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The Weekender - April 5

April 5, 2012

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The Weekender bids so long for awhile

This thirty-third in The Weekender series is not the last, but will mark a hiatus in its appearance in the Courier.

During the last 15 months, The Weekender has tried to convey some things about the sensibility of an increasingly large and important segment of the greater Chatham citizenry. We are people who live here only part of the time, but want to do more than merely escape from the city, recreate and buy lots of stuff. We want to fully participate in and contribute to a place that has become for most a second and for some their primary home. (more…)

The Weekender - March 22

March 22, 2012

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A modest proposal

The Weekender has been a bit ornery of late, heaping criticisms on elected officials past, present and also on the campaigning wannabes. It’s time for me to ratchet down the cynicism and start to “give back” by making a constructive proposal which would improve our society. Although this proposal may at first seem radical, when readers calmly and carefully consider it, they will conclude that it is beneficial, practical and in the truest sense modest. (more…)

The Weekender - March 8

March 8, 2012

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Jimmy Carter began the nasty, divisive use of religion in modern American politics

When it comes to divisive and mean-spirited injection of religion into American politics, things have reached a new low — at least from the vantage point of this observer, who has watched every presidential election since the Eisenhower/Stevenson contest in 1952.

The lowest point in this Death Valley was reached last week when Republican candidate Rick Santorum, the darling of evangelicals and social conservatives, told us that John F. Kennedy’s landmark 1960 speech about his commitment to honor the Constitution’s separation of church and state made him “want to throw up.” Of course, Santorum had grossly distorted the meaning of both JFK’s promise and the Constitution by equating them with “say[ing] that people of faith have no role in the public square.” And Santorum’s lies and/or stupidity were merely the lowest and most recent in a race to the bottom among many of the Republican contenders in this election cycle, where daily we bear witness to polls measuring the suspicion of Mormons by Christian evangelicals and whether they would rather re-elect Barack Hussein Obama, whom they suspect is really Muslim, than elevate Mitt Romney, a proud and clearly professed member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (more…)

The Weekender - February 23

February 23, 2012

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Ethics reform: Cuomo-style

Much skepticism has been expressed about the newly convened Joint Commission on Public Ethics, New York’s most recent attempt to establish a serious and independent agency to investigate and prosecute unethical conduct in state government. The skeptics were substantially validated last month by the appointment of longtime Andrew Cuomo retainer Ellen Biben and the manner of her selection. (more…)

The Weekender - February 9

February 9, 2012

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The State of the Union from 50,000 millimeters

The last The Weekender column critiqued Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State address and criticized its centerpiece proposal for building the nation’s largest convention center on the site of the Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, Queens. Equal time should be accorded Pres. Obama’s State of the Union address. It was delivered Jan. 24 to Congress, leaders in the executive and judicial branches and as is becoming an annoying custom to a gaggle of guests singled out for praise and photo op while the president delivered the speech. (more…)

The Weekender - January 26

January 26, 2012

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More than anything NY needs? A convention center in Ozone Park!

The State of the State address gives the governor the opportunity to survey New York and put forth priorities for the new year. While the substance of the governor’s intentions is contained in the annual budget speech, the State of State spotlights what President Bush 41 quizzically called “the vision thing.” It is the governor’s moment to rally support for the most important and loftiest objectives. And among a handful of projects the governor can mention in a speech of less than an hour, there must be one proclaimed first, implicitly the most important, which media will focus upon and remember when comparing the governor’s vision with what was accomplished. (more…)

The Weekender - January 12

January 12, 2012

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To cure the dysfunctional Congress — don’t call the doctors

Public approval of Congress stood at 11 percent in the most recent CBS and Gallup polls. The consistency of such highly negative opinions, Congress’ recent work product and the manner in which it has been done suggest the dismal ratings are well deserved. One candidate for president, the incumbent who has modest approval ratings of his own, yet four times as high as Congress, has clearly taken a page from Harry Truman and shrewdly decided to run against a “do nothing Congress.” (more…)

The Weekender - December 22

December 22, 2011

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Ron Paul: doctor heal thyself

The Weekender’s periodic analyses of the major candidates in the 2012 presidential primaries has me visiting the offices of the good Doctor Paul this week. While it is debatable whether Ron Paul actually is a “major” candidate, I have interpreted the adjective both expansively and idiosyncratically. As examples, I have disregarded Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, with the prediction that they would disappear. That happened to Cain. Actually also to Santorum and Bachmann, but they don’t seem to realize it. (more…)

The Weekender - December 15

December 15, 2011

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Thanks governor, I really needed that tax cut

Truth is stranger and generally more perverse than fiction. That’s why the reader knows that a tax cut for New Yorkers with an annual income in the range of $300,000 to $2 million is neither a nightmare nor the product of The Weekender’s fertile imagination, but fact. Correction, it is a nightmare, but one that actually became the law of our state in a signature performance by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (more…)

The Weekender - November 10

November 10, 2011

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Fifty reasons to spank your (big) banker

Last Saturday, Nov. 5, was International Bank Transfer Day in Chatham, on the Isle of Manhattan and throughout the world, at least according to the label. On or by that day people were urged to take their money out of big banks and establish accounts at the tens of thousands of credit unions and community banks spread across our nation. And in the four-week period preceding transfer day, some 650,000 Americans had done just that, a rate 1,400 percent greater than usual for switching accounts. (more…)

The Weekender - October 27

October 27, 2011

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Jon Huntsman: The Republicans’ canary in a coal mine

The fate of Jon Huntsman’s candidacy for president will go a long way toward determining whether sanity prevails in the Republican Party and whether it has any chance of wresting the presidency from the grasp of Democrat Barack Obama. Huntsman, whose last two jobs were ambassador to China and governor of Utah, does not need to win his party’s nomination for Republicans to pass those two tests. But if Huntsman’s 1 percent support level doesn’t radically improve and if he quickly is drummed out of the primary field because he espouses moderate to traditionally conservative positions, held by the vast majority of U.S. general election voters, then the Republicans will lose the election and be relegated, at most, to the role of “Drs. No” in the House of Representatives. (more…)

The Weekender - October 13

October 13, 2011

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A fall festival and the Arab Spring

Today is the first day of Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles, at the little synagogue in Chatham Center and at Jewish and certain so-called “Hebrew Roots” Christian houses of worship throughout the world. Sukkot, a harvest holiday, also commemorates the 40 years when Israelites wandered the desert after emancipation from slavery in Egypt. The Sukkah, a hastily made grass or straw hut, symbolizes the temporary structures that sheltered the Israelites during those four nomadic decades. It’s a sweet holiday, worthy of everyone’s respect, if not active participation, being a celebration of agriculture, freedom and an autumn thanksgiving as well. (more…)

The Weekender - September 29

September 29, 2011

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Chatham Plaza: Home of the Whopper

For this column, The Weekender briefly descends from the heady heights of presidential politics to the wetlands on the Chatham Village/Ghent border. I attended the public hearing held on the evening of Sept. 19 at Tracy Memorial Village Hall concerning two competing visions for the development of about a dozen acres abutting Route 66. As one now dead politician frequently intoned while in office (free large latté at Ralph’s to the first reader who sends that president’s name to me at lloydconstantine@gmail.com), “let me make one thing perfectly clear, I am not,” suggesting by the title of this column that the best use of the building currently housing Price Chopper, should it leave, is a 23,000-square-foot Burger King. But there were many whoppers, little lies and ludicrous pronouncements made at this public hearing. Without categorizing them, my favorites were the overarching claim to competence and trustworthiness by the Price Chopper contingent and the equally absurd assertion of objectivity and civic mindedness by the Chatham Plaza team. (more…)

The Weekender - September 15

September 15, 2011

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Mitt Romney — The ‘Karma Chameleon’

Republicans who are Evangelical Protestants (and make up a majority of likely voters in the key early Iowa and South Carolina primaries) are worried that candidate Mitt Romney is not a Christian and more specifically that he’s a Mormon. However, a broader group of voters, including The Weekender, increasingly focus on the distinct possibility that Romney is reptilian and specifically, as the Culture Club crooned, a “Karma Chameleon” who “comes and goes” depending upon which way the wind blows. (more…)

The Weekender - September 1

September 1, 2011

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Listen to Governor Perry’s call and respond

President Obama’s Midwest bus tour and the Republican straw poll in Iowa marked the beginning of the 2012 campaign. However, neither the president nor any of the Iowa contestants commanded the attention paid to the entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry into the contest for the Republican nomination. In the first of a periodic series of columns on the presidential candidates, The Weekender examines Perry and whether his intemperate criticism of Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are merely Texas tough guy talk or an important indication of what this candidate really stands for and the path he would follow if elected. (more…)

The Weekender - August 18

August 18, 2011

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Tea Party to Chatham: Drop Dead

“Ford to New York: Drop Dead.” That Oct. 30, 1975 headline in the New York Daily News was thrust into focus again, twice, in recent days. Once was with the passing of Gov. Hugh Carey, widely credited with saving New York City from financial death after Congress and unelected President Gerald Ford rejected all pleas from New York state and city officials to prevent the bankruptcy of the Big Apple during its darkest days. The federal government has bailed out numerous auto manufacturers, banks, insurance companies and other “indispensable” private entities over the years. Presumably, the financial and cultural capital of the world was not deemed indispensable, although President Ford made clear that certain functions in New York City essential to the United States would be maintained. These did not include public education for New York City’s children. (more…)

The Weekender - August 4

August 4, 2011

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Some things in Chatham make no sense

The irony embodied in the sign could not have been more nearly perfect (The Weekender learned in grade school that “perfect” was the superlative and in Sunday School that is was reserved for God) telling shoppers in the village of Chatham that the adorable little perfume and essential oils shop “Chatham Makes Scents” was closing with some of its best selling items still available nearby at “The Grainery” natural stuff emporium. The announcement that this store was closing, as always, provoked “too bads,” but also spotlighted the incoherent and commercially unrealistic offerings that have occupied a sizable share of Main Street and contiguous commercial blocks within the village over the last quarter century. This, while our beautiful village lacks stores selling things that virtually everybody wants and many people need. (more…)

The Weekender - July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011

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When (and if) our time comes, let’s not become like the English

If a time comes when the United States no longer is the, or merely a, world superpower (we should all strive for that not to happen or at least anytime soon), let’s resolve not to become like the English. When The Weekender column launched in January, I committed to send back columns from the many places, foreign and domestic, I travel to, but relate them to the communities the column primarily concerns, Chatham and Manhattan. (more…)

The Weekender - July 7, 2011

July 7, 2011

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Good news from Chatham to Amiens in time for July 4th

The news that same sex couples can marry in New York state and that Steve Saland, our district’s senator, had cast the decisive vote reached The Weekender in Amiens, France at 4:57 a.m. June 25 in an email from The Chick in the Black Dress. I was up early to begin the third and last day of a bike tour from London to Paris and for a few minutes was liberated from the obsessive focus on hydration, carb-loading and pain suppression that is the fabric of such extreme endurance events. (more…)

The Weekender - June 23, 2011

June 23, 2011

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The State University must cease being a government agency

As New York’s legislature moves to conclude this session, same sex marriage dominates the lawmakers’ and public’s attention (and will be the subject of The Weekender’s next column) and overshadows much other important business, including proposed legislation affecting the State University’s vitality and future. As every year since its founding in 1948, SUNY’s fate is being determined by the legislature instead of teachers, students and college administrators. SUNY is treated like, and de facto is, a state agency. Its budget and many of the most important details of its educational offering and agenda are determined as if SUNY were the Department of Transportation or the Department of Motor Vehicles. That model hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t work, condemning SUNY to a future of mediocrity when it has the capacity to ascend into the elite of national and world public universities. (more…)

The Weekender - June 9, 2011

June 9, 2011

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Both parties spinning Special Election in NY’s 26th, distorting truth about Medicare

Chatham and its environs were most fortunate to have been spared the tornadoes that recently ripped through parts of neighboring Massachusetts. Only God knows why, but The Weekender, at least, knows the source of those swirling winds. They emanated from the incredible spinning and demagoguery that followed the May 24 Special Election to replace Shirtless Chris Lee from New York’s 29 minus three. The winner in the 26th Congressional District was the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, formerly Erie County Clerk, who with 47 percent of the vote, defeated three rivals: Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (Erie/Niagara); Jack Davis, a perennial candidate who this time secured a “Tea Party” slot; and Ian Murphy on the “it’s not easy being the Green Party Candidate” ballot line. (more…)

The Weekender - May 26, 2011

May 26, 2011

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Don’t get fooled again

The Weekender is generally interested in what his fellow Courier columnists write about and always eagerly glances up the page to see what The Chick in the Black Dress has to say. So, it was fascinating to read her column of April 21 about the protest held in Chatham on April 16, with a specific focus on Bank of America and a collective group of targeted bogeymen defined as the “wealthiest Americans” “raking in record-breaking profits” “who received a government bailout,” but “are getting massive tax breaks” and in the case of Bank of America hasn’t “paid taxes in two years.” (more…)

The Weekender - May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011

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Reflections on the killing of Osama Bin Laden

If the Chatham Courier and The New York Times accurately mirrored the hopes, fears and interests of the residents of their namesake communities, one might conclude that the only thing the inhabitants of New York City cared about was the death of Osama Bin Laden (confirmed by President Barack Obama on national television late Sunday night, May 1), but that it was a non-event 125.6 miles north in the town in Chatham. All week long, and still as I write, The Times was and is dominated by Bin Laden stories, yet the Courier of Thursday, May 5 had nary a word about the killing, the reactions of Chathamites or its meaning and significance (if any) to this community. The Weekender, who characteristically split his week between the two places and whose family was hosting a beloved Chatham friend in their city apartment at the very moment of the President’s somber announcement, believes otherwise, at least with respect to Chatham. (more…)

The Weekender - April 28, 2011

April 28, 2011

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Making sense of the 2010 Census

While New York state and The Weekender’s mid-week home, New York City, were clear losers in the recently released 2010 U.S. Census results, my weekend residence, Chatham, not only held its own but gained substantially. It was a winner in the bottom line tally and in the more granular analysis of what the numbers say about the last 10 years and foretell about our future as a community.

New York state and City lost because their populations each increased by an anemic 2.1 percent, rising to 19,379,102 and 8,175,133, respectively, while the national increase was 9.7 percent to 308,745,538. That will cost New York state two seats in the House of Representatives and tens of billions of dollars in reduced federal funding over the coming decade. (more…)

The Weekender - April 14, 2011

April 14, 2011

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Scorecard on the first Andrew Cuomo budget

The last Weekender column (March 31) promised that the next would provide analysis of the importance of both the process and results of the recently released Census. That column will be deferred until April 28 because in the interim, the state enacted its first on-time budget in five years, as predicted in The Weekender of March 17. (Despite this and many contemporaneous, previous and future self-congratulatory pats on the back, this column will continue to be called The Weekender and not be changed to “I Told You So”). (more…)

The Weekender - March 31, 2011

March 31, 2011

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Tenure with extreme prejudice: federal judicial jobs for life

The Weekender’s last column (March 17) discussed some aspects of government employee tenure policies and the rigidity of the “Last In First Out” rule that handcuffs public school administrators as they try to retain talented new teachers while trimming their payrolls. These policies are being hotly debated in New York and most states, but there is little recognition and virtually no debate about the most extreme and inflexible form of tenure granted to a class of government employees. Every federal judge on the U.S. Supreme Court, the 13 federal Courts of Appeal and the 94 U.S. District Courts is tenured for life and can continue to sit or snooze into their 90s and beyond, if they so choose. (more…)

The Weekender - March 17, 2011

March 17, 2011

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‘Last In First Out, Tenure And Jobs For Life’

The state’s annual budget ritual is playing out like the Kabuki it is. Lobbyists and ad agencies race around with a message of dire consequences, including shattered and lost lives, if the services of their clients are not spared from budgetary cuts. Occasionally their message includes some truth. This year, I predict, without being willing to wager a plug nickel, that the budget will be enacted on time — that is by April 1. As the process winds down, we constantly hear that the remuneration of government employees is a major, if not the primary, cause of the budgetary distress faced by New York and virtually every American state. This fallacy is frequently packaged with a discussion of tenure policies and the rigidity of rules for laying off government employees when that becomes necessary, as it has this year. (more…)

The Weekender - March 3, 2011

March 3, 2011

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A better way to fund schools while lowering property taxes

The Weekender column of Feb. 3 explained why the property tax cap proposed by Governor Cuomo in his State of State speech, and roundly applauded by the legislature, would be a grievous mistake for Chatham and all of New York state. It would set New York on the same disastrous path traveled by California after the passage of the infamous Proposition 13 tax cap. Soon after Prop 13 was enacted, California’s public schools, then widely considered the finest in our nation, rapidly deteriorated. That Governor Cuomo, and indeed Governor Spitzer when he had the baton, would make proposals similar to California’s with the resulting educational carnage so fresh and clear is disappointing but not surprising. Both parties have all but eliminated the former ability of elected officials to resort to progressive income taxation as the major source of funding for most of the things we expect government to provide. (more…)

The Weekender - February 17, 2011

February 17, 2011

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Report from Chatham, Australia (sort of)

The last Weekender column (Feb. 3) explained why Governor Cuomo’s proposed property tax cap would be disastrous for Chatham and the entire state. I promised to offer a superior solution for lowering property taxes, while funding public schools at appropriate levels. That solution will be explained in the next column. However, in the interim, a trip to Australia intervened and my editor agreed that it would be interesting to send back a column from Chatham, Australia exploring the differences and similarities of communities in two hemispheres and separated by more than 11,000 miles. (more…)

The Weekender - February 3, 2011

February 3, 2011

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Property tax cap: Be careful what you wish for

The last Weekender column advocated something rare these days, rooting for elected officials we dislike because our success depends on theirs. But hoping for and helping our electeds to succeed does not usually mean backing a misguided policy, such as new Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for, and prioritization of, a property tax cap.

If narrow short-term benefit predicted who the supporters of a property tax cap would be — weekenders, like myself, would surely rank among the proposal’s biggest champions. Second homeowners have paid rapidly escalating property taxes to support many vital services, foremost schools, which we never use or only modestly utilize. Certainly much less than year rounders. (more…)

The Weekender - January 20, 2011

January 20, 2011

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Learning to Root for Elected Officials We Dislike

The Weekender column will attempt to provide insight into the way second homeowners perceive and navigate the waters of the Upper Hudson. However, one thing seems to unite many of the citizens in both of my communities, in New York City and Chatham. It is not a particularly good or constructive one. We root against elected government officials we dislike. We seem to forget that if they fail, as we seem to hope and relish when it occurs, we suffer. The objects of our scorn and impure thoughts are usually but not exclusively members of the opposite political party. True independents seem less prone, but not completely immune, from this syndrome, which has become endemic in federal, state and local politics. (more…)

The Weekender - January 6, 2011

January 6, 2011

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I have heard it said both ways; that “patience is a virtue” and “evil is patient.” The reader will decide which platitude fits the author of this column. I first started thinking about the column 23 years ago, within weeks of an Aug. 6, 1987 closing on a modest “spec” house on Longview Drive, straddling the Chatham/Austerlitz border off Red Rock Road. I had done some wise and neighborly things at the closing. First, by overpaying a local lawyer to do it, despite the fact that both Jan, my wife, and I are lawyers who had done several New York home “closings” for friends and family for free. The second was to bring my adorable 6-year-old daughter, Sarah, to the closing so that the sellers, a couple at each other’s throats, would behave during the formalities. (more…)

Regular contributor to the Sunday "Perspectives" (Editorial) section of Hearst's Albany Times Union with op-eds on government, law and public policy. Read and comment at timesunion.com and on this website. "The Weekender" social commentary column appears on ccSCOOP.com, Columbia County's Home on the Web, and past columns are archived on this website under the Op-Ed button.
Nonfiction
A book about the ground-breaking case that shook the business and legal worlds to their very cores, New York-based law firm Constantine & Partners sought to end a devastating credit monopoly that personally touched millions of consumers. Its efforts culminated in the largest federal antitrust settlement in U.S. history.
Journal of the Plague Year
The March 10, 2008 disclosure that Governor Eliot Spitzer patronized prostitutes shocked admirers around the world who had celebrated him as the "Sheriff of Wall Street" and a likely future president.  Ironically, the author's disillusionment with Spitzer had begun to disappear 15 hours earlier, when Spitzer confessed to him what others would soon learn in a media storm of unprecedented intensity.  Journal of the Plague Year is Constantine's intimate account of the 17 calamitous months preceding the March 2008 revelation and the futile 61 hour battle waged by the author and the governor's wife to persuade Spitzer not to resign, but to instead fulfill promises made to the voters who had elected him in a record landslide.

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