Commentary & Opinion


As the holiday shopping season hits its peak, not only are consumers buying lots of gifts, they are accumulating an incredible number of plastic bags.  Combined with the ongoing plastic bag use, New Yorkers gets an incredible number of plastic bags – almost always for one, and only one-time, use.  According to the Cuomo Administration, “residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually.  A significant number of these bags make their way into the environment causing litter and damaging wildlife, which can be seen within our waterways, along our streets and in our oceans and lakes.  Moreover, these bags do not biodegrade – they persist for years.”

Fred Kowal: Here To Stay

Dec 20, 2017

One of the toughest jobs in 19th century America was that of a laundress. Although machines were used in the commercial laundry process, this was still dangerous, backbreaking labor performed almost entirely by women in sweatshop conditions.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Middle Class And The Poor

Dec 19, 2017

This is a season in which many of us make donations to help those with less than we do. But in the larger context, we need a better understanding of the poor.

Last week, the New York State Assembly Higher Education committee held a public hearing to review the performance of the new Excelsior Scholarship program.  The Excelsior Scholarship was established in this year’s state budget and was rolled out with great fanfare by Governor Cuomo and Vermont’s U.S. Senator Sanders.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Oh, Snow

Dec 16, 2017
Consider Bardwell Farm
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I did something last week anathema to my nature. I tried to avoid the snow.

It was traveling from south to north and I was heading from the Hudson Valley to Vermont. So I tried to get ahead of it.

Andrew Pallotta: Albany Must Keep Its Promises

Dec 14, 2017

If you make a promise, you should keep it.

We can all agree on that, right?

Keith Strudler: Roll Tide

Dec 13, 2017

Let’s face it, there’s one topic too big to ignore today. It’s on everybody’s mind, and it harkens thoughts of fairness and respect. It’s about winning and scoreboards and state and regional pride. It’s about the state of Alabama. I’m talking, of course, about the University of Alabama being selected as the last of four teams to make the College Football Playoff, joining Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia in the quest to become the number one football team in the country, a decision that nearly split the college football world and was truly up for grabs until the final decision. And yes, I am making a direct parallel with the election of Doug Jones in the same state, although I’d hate to suggest a senatorial campaign is nearly as exciting as a college football season.

Herbert London: The Taylor Force Act

Dec 13, 2017

In an unusual display of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to reduce U.S. funding for the Palestinians unless official bodies stop subsidizing the families of killers.

Those of us warning that American democracy is threatened have still been stunned by how fast. Political polarization elsewhere has led democracies to collapse. Polarization here has largely been the unintended consequence of a legal transformation. But the cure may be even worse.

Blair Horner: Progressive New York?

Dec 11, 2017


New York considers itself a “progressive” state.  Progressive meaning that New York’s political leaders view the policies of the state as “cutting edge” in its responses to society’s problems.  And in New York State, there is a track record that backs up that view.

David Nightingale: Elihu Thomson (3/29/1853 - 1937)

Dec 10, 2017
Elihu Thompson, circa 1880
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

From time to time, in the history of science, especially when reading about giants like Edison, one comes across the name Elihu Thomson, and, if one passes through Swampscott, MA, there's a brick Georgian Revival national historic building that was his home for 40 years.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Winter Memory

Dec 9, 2017

With snow in the forecast, at least somewhere, and ski resorts already making snow (they’re making snow already, right?) I think back fondly to the family responsible for making me the proud intermediate skier I am today.

Ben Downing: Putting Victims First

Dec 7, 2017

I consider the 10 years I served in the State Senate to be an honor. I met some of the finest women and men I have ever known working there. It was not a perfect place, but I never imagined it could be a hostile work environment.

Herbert London: Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah And Lebanon

Dec 6, 2017

The seas are roiling once again in the Middle East. Saad Hariri resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister, citing an assassination plot against him organized by his former government coalition partner, Hezbollah. “Wherever Iran settles,” he said in a television address, “it sows discord, devastation and destruction, proven by its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.”

JOPAC was the multi-national 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear agreement. I’m happy to say that I’ve never been closer to nuclear weapons than listening to my chemistry professor, himself part of the Manhattan Project that created the first A-bomb, talking about them. My cousin Mimi worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory but all she could tell me was that she was there. Happily she lived into her 90s. But I have had some experience in Iran.

Bill Owens: We Stand Alone

Dec 5, 2017

The Trump administration continues to stand outside the playing field as others move forward with significant trade deals. The most recent evidence is the agreement of eleven nations to move forward with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) without U.S. participation. The new TPP Agreement includes not only Southeast Asian countries, but our neighbors, Canada and Mexico who are currently participants in NAFTA with us.

Thanksgiving was the start of the holiday shopping season. The holiday shopping season is a time when many adults look for gifts for children. And while the holidays are a time for fun and giving, it is important that it be a safe time as well.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Case For Crowds

Dec 2, 2017
2016 Hudson Winter Walk
HudsonHall.org

With holiday shopping season fast upon us, I’d like everybody to shop local --for entirely selfish reasons.

No, I’m not a main street merchant. I don’t have some charming storefront that sells bric-a- brac. Whatever bric-a-brac is.


 [Please note:   The commentary was recorded on Thursday, November 30 before the final version of the bill was even released.   The written expansion was created before the Senate vote.   In the commentary, I assumed it would pass the Senate and be headed to a conference committee.]

I recently asked three expert economists to identify the worst element of the horrible tax bill that is going to a conference committee soon. They all agreed that the most egregious, dangerous change to the tax system contained in that bill is the lowering of taxes on pass-through business income.

The much discussed “Shiite Crescent” or an Iranian land corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean may be a reality. To make matters even more complicated, U.S. policy or the lack thereof may have contributed to Iran’s regional hegemony.

Every year, I offer my fearless predictions for the coming months. The rules, as always, are simple. Sometimes I really don’t want something to happen so I predict an event in the hope of putting the triple whammy on it in order to prevent it from occurring. Sometimes I do want it to happen so I predict it will, and sometimes I really believe that it will happen. It is always your job to try to figure out which is which.

I just heard that Jeff Bezos is worth $100 billion. What is he doing with that net worth? Is he putting it all to work? If not, why not? Ya think if we just gave Jeff another billion he’d put that money right to work putting Americans to work? Why can’t he do that with the $100 billion he already has?

Andrew Pallotta: The Republican Tax Scam

Nov 28, 2017

As I record this commentary, the final version – and ultimate fate -- of the Republicans’ tax bill has not been decided.

Blair Horner: American Democracy Hits A New Low

Nov 27, 2017


There has been a palpable decline in political ethics in America.  What was once suspected – that elected officials could their trade policy positions for campaign contributions – has become more and more openly discussed.  It’s as if elected officials no longer see themselves as servants to the public, but instead as servants to the rich and powerful.

Rob Edelman: The Shape Of Brilliance

Nov 27, 2017

I’ve said it before, and I will shout it from the top row in the largest movie house. THE SHAPE OF WATER, which momentarily will be coming to theaters, is not just one of the very best films of the year. It is one of the very best films of any year. There is so much to say about this extraordinary film. On one level, it is a fairy tale, set in Baltimore in 1962. Its central character is Eliza, a solitary young woman who is mute, and who is superbly played by Sally Hawkins. Eliza toils as a cleaning woman in a mysterious, high-security scientific laboratory where strange, indescribable events are occurring.

Ralph Gardner Jr: My Grandparents, The Forgers

Nov 25, 2017
An antique lamp created by Myra and Ben Gardner
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Last week I opened a drawer in the antique high boy in our front hall and found photographs I’d never seen before. They were of my father’s family, and they dated back to the 19th century.

Herbert London: A Thanksgiving Message

Nov 22, 2017

Each year prior to Thanksgiving I try to express the reasons for my gratitude in print. This year is difficult. The republic I love is facing new and formidable challenges. A hostile minority is so embittered it has adopted the violent approach of the former Brown Shirts. In some circles, civil discourse is impossible. Universities are ostensibly centers for propaganda with naysayers subject to rejection and scorn.

Stephen Gottlieb: Beggars, Soup Kitchens And The Poor

Nov 21, 2017

I’ve noticed a lot more beggars on the streets as our politics have become increasingly stingy. I’ve seen that before and once mentioned it to a candidate for dean. His response was that we could ban them. I was happy we didn’t hire him.

Fred Kowal: The Endless War

Nov 21, 2017

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States undertook military action in Afghanistan, with the stated intent of removing the Taliban regime from power and apprehending or killing those responsible for planning the heinous strikes.

Blair Horner: Climate Change - Failing To Act?

Nov 20, 2017

There can be no doubt that the planet is warming; 2016 was the fifth time in the 21st century a new record high annual temperature has been set (along with 2005, 2010, 2014, and 2015) and also marks the 40th consecutive year (since 1977) that the annual temperature has been above the 20th century average.  To date, all 16 years of the 21st century rank among the seventeen warmest on record (1998 is currently the eighth warmest).  The five warmest years have all occurred since 2010.

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