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A Gang of Hardened Criminals

February 3, 2015

A while back, we were invited to a fancy party in Manhattan. The fine ladies from the Times were there. They wore colorful scarves. Others who are said to comprise “the Manhattan elite” were there, as well.

These folks didn’t hold their pinky fingers in the air. They weren’t unfriendly, condescending or arrogant. But they had a view – and it was of more than Central Park from the top floor of an expensive apartment.

The view extended all the way to Albany and it was totally disdainful of the leadership of state government. In fact, the conversation at this party unabashedly ran down Cuomo, Silver and Skelos. “The gang in Albany” was the recurring phrase that was used.

Interestingly, this was at a time when state government was actually functioning fairly well – better than it had been for decades. And yet, the sentiment at the party was that Albany really was an awful, awful place.

Into this discussion, we interjected an innocent comment. We said that New York actually fares well in state–by-state rankings of corruption. We said that New York is nowhere near as bad as some other states where patterns of fraud, abuse and profiteering were generations old.  We said no less an authority than FBI Director James Comey said recently that corruption in Albany isn’t the problem people think it is.

When we said this, we received a look from others in the room.  The look was one of incredulity and disdain.

The only other time we had such an experience was when we were at an ecumenical gathering and someone told a slightly off-color joke. The person said: “Did you hear about the stolen shipment of Viagra? Police are looking for a gang of hardened criminals!”

We thought the joke was hysterical, especially in a church-lady setting, but nobody else did. The poor fellow who told the joke received withering looks from everyone, especially his wife. (Later we saw a priest pat the fellow on that arm and say that he thought it was a clever, cheeky joke.)

If you dispute the notion that Albany is “a cauldron of corruption” today, you will receive a withering look. If you raise any questions about the Silver matter (like where’s the victim?) people think you’re on Silver’s or Brian Meera’s payroll.

PB’s narrative has taken hold completely.  It is supported in its entirety by the Times and other media outlets. Going against it in any way is impossible now.

Andrew Cuomo realizes that. He knows he can’t fight it, so he’s joining it. That’s what his speech was about yesterday at NYU.

Of course we don’t disagree with the measures he proposed — nobody could.  It’s just that, as students of the process, we’re fascinated by the groundswell that created this moment. We’ve never seen anything like it.  Yes, there have been media jags before, lots of them. But this is a completely new phenomenon. An obscure federal prosecutor has now upstaged, eclipsed and overshadowed the governor of the state.

Cuomo, out of fear, has bought into PB’s entire narrative. Fear is the right word, too. It’s the only explanation for Cuomo comments. Think about his protestation that he was “totally shocked” by Silver’s business dealings.  He had “absolutely no idea” what was going on.

Yeah, that’s it, and there’s a gang of hardened criminals on the loose.

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