Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The State of Surreal

You know, in a week when the big Supreme Court case in the news involves someone buying a justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court, thank goodness the members of the New York Senate is making an even bigger joke of themselves.

Here's the setup, in a nutshell. For more than 40 years, the GOP controlled the New York Senate. In January, the Democrats finally gained the upper hand, albeit by a slim margin. Super slim, as a matter of fact. Slim enough that, if a couple of senators could be peeled away, that majority would slip away.

That's just what happened earlier this week:

The toppling of Democratic control unfolded in swift and dramatic fashion shortly after 3 p.m. as senators gathered in the lofty oaken chamber for what seemed like small-bore legislative action on an uneventful afternoon.

Then, Senator Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican, offered a resolution to reorganize the Senate leadership, a parliamentary maneuver that captured the entire Capitol’s attention. Within minutes, reporters, staff members and Assembly members rushed to the Senate, crowding the chamber floor.

Democrats tried to stall the move, storming from the chamber and turning out the lights, but the Republicans continued the session as the two Democrats joined with them to elect new leaders.
I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at the Dems trying to halt things by turning the lights out. For the record, the story doesn't indicate how the GOPers got along without light. Candle power, maybe?

As for the two Dems who turned on their colleagues, they're quite the pair:
Each man has legal troubles. Highlighting the often elastic nature of ethical stands and alliances in Albany, Republicans who earlier this year were calling on Mr. Monserrate to resign after his indictment on felony charges that he stabbed his companion with a broken glass are now welcoming him as part of their power-sharing coalition.

Asked about the reversal, Mr. Skelos said, 'He’s an elected member, and the reforms are more important.'

Mr. Espada has been fined tens of thousands of dollars over several years for flouting state law by not disclosing political contributions.

The state attorney general’s office is also investigating the Soundview HealthCare Network, a nonprofit organization that Mr. Espada ran until recently.
As one columnist has put it:
Now Mr. Smith [the ousted Democratic leader] says the Republican coup that took away his job was 'illegal and unlawful.' How come? Apparently, it was unfair of the Republicans to buy two senators whom the Democrats had already paid for, fair and square.
It turns out, however, that the change over in New York does share something with the infamous West Virginia judicial election - donor money. The takeover was apparently instigated and backed by Tom Golisano, a New Yorkbillionaire who wasn't feeling the love from the Democrats he helped get elected. Unhappy with after a fruitless meeting with Smith over the fear of increased taxes, Golisano took another approach. The result was a move that's thrown the state into chaos and underscored, once again, what a wise woman once said - "money talks, and bullshit walks."

That being said, a word about words. In particular one word - "coup" - which is used frequently in the New York Times pieces as well as by some of the Kos kids. C'mon, folks. This move is a lot of things - clever, slimy, unprecedented, etc. - but it's hardly a coup. Coups involve guns, blood, and dead political opponents. Don't trivialize the terror wrought by the real thing by comparing it to this relatively benign circus.

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