Commentary & Opinion

Ben Downing: Investing In Education

May 31, 2018

The debate about UMass Amherst’s acquisition of Mt. Ida College is an important one, but it ignores an unavoidable truth - Massachusetts has failed to prioritize and invest in public higher education for a generation. That failure has burdened thousands of students across Massachusetts and deterred countless more from seeking to improve themselves. That failure has left each of the 29 campuses - 5 UMass branches, 9 State Universities and Colleges, 15 Community Colleges - to fend for themselves. That failure has weakened Massachusetts. If we want to lessen economic inequality and create a stronger, fairer economy, we must invest to create a world-class, affordable public higher education system.

Herbert London: The Emerging Constitutional Crisis

May 30, 2018

Clandestine activity in the CIA is designed to promote U.S. interests abroad and when occasion undermining governments hostile to our interests and to the local populace. Who would have guessed that this organization would use its assets to undermine a president of the United States perceived as a threat to their interests? In a manner unprecedented in American history, the CIA and the FBI conspired to undermine the presidency of a duly elected figure who captured 57 percent of the electoral vote.

Once again, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court demonstrates the Court’s and the president’s hostility to worker rights. In cases testing whether companies can require their employees to sign agreements that abandon any right to go to court or bring class actions, Gorsuch’s opinion for the Court sides with the companies. That prevents employees from pooling their resources when contemplating expensive litigation.

Blair Horner: June In Albany

May 28, 2018

June is a big month in Albany.  After Memorial Day, lawmakers have just 13 days in their schedule to wrap up the legislative session.  In June of last year, the state Senate and the state Assembly each approved about 2/3 of all bills passed during the entire 6-month session.  When it comes to moving on legislation, June is the biggest month.

David Nightingale: The Right To Die

May 27, 2018

We don’t generally like to look at the end of life. Once, long ago, when a young mathematician friend was dying of leukemia, and a bone marrow match had not been found, I was invited to visit him and his small children at home – and I was unable to accept that this was it. As I left I said cheerily, “OK, see you next week”. To my shame, I had been in denial.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Student Of The Seasons

May 26, 2018
Callery Pear petals littering a driveway
Ralph Gardner, Jr

As someone who’s been visiting the Hudson Valley since the 1960’s, and religiously since the late Seventies when my grandparents passed away and I assumed management of the house where we live today, here’s a small insight from an old-timer: when it comes to nature no two years are alike. 

Andrew Pallotta: Fix The Broken Teacher Evaluation System

May 25, 2018

New York’s teacher evaluation system is broken – and now is the time to fix it.

Parents and educators remain angry and frustrated.  They are demanding an end to the state’s flawed evaluation system – a system which over-emphasizes standardized testing and which misuses tests to rank and sort teachers.  They want more local control, and a return to the days when schools could focus on teaching and learning … not endless test preparation.

Fred Kowal: Guns

May 24, 2018

Another school, another shooting.

Last week, eight students and two teachers were gunned down at the Santa Fe High School in Texas. Arrested was a 17-year-old student, who police say taunted and terrorized his victims before his capture—after a 25-minute shootout with police.

North Korea’s abrupt cancellation of talks with the South this week undoubtedly weakens prospects for a June summit with the United States and underscores the volatility of relations on the Korean peninsula. Moreover, this decision by Kim Jung-un was precipitated by the joint military activity between South Korea and the U.S. planned months earlier with the North Korean government fully aware of the maneuvers. Was Kim using this matter to secure certain negotiating advantages with the U.S.?

Stephen Gottlieb: Are We Overplaying Our Hand?

May 22, 2018

I’ve tried to state these comments not in all or nothing terms but in more realistic degrees. My question is what happens to the extent that a country overplays its hand?

Blair Horner: Health Care In New York

May 21, 2018

None of us wants to think about this, but getting good medical care isn’t a sure thing.  While the vast majority of providers meet minimum requirements or better, many Americans are injured or killed by the medical care they receive.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Foraging With Family Members

May 19, 2018
Lucy Gardner foraging for morels
Ralph Gardner Jr

I’d been told many years back that we had horseradish down by our stream. For all I know we still do but I’ve never been able to find it. Horseradish doesn’t even rank high on my list of condiments. But it was pleasant knowing that something edible grew wild on our property, that not everything that entered our stomachs required a cash outlay. 

Bill Owens: Iranian Gamble

May 17, 2018

President Trump withdrew on May 8, 2018 from what is known as the Iranian Nuclear Deal.  Our European allies lobbied furiously urging the US to stay in, while Israel urged the US to withdraw.  Secretary Mattis and senior members of the military indicated that they believed Iran was in compliance with the agreement, while the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors indicated they were likely to buttress the conclusion of the Department of Defense by concluding that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, and that their inspectors would spot any attempt to build a weapon.

Keith Strudler: Gambling On Sports

May 16, 2018

Just to be clear, I do not particularly enjoy betting on sports. There’s a lot of reasons for that, including the fact that once you have money on a game, you tend to worry more about finance than athleticism. Also, I tend to be really risk averse when it comes to money. For me, the anguish of losing $50 is way more pronounced than the joy of winning $100.

Herbert London: When Alfie Evans Comes To America

May 16, 2018

The story of little Alfie Evans reveals a cultural direction for the West that should set off alarm bells in every capital. As National Review’s David French wonders, how does a nation essentially kidnap a child from a loving, functioning family, yank that same child off life support, deny him care as he unexpectantly fights to stay alive and then block attempts by a foreign government to… “provide him top notch care free of charge?” This bizarre condition was a function of bureaucratic directives emanating from the British Healthcare system.

Ben Downing: Sales Tax

May 16, 2018

During the recent Massachusetts Republican Party Convention and in public statements since, Governor Baker has called for the Sales Tax to be cut. At best, this is an incomplete position, at worst, it is an irresponsible one.

Stephen Gottlieb: Realism In Foreign Policy

May 15, 2018

May I have the luxury of going back to basics?

It’s important to understand the different dynamics of foreign policy. Countries often see foreign affairs through the lens of the balance of power. If the balance gets out of whack, conquest is likely, further upsetting a regional balance.

Blair Horner: Scandal Rocks Albany... Again

May 14, 2018

Last week was quite a week at the state Capitol.  It started off on Monday with the shocking resignation of the Attorney General within hours of detailed allegations of sexual assaults appearing in media reports.  The week ended with the second conviction of the former Speaker of the Assembly on federal corruption charges.  And in between, an accomplice to a former top aide to Governor Cuomo pled guilty.  In that last one, the former top aide to the governor had already been convicted of corruption; the accomplice was an energy executive who admitted to lying to federal investigators about his role in giving a high-pay, “low-show” job to the former top aide’s wife.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Visionary Women

May 12, 2018
Author Andrea Barnet at the White Horse Tavern
Ralph Gardner Jr.

There were a couple of obvious questions to ask Andrea Barnet about her book “Visionary Women” when we got together at the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village a few weeks ago.

Keith Strudler: Kona’s Final Journey

May 9, 2018

I was going to write a commentary about minor league baseball players and a legal dispute over salary structure, which may or may not end up in the Supreme Court. But I didn’t. And then I almost started to write about LeBron James and the Cavs’ sweep of Toronto, and how a title this year would be perhaps the greatest accomplishment of his professional life. But again, I stopped. And that’s because, and apologies for bringing everyone down with me, but my nearly 13-year-old dog Kona is in the final throws of a terminal illness, and as I write, my wife and I are getting ready for Kona’s journey to his final resting place, likely later today. If you’ve ever owned a dog, you know what I mean, and you know it sucks about as bad as anything can. So with all due respect to baseball and LeBron James, I decided that I’d rather give these few minutes to my loyal companion that some athletes I’ve never met. And I decided that instead of taking the week off, I’d let you all know just how amazing a dog Kona was.

Herbert London: The Karl Marx Legacy

May 9, 2018

The bicentennial anniversary of Karl Marx on May 5 came and went. This marginal thinker who became a curious voice of the disenchanted has haunted the globe with puerile economic analysis that a class of people has embraced as its own.

America sees itself as altruistic and believes we should be trusted because we proved it in World War II. But, in 1953, Americans in the Embassy in Tehran helped engineer a coup d’état against the democratically selected Prime Minister of Iran. Persians admired us for our power but hated what we had done.

Blair Horner: The Dangers Of Indoor Tanning

May 7, 2018

Finally, Spring has arrived.  The weather is warming up and many think of lying in the sun to get some relaxation and a tan.  Others look to a short-cut: Indoor tanning.  You can see it already, with high school prom and other big events, like graduations, looming, many high schoolers are rushing to look their best, some go to indoor tanning salons.  That decision could change their lives.

David Nightingale: Saving A Lake

May 6, 2018
Tillson Lake
Andrew Hague /

In the 1970s, my wife and small sons would, some summers, drive the 15 miles or so to Tillson Lake in Ulster County, NY – which, by the way, is nowhere near the hamlet of the same name. There we could sit on the beach by the pavilion, and watch our three and six-year-olds as they waded out and practiced their swimming, eat our sandwiches and enjoy the scenic backdrop of the mountain, where, further up, is the well-known Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Every Picture Frame Tells A Story

May 5, 2018
A Hudson Valley landscape by Page Curry Ginns
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I’m going public with my addiction because it needs to be nipped in the bud. If I don’t acknowledge it now there’s no telling how much it will end up costing me.

Have you ever heard of the Economic Policy Institute? As their name indicates, they do research on economic policy. Their goal is to “…include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.” In other words, they don’t write for the one percent. I have often utilized their research in my classroom. Every time I want to show that the minimum wage in purchasing power is lower today than it was in 1968 despite decades of nominal increases, I utilize EPI’s tables.

"South Pacific” has made its way to the Korean Peninsula with a lot of “Happy Talk.”  

News accounts would have you believe the meeting of Kim Jong-Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In was a historic event aimed at denuclearization. In this highly choreographed event, Kim became the first leader of the North since the Korean War to set foot in the South. The two men shook hands as shutter bugs flashed photos. They acted like buddies in a scene belying the truth. Kim even signed the guest book noting: “A new history begins now — at the starting point of history and the era of peace.” Seoul officials reported that Kim told Moon he “won’t interrupt your early morning sleep anymore,” with nuclear tests.

Before it recedes further into the past, I want to get back to the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg, founder and head of Facebook, before two Senate committees. The central issue was consumer choice. But that issue entirely missed the problem that precipitated the hearing – the behavior of Cambridge Analytica using data to manipulate user preferences for the 2016 election.

Blair Horner: Will NY Become More Energy Efficient?

Apr 30, 2018

Energy efficiency means using less energy to provide the same level of energy.  If a house is properly insulated, less energy is used in heating and cooling to achieve a satisfactory temperature.  Houses can be built facing the sun to take advantage of solar energy. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Fishing For Prizes

Apr 30, 2018
Kolby Michalak with his prize trout at the Ghent Sportsman Association’s fish derby
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Is there really any better, faster, more efficient way to build self-confidence in a child, not to mention a gentle reverence for nature, than fishing?