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sábado, junio 13, 2009

New York's Circus McGurkus

Dr. Seuss had it right about the New York Senate in If I Ran The Circus.

The plot summary of Dr. Seuss's classic story:

Behind Mr. Sneelock's ramshackle store, there's an empty lot. Little Morris McGurk is convinced that if he could just clear out the rusty cans, the dead tree, and the old cars, nothing would prevent him from using the lot for the amazing, world-beating, Circus McGurkus. The more elaborate Morris' dreams about the circus become, the more they depend on the sleepy-looking and innocent Sneelock, who stands outside his ramshackle store sucking on a pipe, oblivious to the fate that awaits him in the depths of Morris's imagination. He doesn't yet know that he'll have to dispense 500 gallons of lemonade, be lassoed by a Wily Walloo, wrestle a Grizzly-Ghastly, and ski down a slope dotted with giant cacti. But if his performance is up to McGurkian expectations, then "Why, ladies and gentlemen, youngsters and oldsters, your heads will quite likely spin right off your shouldsters!"

Please consider the New York State Senate the empty lot, filled with the rusty cans, the dead tree, and the old cars. The worst house of the worst state legislature in the United States. Inaccessible. Unapproachable. Worthless. Corrupt. Please consider me Little Morris McGurk, your humble, scribbling bloguero, thinking, nay hoping that the New York State Senate might be able to do wonderful things, things like legalizing gay marriage, and might become an example of open government and transparency. And please consider my fellow New Yorkers as Mr. Sneelock, standing outside our houses sucking on a pipe (a tobacco pipe, though a tail pipe might be more appropos), oblivious after all of these years to how very dysfunctional New York's State Senate really is, so resigned to this farce, so shackled by bad government that we don't even notice its fetters any more.

Let's face it. If you live in New York, and you don't live in the company town of Albany, or you're not interested in the bizarre party politics playing in the company town, you never hear very much about the wonderful New York State Senate. In fact, if you're not in the area covered by WAMC, you probably hear nothing about it. If you're in New York City, the silence about it is deafening. The fact is the Senate meets 130 miles away from New York City in Albany, there's little media coverage of their antics, and the rate at which incumbent pols are returned over and over and over again is astonishing, especially in light of the lack of any public examination of just what they have done, especially in light of the enormous amount of campaign funds that flow to incumbents and make running against them a bad idea. A very bad idea. What do these Senators do while we're not watching? Mostly they provide pork to their districts. Lots of pork. And favors. Lots of favors to donors. And they fight the kinds of Bizantine, internecine political battles that have culminated in this week's remarkable clown show.

Yesterday a judge addressed the two competing factions, democrats and republicans. The Republicans claimed a majority of the Senate in a legislative coup d'etat earlier this week with the assistance of two turn-coat democrats, Pedro Espada (D-nominally from the Bronx, but not living full time in his district, under investigation for extensive campaign finance misbehavior) and Hiram Montserrate (D-Queens, indicted for assault of his partner). The Democrats thought they had 32 votes in January at the start of the term and have tried to lock the doors to prevent the Senate from convening after the coup, claiming that the session in which the vote occurred had been gaveled to a close. Said the judge to the two combatant sides, "Work it out."

[Justice Thomas] McNamara told the attorneys -- in court and privately -- of the need to work things out away from the courtroom.

"There are three coequal branches of government," the judge said from the bench. "We have our job, the Senate has their job, and the governor's office has their job. The courts certainly do, on occasions that are appropriate, venture into other areas -- but there is a reluctance to do that. And it would be in everyone's best interests if the Senate over the weekend got together and with calmer heads resolved (the dispute) among yourselves."

If the factions don't "work it out" by Monday, the Judge threatens that he will rule. But what's the big threat? One of the parties won't like the ruling, so it will appeal. Meanwhile, the clowning will continue, probably to the end of the session, which is scheduled to close in two weeks.

And what clowning it is! The democrats locked the chamber and refused to provide a key to the republicans. The New York Post sent someone to the Senate dressed as a clown. The republicans showed up with a "magical key." The session ended before anything could be done because Mr. Montserrate, for reasons that seem to stem more from his desire for the spotlight than any other consideration, left the chamber, leaving the coup members with no quorum. And on it will go from here.

What the republicans have done is recruit two of the worst democrats. You wouldn't have known about them, I certainly didn't, until the present fiasco began. Then you could suddenly read all about them, their troubled legal histories, their flouting their constituents, the backroom deals, the coup, the wrangling to keep the coup in place, the deals on top of deals. In short, awful politics. Corrupt politics practiced by egomaniac, valueless hacks. And the more you follow it, the more it's clear that Dr. Seuss had it right. The Senate is really a vacant lot, replete with rusty cans, the dead tree, and the old cars. And you, the Mr. Sneelocks of the world, need to do something about it. You need to dispense the 500 gallons of lemonade, be lassoed by a Wily Walloo, wrestle a Grizzly-Ghastly, and ski down a slope dotted with giant cacti. You need to vote all of these bums out. All of them. Every last one. And if you don't, "Why, ladies and gentlemen, youngsters and oldsters, your heads will quite likely spin right off your shouldsters!"

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