A New Year: Filled with Promise, Right?



Let’s hope the 2020s end better than the 1920s did. But as 2020 begins, I rather doubt the decade will be filled with the same sense of optimism and post-war possibility. The use of electricity became widespread in the 1920s, for instance. Think of it, all the possibility that brought. Today, it’s a crisis if we can’t find a phone charger with a 6-foot cord. In the 1920s, industry and manufacturing expanded at a healthy clip, bringing ever new choices to businesses and consumers. Today? We have trouble building airplanes that can be flown safely.

Regardless, it’s the year we have. Let’s make the absolute best of it. Observation: If you’re one of those folks who can’t be sullied to take part in voting, or who thinks your vote won’t make a difference, this is surely the year to abandon those crazy notions.


What I’m listening to, podcasts:

Throughline. An NPR production, new every week. The riff is “every headline has a history.” Well, yes. But it’s thoughtful, well-done and provides info or perspective I did not know about. The episode about the Violence Against Women Act (Everybody

Knows Somebody) was fascinating, especially from today’s prism, as was The Phoebus Cartel, which explored planned obsolescence, and There Will Be Bananas, about the origin of an unlikely industry. I commend it to your attention.

Today Explained, from Vox. I’m not an every-day listener to this, but I check in pretty regularly because when it’s on, it’s really on. Episodes on Amazon’s preppers, Rudolph the former mayor, and Song of the Year all brought to bear new and intriguing angles, covered pretty thoroughly in about 30 minutes. Good stuff.

Dolly Parton’s America, from WNYC Studios. I have not listened to every episode, yet. But so far, it’s a fascinating exploration of the career of an American icon, both culturally and musically, and her recent newfound (or maybe unrecognized) popularity.

Con Artists, from the Parcast Network. Some very good bits on con artists, what their hustle was, and why it worked or, at some point, didn’t. There are a bunch of episodes back to July; I jumped in at year-end with the Best of 2019, Sante Kimes.


What to watch as January unspools and we anticipate spring:

This state bail reform is turning into a debacle. None of the progressives in Albany want to hear it, but judges and lawyers are already making bets on what it will take to revisit this ill-considered law and how quickly state leaders will fold. Everyone agrees the system we had was untenable. This has gone too far in the other direction.

The state budget: A number of interest groups are still acting as if this is a normal year. It isn’t. The state is short by $6.2 BILLION before the year even starts and, even in New York, a state whose government pioneered financial gimmicks, that is a figure too big to paper over. Everything will be on the table. Even the things lawmakers say are nowhere near the table are, in fact, subject to large, maybe even draconian, cuts. Nothing is safe.

Closing the budget gap will consume Albany this spring. The state Capitol is rarely a building where sound decisions are made under extreme time and financial pressures.

Until next week.

Douglas Cunningham is editor of the Courier and the Putnam County News & Recorder, in Cold Spring. Reach him at 845-265-2468, or by email at

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