down. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon:The stock market is setting new nominal highs. Gas prices are not going through the roof. And just when you thought it looked as though the recovery would gain steam, some economist comes along to write that things are not as good as we thought.

We are nearing the release date (April 26) for our first glimpse at first-quarter GDP, the measure of goods and services produced in the economy, adjusted for inflation. The mounting evidence indicates that it will not be as quick as previously thought.

Editor's Weekly: Lessons from the marathon

Apr 16, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Dear Beaconites --

You don't run a marathon on a whim. You don't run a marathon because it's easy. And unless you're part of a rarified elite, you don't run a marathon to win.

For most who dare to participate, 26.2 miles presents a test of character. You commit to train despite doubts that you can succeed. You continue forward though your inner voice and your aching muscles beg to stop.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Traditionally, we were taught to believe that those we elect to Congress either voted the views of their constituency or felt that the electorate selected them to choose the best alternatives for the polity. On some issues, voting one’s conscience might be an expected course of action.

More recently, scholars and pundits have posited other reasons for voting strategies. Self-interest becomes the key decider.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Recently President Barack Obama appointed agent Julia Pierson to be the Secret Service’s first female director. I’m sure that Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the agency, is an excellent choice who will live up to the motto, “Worthy of Trust and Confidence.” I hope so, as this is an extremely important position.

Four times in American history the president of the United States has been assassinated. The first, of course was Abraham Lincoln who died on this day in 1865. Ironically, he ordered the creation of the Secret Service just hours before going to Ford’s Theater. The agency was originally created to investigate counterfeiting. Two more presidents, James Garfield and William McKinley, were assassinated before the Secret Service was assigned to give the president full-time security protection.

Commentary: All gun violence isn't created equal

Apr 11, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In her weekly letter, Editor Margaret Freivogel said that the Beacon will be reporting in depth on gun violence in the St. Louis area in coming weeks. The problem is certainly topical and worthy of thoughtful commentary. Unfortunately, I fear that as presently formulated, it is also too broadly defined to lend itself to productive analysis.

Seventh graders performing a traditional dance in Honduras for Father's day
Michael Dulick | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As many friends already know, Guillermo had a recent cancer operation, and it was successful. Still, I am anxious every time I call his wife, Erlinda, fearing setbacks, but it’s been good, and better, news each day. Within a couple days or so he was taking little walks, taking baths, enjoying a liquid diet, a nice step up from intravenous.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The topic of heroism — and just what constitutes a hero — has engendered a good deal of recent debate. My Feb. 21 column, “The trouble with heroes” dealt with a cover story in Esquire, “The Man Who Shot Osama bin Laden Is Screwed.”

That piece related the plight of a former Navy Seal — identified only as “the Shooter” — who claims to have taken out bin Laden and later resigned from the military after 16 years of very honorable service  He reportedly feels slighted because he was not granted a 20-year pension.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As deep as the recession that ended in 2009 was, history suggests the recovery should not be limping along as it is.  This weakness is not without explanation. You’ve heard that recessions coupled with financial crisis engender prolonged, shallow recoveries. And many of those unemployed during the downturn have not or cannot find work.

Or is this slower pace of economic activity, this unemployment rate staying above 7 percent, the new normal?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The film Platoon is narrated by a fictional American infantryman in Vietnam named Chris Taylor. At one point, battle-scarred and exhausted, he says, “Hell is the impossibility of reason.” For his sake, let’s hope Chris didn’t become a cable news junkie in his later years because the 24/7 news cycle contains enough illogic to fuel several infernos. To cite but a few examples:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Each year, more than 300,000 school-age children go through the criminal justice system. This means that America, a country with the worlds’ highest incarceration rate, is also the global leader in the criminalization of its children. Due in large part to “zero tolerance” policies adopted in the late 1990s, our country’s educational and juvenile court systems have become major suppliers to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Commentary: Connection is a human theme

Mar 22, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: This week, the Beacon has been hosting open mics in four areas that have been getting help in identifying how arts can help them and that may get further aid through the Kresge Foundation.

These events have come at the end of a series of meetings in and exploration of Old North, Midtown, the Garden District and an expanded Loop done under the auspices of the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation with support from Arts & Education Council and Regional Arts Commission. The goal is to build collaboration and develop ideas from within neighborhoods rather than bringing in outside organizations to plan.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: It was just after 11 p.m., and the weather was clear. The driver was an attractive woman in her late 40s; fashionably dressed, hair and nails professionally done. In simpler times, you might have described her as a “career girl.”

Her late model car was properly licensed and operating within the speed limit. In short, there was nothing about her outward appearance to suggest that she would be a person of interest to law enforcement.