Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sticks and Stones

Rogue Senators

Trash Governor

In War of Words.

'Thugs', He Calls

Espada and Diaz.

Day 71 without a budget. There are 71 characters on a standard English keyboard, not counting upper and lower case characters twice.

The situation in Albany changes from hour to hour, as insults are hurled back and forth between several senators and the governor.

Two Daily News articles do justice to the situation: Bill Hammond's PEDRO & SKELOS STAR IN 'CHAOS' 2, in yesterday’s News, reminds us of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, except that Hammond is funnier. Reading the column, you should be outraged, but you may also be amused.

The story is followed up in today's News in an article by Glenn Blain and Kenneth Lovett of the News' Albany bureau. Headlined POLS SLING MUD AS STATE TILTS TOWARD CHAOS, the story begins:

"Pro wrestling would kill for the vindictive, no-holds-barred story line unfolding in the state Capitol. Sens. Pedro Espada and Ruben Diaz teamed up against Gov. Paterson yesterday in a budget battle featuring personal jabs as subtle as sledgehammers.

'We cannot let an unelected, lame-duck governor that no one in the state wants to actually decide this [budget] by himself in a piecemeal fashion,' said Espada, miffed over the spending cuts Paterson has tucked into short-term emergency plans."

Then Espada went for the knockout by referring to Paterson's despair over the ongoing attorney general probe of his contact with a domestic violence victim.

"Rev. Diaz and I were the first ones to visit Gov. Paterson in his mansion when he was stretched out on a psychiatric sofa, unable to lift himself to come to work."

Quickly, [Espada] added: "We don’t want to resort to name-calling."

Paterson, likewise, pulled no punches in unleashing his own barrage of insults.

He dismissed the two Bronx Democrats, both of whom threatened to shut down the government over budget disputes, as irresponsible rogues and blackmailers.

"I'm not going to respond to any threats, any thug activity," Paterson said. He didn’t mention the two senators by names, but his targets were unmistakable."

We at New York Civic cannot predict how these angry Democrats will feel tomorrow. The Republicans so far have been no help, seeking only to portray the Democrats as incompetent to manage the senate or adopt a budget. This Republican strategy plays into the hands of Espada and Diaz by making them necessary parties to a budget agreement. As successor to Joe Bruno, who resigned because of legal problems, Skelos should be working with Paterson. However, he resents being excluded whenever he is not needed, and he wants desperately to regain the senate majority the Republicans lost in 2008 after forty-three years in power. He doesn't know what strategy to follow, but he should remember that Newt Gingrich was blamed for the last federal government shutdown, in 1995-96.

The issues are likely to be resolved, but not before the last minute. So far the parties are playing a game of 'chicken', expecting the other to back down or to agree to a face-saving compromise. Returning to the movies after Bill & Ted, we note than in Rebel Without a Cause, one of the competing cars went over the cliff. The same dramatic conclusion ended the story of Thelma and Louise, except that they were in one car.

Actually, a government shutdown for a brief period might not be so bad. It could show us some of what we could get by without. Besides, state employees are not nearly as essential as city police, fire, transit and sanitation workers. It is not in the state workers' interest for the public to find that out.

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