Commentary & Opinion

After years of more or less on time New York State budgets, 2017 is now clearly late.  The previous two budgets were enacted late, but within a day of the deadline with much work done by the March 31st deadline.  But this year’s chaotic budget process reminds New Yorkers of the bad old days when state budgets were chronically late – often months late. 

The slippage from on-time budgets to late ones tracks the spiraling corruption that seems to have permeated all of government.  Why?

David Nightingale: Bloomberg (1942 - )

Apr 2, 2017
Michael Bloomberg
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

What do you have to do to find yourself worth, today, $47 billion?

Ralph Gardner Jr: Making Maple Syrup

Apr 1, 2017
Ben Madey at his maple sugar house in Ghent, NY
Ralph Gardner, JR

This wasn’t a good winter for maple syrup production. At least at our house.

Bill Owens: Trump's Canadian Teeter-Totter

Mar 31, 2017

We are all familiar with the children’s playground equipment known as a teeter-totter. As I pondered Mr. Trump’s Canadian policy, that toy came to mind. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump touted the fact that he would tear up NAFTA or renegotiate it. Following the election, he doubled down with little or no substance nor indication as to what his actual concerns or plans were. The selection of Mr. Ross as secretary of commerce and Mr. Navarro as a trade advisor brought a decidedly hostile view of trade agreements to the administration.

Stayin' Alive

Mar 31, 2017

When the right wing organization Breitbart decided to publish a piece calling for the defunding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) I thought, “Well, that’s that.” 

Karen Magee: Fix The Charter School Mess

Mar 30, 2017

As a concept, charter schools once held promise.

Herbert London: Defense Spending And Threat Assessment

Mar 29, 2017

During President Trump’s recent address to the Congress, he said we must add $54 billion of spending to the defense budget in order to bolster the nation’s defense capabilities. Considering the $1 trillion in defense sequestration during the eight Obama years, this number may be relatively modest. The problem, is making an assessment of what is adequate and necessary.

Stephen Gottlieb: Gorsuch And Legal Tyranny

Mar 28, 2017

The Gorsuch hearings frustrated me. It’s mostly theatre. The Senators wanted to make sure we understand the stakes for the issues they care about. Fine. But the lawyer and interviewer in me want to sink the knife deeper.

Fred Kowal: Hospitals and ACA

Mar 28, 2017

You’d think that public hospitals that treat 1.3 million patients every year, graduate many of New York’s primary care physicians and perform groundbreaking medical research would have a secure future.

Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers are now heading into the final week of the fiscal year.  New York’s fiscal year starts on April 1st and in order to have a budget in place, the governor and the legislature should have a plan in place by midnight Friday, March 31st.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Tidying Up The Mess

Mar 26, 2017

On my recent birthday, to calm my frustrations about aging and about a broken laptop, I treated myself to the purchase of a new vacuum cleaner. My new friend and automated butler, a light, agile machine, immediately began helping me to wage my relentless campaign against dirty carpets, consistent with my neurotic distaste for chaos.  My kids laughed at me that I did not need to replace our aging upright, whose broken bag compartment hatch was making it an incompetent partner in dirt battles; “Dad,” they chortled derisively, “Anytime an appliance breaks, why do you always find some justification for buying a new one instead of just fixing the old one?”

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Hudson Wine Tasting

Mar 25, 2017
Phil Sareil leading a wine tasting at Hudson Wine Merchants
Ralph Gardner Jr.

One of the more pleasant experiences I’ve had lately was a Saturday evening wine tasting at Hudson Wine Merchants. They’re on Warren Street in Hudson, NY.

Michael Meeropol: What A Decent Society Looks Like

Mar 24, 2017

[Between the time this was taped for delivery on March 24 and the writing of this longer version, the Republicans pulled their bill repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.   The principles enunciated here and the argument that seniors who receive Medicare are receiving the same kind of social insurance subsidies from current taxpayers as are Medicaid recipients remain very important.   It is also important that people who struggled to protect the Affordable Care Act from being replaced by Trumpcare remain vigilant.  The promise by the Trump Administration that the will do everything in their power to destroy the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act should be taken very seriously.] 

What is the difference between Medicaid and Medicare?    The major difference is that Medicare is an earned entitlement while Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement.  Working ten years and paying payroll taxes qualify you for Medicare’s hospitalization insurance without having to pay out of pocket premiums.   Paying those payroll taxes also entitles seniors to enroll in Medicare Part B which covers physicians’ services and Part D which is the prescription drug plan.   These programs are yours regardless of your income, so long as you have paid the payroll tax during ten years of your working career.  Billionaires get free hospitalization and access to Medicare Parts B and D along with the rest of us, just by virtue of having paid the payroll tax.  Because of this fact, people who receive Medicare (and this applies to Social Security pensions as well) believe they have “paid for it” with their taxes and are not, therefore, receiving “welfare.”

Sean Philpott-Jones: The First Cut Is The Deepest

Mar 23, 2017

Last week, President Trump publicly unveiled his 2018 budget proposal. If left unchanged, that financial blueprint would increase US federal defense spending by more than $50 billion, while also appropriating billions more to bolster immigration enforcement and build a 2,000 mile-long wall along the US border with Mexico. A self-proclaimed deficit hawk, the President would offset those increased expenditures will sharp cuts to the US Departments of State, Energy, Health and Human Services, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Herbert London: The New Democratic Party

Mar 22, 2017

Where is the Democratic party? The party of political giants like FDR, LBJ and JFK is missing in action along with the letters that defined its heroes. This is now the party of Obama, Schumer, Pelosi – a facsimile of the past and a party without direction and policy guidelines.

Stephen Gottlieb: Chemicals, Infertility And Morals

Mar 21, 2017

You’ll be subjected to rolling commentary on innumerable aspects of the Gorsuch hearings. I prefer, as I often do, to address deeper aspects of our competing value systems that underlie the surface of our political battles. One is the human impact of our treatment of planet earth.

The Trump Administration continues to distract the nation with a daily stream of misinformation that often provides cover for the policy work of the Administration and the Congress.  The latest is the Trump Administration’s accusations (without evidence) that the Conservative Government in Britain and the Obama Administration had wiretapped the Trump campaign in the months leading up to the election.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Visit From A Bear

Mar 18, 2017
Ralph's bird feeder, smashed by a bear
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I was planning to devote this commentary to snow. As I write we’re anticipating a foot or more in the Hudson Valley and a blizzard in New York City. Though given our wacky weather by the time we air it might be eighty and sunny.

Hilary Dunne Ferrone: Gender Equity In Nonprofit Leadership

Mar 16, 2017

Last weekend I attended a panel discussion in my hometown regarding the future of our county and the role nonprofits can play in shaping that future.  We touched on many things: economics, jobs, demographics and community institutions. The conversation led to people sharing ideas as to how we can strengthen nonprofits so that they can continue to do the work that creates a sense of place and community.  Encouraging diversity – in its many forms -- on nonprofit boards was one suggestion for breaking down barriers among people, and reducing a feeling of “us” and “them.” Ironically, however, there was just one person in the room under the age of 50, the entire audience was white, and there was just one woman on the four-person panel.

Herbert London: Change In Our Time

Mar 15, 2017

From Heraclitus to the present, historians and philosophers addressed the issue of change. Is change built into the nature of society or is it a mirage that reflects a different side of sameness? It would appear that there are years in the so-called modern age that suggest a departure from the past: 1789 and The French Revolution; 1914 the Great War and the End of Innocence; 1939 and the onset of World War II. Although it is too early to argue with any certainty, 2016-2017 may be a candidate for historic proportions, since the institutions and their philosophical underpinnings which accounted for relative global stability are in disarray. The world is turning and not necessarily on its axis. “The wheel keeps turning the sky’s rearranging.”

Stephen Gottlieb: Trump And Jobs

Mar 14, 2017

Last week I commented that scholars of intolerance tell us that feeling threatened often leads to hate. That’s one reason the economic threat to some American workers matters to all of us.

Ben Downing: National Service

Mar 14, 2017

It is nearly impossible to avoid discussions about what divides us. Urban vs. Rural. Boomers vs. Millenials. Conservative vs. Progressive. Red state vs. Blue States. These discussions don’t just say something about the different groups their proponents try to drop folks into, they also say something about what is missing in our society - a shared experience.

Blair Horner: Trump Fires Bharara

Mar 13, 2017

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s statement was brief, but packed a punch: “Today, I was fired from my position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

David Nightingale: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Mar 12, 2017
Robert Louis Stevenson in a work by Count Girolamo Nerli
Count Girolamo Nerli / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Let's take a break from politics and trumpitudes, and look at the early life of Robert Louis Stevenson -- for that's about all a short essay can encompass. Specifically, let's go as far as the time Stevenson fell off his horse in California, on his way to his future wife ... and lay there for two days, before a couple of ranchers saved him ...

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Taste Of Poland

Mar 11, 2017
Hudson Polish Delicatessen
Ralph Gardner, JR

A nation’s museums and monuments, parks and restaurants aren’t the only things that interest me on vacations abroad. I also love visiting their supermarkets.

Bill Owens: Wire Taps By Whom And Of Whom?

Mar 9, 2017

President Trump’s latest offering of fake news is that President Obama wiretapped his campaign phones.

Sean Philpott-Jones: The Problem With Binary

Mar 9, 2017

Throughout his raucous 2016 campaign, President Trump repeatedly claimed that he would be an ardent defender of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. During the Republican National Convention, for instance, he proclaimed that, “As your president I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” Despite this statement (which stood in stark contrast to the Republican Party’s virulently anti-LGBT political platform), and diverging from the public comments and actions when he was still a private citizen, since gaining the nomination and later the presidency, Donald Trump has largely kowtowed to the more homophobic wings of his party.

Herbert London: What The World Sees In The U.S.

Mar 8, 2017

The secular religion of America is in disarray. Black Lives Matter disavow loyalty to the Constitution. Many Americans of various ethnicities have detached themselves from the bedrock beliefs that made this nation unique in the history of the world.

Stephen Gottlieb: How Can We Protect American Workers

Mar 7, 2017

Trump’s power, and his policies on jobs, immigrants, religious and ethnic hatreds and the Alt-wrong are all related.

A few months ago, Governor Cuomo held a news conference with the U.S. Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, to announce a new initiative: to make public college tuition free for families whose incomes were no more than $125,000.

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