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Commentary & Opinion

Stephen Gottlieb: My Feelings About This Election

9 hours ago

It’s hard to describe my feelings. The great founding documents of our country seemed like they’d always be with us. When we participated in the Civil Rights Movement we thought were working for a better America. We never believed it could all disappear. We were brought up reciting the Gettysburg Address. We knew parts of the Declaration of Independence by heart. Some of us knew deals with the devil of slavery underlay the creation of the Constitution but also knew it had given us a platform to make a better world for everyone. We took it all for granted. Until the White House tenant threatened to take it all away.

A little more than halfway through its fiscal year and New York State is dealing with a budget that is billions of dollars in the red.  Unless something changes, that’s the way it will be for the foreseeable future.  These deficits are largely the result of the cratering state finances driven by the catastrophic coronavirus pandemic.  In addition to the staggering toll in death and sickness from COVID-19, state revenues took a nose dive because New Yorkers have not been working, or shopping, or traveling, at pre-pandemic levels.

A recent story in the Press Republican, my local newspaper, talked at great length about the decision to keep the border closed, but never mentioned what Prime Minister Trudeau said.  There was much commentary about what a bad situation it is, etc, which it is.  Prime Minister Trudeau indicated the reason that the border would stay closed was the United States failure to get COVID under control, which we clearly have not done, irrespective of what Mr. Trump is now touting on the campaign trail.  This is very problematic for our region, and I fully concur with the elected officials and Mr. Douglas who are deeply concerned about this, but I think sharing the information with the public as to the reason why is very important.  Statistically, the US had about 80,000 new cases on Friday and Canada is running about 4,100 cases a day, now their populations are not comparative since the US is approximately ten times larger than Canada, but even if you applied that multiple you would see that the US is over 100% above the Canadian numbers.  There is no practical way to screen people at the border unless you had a test available that could be read in 15 minutes to make the decision as to whether or not to let someone enter.  Sticking with COVID, Governor Christie after he exited intensive care said “We have treated Americans like children, not adults, and everyone should be wearing a mask.”  The only solution here is to see a requirement for universal mask wearing so that we can get some control of this virus, and get everything opened up, including the border.  Mr. Trump continued to treat us like children with his comments at the debate and at Rally’s to the effect we’ve turned the corner and it’s going away. 

Ralph Gardner Jr.: Mr. Fixit

Oct 24, 2020
Repaired antique donkey figurine
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Medical experts are telling us that the next two or three months will be the most challenging of the pandemic, psychologically as well as medically. This would be a great time to acquire a pastime; an activity or hobby that can safely be done while isolating from others. Either that or attending to long neglected chores, such as finally cleaning out your basement or closets or turning the seven thousand errant photographs of your kids into engaging photo albums.

Stephen Gottlieb: For The Left Wing Of The Party

Oct 20, 2020

Did you feel safer in the Biden-Trump debate with Joe, who spoke like a caring uncle, or Donald with the demeanor of a raging bull? We know enough about Trump’s admiration for Hitler, his bringing extremists into Republican politics, to realize that his coy remarks  about what his supporters could do with their “Second Amendment rights,” his calls to “Liberate Michigan”, “Liberate Minnesota,” “Liberate Virginia,” and to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” while intended to protect deniability, were in fact aimed at the extremists among his supporters, the Klan, Proud Boys, Nazis, white supremacists, and gun toting extremists, inviting them to keep Black and Brown people and others likely to vote Democratic away from the polls or at least prevent their votes from counting. That world’s not safe for any of us.

For months, the state’s finances teetered on the edge as the Cuomo Administration attempted to keep New York’s budget in balance while hoping for a bailout from the Congress.  The bulk of the Administration’s hopes hinged on two tactics: one, borrowing to ensure that revenues covered expenses; and two, “withholding" payments to government agencies and non-profit service providers to keep expenses down.  The Administration “withholds” funding instead of cutting programs while waiting for a federal stimulus deal to fill up the state’s coffers.

My I-phone flashed a news release which read “Stunning new details of Prince William and Prince Harry’s estrangement”.  I wondered out loud why that news, given everything else that we are facing in the United States, and for that matter in Britain.  It is a great curiosity to me why anyone would pay attention to people who have virtually no substantive impact on the United States.  This fascination with royals is so contrary to everything which we fundamentally believe as to make it absurd. 

David Nightingale: World Court

Oct 18, 2020

This is a brief look at the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, or World Court – which is an organ of the UN, dealing with conflicts between countries.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Not Just Another Tree

Oct 17, 2020
A photo circa 1930’s of a maple tree (second from left) that’s now in decline and in need of rescue
Courtesy of Ralph Gardner, Jr.

A few months ago I noticed that the large maple in front of our house was looking a bit under the weather. Compared to its cousins the canopy appeared thin and its leaves a lighter shade of green.

Fred Kowal: Use Your Power - Vote

Oct 15, 2020

In just a couple of weeks, Americans will decide who will lead our country for the next four years.

Are COVID restrictions still worth the cost?

Stephen Gottlieb: Voting Rights Vs. Big Donald

Oct 13, 2020

It is illegal to injure, coerce,  threaten, or intimidate people trying to vote or conspire to. So-called “Second Amendment rights” are no defense to those crimes, merely the means of committing them.

There’s an old saying that goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, New York’s public educators sure have been squeezing a lot of lemons lately.

Led by the President, there is a nationwide attack on the mail in voting option.  The basic thrust of these attacks is that voting by mail is prone to “fraud” and that the mail-in votes will not be counted or will be lost. 

Scientists have discovered a great white shark in the Pacific  which they believe is about 50 years old, and have dubbed her “Queen of the Ocean”.  This shark  was covered with scars which meant she had been through many travails in the course of her lifetime.  The age of the shark is impressive, the fact that these scientists were able to get close enough to tag her, equally impressive, and we hope that she has a long and fruitful life.

Ralph Gardner Jr: I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy

Oct 10, 2020

That old typing exercise – “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” – seems relevant in a way that it never has before. With the Republic at mortal risk Donald Trump, strangely, has made me feel more patriotic than at any time since my Cold War childhood.

Workingmen and women, white and black, have real grievances. Big shots want you to play Let’s You and Him Fight because then nobody gets anything and all of us slave for the bosses. That’s a game of rhetoric. The big shots bellow about bad people coming across the southern border – women and children mostly – or Black people with the effrontery to suggest that cops shouldn’t be shooting them in the back just because they’re Black. Some whites object that Blacks are trying to be higher on the pecking order but there isn’t a single job produced by that rhetoric and it won’t shrink the deaths of despair that have been taking too many white lives. White men and women want, need and deserve jobs – decent ones that you can take care of your families with. But all Trump gave you is that bellowing. Everyone knows how to create jobs – things need to be built and improved – some talk about infrastructure ‘til they’re blue in the face but Republicans block it – first they didn’t want a Black president to take credit for improving our infrastructure but they insist everything should be produced by capitalistic magic – a fancy way to say they don’t want to do anything for you or the country. The internet and electrical grids need to be improved and hardened – including the retraining that could create a real income stream. But they stopped Obama, and they stopped the work. What good did that give you? Bragging rights? Try and feed your families bragging rights.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Upended

Oct 6, 2020

As we hiked through the woods and preserves in our region this past summer, my wife developed a fondness for photographing the exposed roots of the many upended trees we discovered.

Utility giant National Grid has proposed a rate hike of 4 percent more for electric and 6 percent more for natural gas service that, if approved, would start next July.  Those proposals would boost the utilities revenues by $100 million for electric delivery and $42 million for natural gas delivery.  The plan has been the subject of a series of public hearings organized by the New York State Public Service Commission and has generated widespread concern.

Let’s start with ironic events of the week:  One, POTUS and First Lady test positive for the fake disease; two, Mr. McConnell says Judge Barrett’s confirmation will only be delayed by COVID – several Senators are sick; third, Dr. Conley appears to be a political hack and a quack.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Tales Of The City

Oct 3, 2020
Aris Dervis

I’m here to tell you that talk of New York City’s demise is premature. Contrary to President Trump’s characterization in Tuesday night’s debate, it’s not a deserted “ghost town.” I returned to the city for several days this week and the traffic, both human and vehicular, seemed almost back to normal.

Amy Coney Barrett’s legal career and curriculum vitae merit confirmation to the Supreme Court. 

Stephen Gottlieb: For Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Sep 29, 2020

I dearly wanted to talk about Justice Ginsburg last week. But because a family member needed my help it was impossible. There are new issues, but Ginsburg, a Justice who actually believed in justice, is worth a few more words.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus America’s economic and racial disparities.  A stark example is in health care delivery: when it comes to access as well as quality, racial, gender, and geographic differences are enormous and growing.

It is being reported that Secretary Mnuchin and Chairman Powell are urging more spending to help the economy recover. Whether this translates into a new piece of funding legislation in Congress is very difficult to fathom since we still stand at impasse, although Speaker Pelosi has restarted discussions in light of the struggling economy. The other questions in any funding bill will, of course, be how it will effect states and municipalities who are also in dire need of assistance. Much of the funds that were directed towards small business have essentially lapsed which comes at a time when the Coronavirus is again surging, new unemployment claims continue at a weekly rate around 900,000, and visits to stores and restaurants have stalled putting increase pressure on small business. This is important to watch as it will have a dramatic impact on the economy whichever way it goes.

David Nightingale: Telemarketers

Sep 27, 2020

Telemarketers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, sometimes even resorting to threats. Phrases like sheriff’s department, social security, warranty expiration, etc. are commonly used – in their attempts to get you to yield some personal information. Whether they are in Bangladesh or Timbuktu, they have lists of names and addresses and ages, because long ago the globe yielded most of its privacy to the internet.

The pandemic and fears associated with it have changed our behavior in ways great and small. In my case very small. Prior to this scourge I’d return my empty bottles and cans to the supermarket at regular intervals to redeem the five-cent deposit. Extended intervals. I wasn’t one of those folks you see arriving with a plastic bag containing five or ten receptacles. By the way, who are these people who consume so little beer and soda that that’s all they have to show for their efforts? Or are so meticulous or have so little storage space that a few measly containers triggers a returnable event?

Scott Karson: Seizing The Opportunity

Sep 23, 2020

I grew up in Great Neck, a suburban community on the North Shore of Long Island. And while it might seem hard to believe for some, at the time it was a hotbed of progressive thinking and concern for social justice.

Stephen Gottlieb: Of Course, Black Lives Matter

Sep 22, 2020

I was on a Mohonason panel, talking with students about the Civil Rights Movement. The panel included Reggie Jackson, an African-American folk singer who sang on the front lines of the iconic demonstrations, his friend, Greg Greenaway, a southern-born white deeply committed to civil rights, and Nell Stokes, an activist raised in the segregated South before moving here and spending her life fighting for freedom. I have enormous respect for all of them. I was invited because I walked over from my apartment to the March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his I Have a Dream speech, and because I worked on civil rights in several legal offices.

Fred Kowal: Test, Test, Test

Sep 22, 2020

The fall semester has started for colleges and universities across New York State. For me, the start of the semester has always been a time of excitement, as I prepared to meet new students in my classes and begin the process of sharing knowledge and wisdom with them.