Thursday, January 22, 2015

Silver's Arrest: Why Teachers Have Nothing To Worry About (This Year) (updated)

It is often been said that NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver ("Shelly" to all of the people he knows and many he doesn't) cares only about three things in his professional life: His district of Lower Manhattan, His position as Assembly Speaker and the people who make him the speaker; Democratic Assemblymen and women. Everyone I know who knows Albany thinks just this way and they are usually quick to share the sentiment.

This is why news of his arrest today and the charges that now loom over him and his freedom (and two of the three things he cares most about) seems at first glance to be very bad news. He has been a very big defender of teachers and supporter of teachers unions throughout his entire time as speaker. His arrest, as the thinking is going today, represents a very big setback for all of the things that protect teachers -and at the very moment that the governor has announced an aggressive anti teacher agenda. The Raging Horse Blog exclaimed, "this is the stuff nightmares are made of". The Perdido Street School Blog elaborates that "With Assembly Dems in disarray after today's Silver indictment, you can bet Cuomo gets everything he wants in the budget.".

Well, DOEnuts says chill.

Nobody and I mean nobody, expect this doofus  Federal Prosecutor who charged Silver, Preet Bharara, wanted this man arrested and indicted today. Indeed, Bharara could have indicted him during December or even earlier in January but he chose to do it just after Cuomo's speech precisely because today was the first official day of the New York State Budget season. Legislatures have to decide on how to spend massive amounts of monies and raise massive amounts of taxes and provide a massive amounts of services and how to service a massive amount of debt (I heard someone estimate once that New York State is the fifth largest debtor in the world. That's a lot of debt to service). Because of this, all of the important decisions in NY's government are made during this period of time. This, my friends, is budget season. It's like the playoffs for lawmakers and they (not even Cuomo) need no distractions.

While the 'three men in the room' approach isn't the way things should be, attempting to sack one of the men during the only two months that lawmakers must actually do the people's work could do nothing but cause instability. No one, and I mean no one, except for this doofus prosecutor Preet Bharara wants instability (have any guesses as to the only reason he wants instability? I do! He wants to get himself elected to something!)

And the political structure depends upon stability. The more stable things are, the more work actually gets done. Corrupt? yep. Back room deals? Sure. Work that gets done but brings no real change? You betcha. Welcome to the American paradigm of democracy.

Now we all think Silver is a super powerful political broker. While this isn't false, it's not exactly true either. He has been able to keep his grip on power for so long because he does the bidding of his colleagues in the Assembly (who, remember, are his constituents as he serves as Speaker) and he never leaves the consensus that they have formed. The word is that he will support any bill (as long as it doesn't hurt his district back home) that the majority Assembly Democrats would like.  He also doesn't care if he takes the blame for it. Unless you're an Assembly Democrat, you can yell and yell and yell until you're blue in the face and he will simply not care.

This isn't strange, by the way. Leadership in a democracy is the biggest demonstration of following others there is. The very word in a democracy should be shannanigan. You can't be a leader unless those who vote for you are sure you will follow them. That's just how things work. What sets Silver apart is that he doesn't mind playing the role of 'the bad guy' to the rest of the world as long as he is playing the role of the good guy to the people who are most important to his professional life (his constituents).  In this sense, his length as speaker alone should demonstrate that Sheldon Silver is the biggest follower there is and it should demonstrate that he could care less what other state wide elected officials have to say about him

This is why when news of actual arrest hit, I just skimmed all the way through the 'shocking' details (I yawned, actually. [updated] Honestly, you're arresting the guy for sitting on his keister at a law firm? Seriously? I think may have something to say about that at some point). Instead, I just went straight to see what the Assembly Democrats had to say. I was happy to read this:

Assembly Democrats, shortly before Bhahara unloaded on Silver, emerged from a closed-door Thursday morning conference at the Capitol to voice their support of their accused leader.

The ones who count don't care about his arrest. As long as they support him, he'll be the speaker -and as long as he's the speaker, he'll do their bidding (that's democratic politics) and he will care not what the rest of the world says about him (that's Sheldon Silver).

And what is the bidding of the people in the Assembly who support Sheldon Silver? Well, the biggest donor to campaigns throughout New York State is the union that represents THE FINEST group of professionals in our society: NYSUT (aka the UFT).  We're the biggest donors. Any teacher who's ever been up on the busses for a lobbing session and has seen Assemblymen stop what they're doing to make sure a group of UFTers were spoken to has experienced the benefits of our COPE money at work. This too is democratic politics (happy face).

This is why I was not surprised to see the Perdido Street School Blog later proclaim that Assembly Dems Back Sheldon Silver Staying On As Speaker.

Of course they are!!! It's budget season. Everyone's got work to do and he's the guy who goes to bat for them.

So don't listen to the hype, don't buy into the fear and don't step in the bulls___. One takeaway re Sheldon Silver's troubles? Teachers have nothing to worry about (not this year anyway).


  1. Yes, you make a good point about the establishment wanting stability now rather than a fractured Assembly that makes getting a budget bashed out difficult.

    What do you think was Bharara's motivation behind pulling this today of all days?

    It surely was an interesting day to take Silver out for a stroll in handcuffs.

  2. Anyone who ushers in chaos is either the type of person who thinks two, three or four moves ahead (creepy) or is just a narcissist looking to get his jollies off this way (creepy). I've long thought that Cuomo played that role as AG specifically so he could look like the bringer of order as a candidate and after the election. My guess with Preet is that he's running for mayor in 4 for years, maybe for something statewide (remember that was Rudy's job before he ran) or is looking for something in Washington under a new administration in 2017. In any of these cases, I think he's the real enemy here as he's working his own agenda and as it actually doesn't matter to him if the entire political stability here breaks down and causes harm for at least a full fiscal year. At least Andy gives a crap about a stable government performing its functions and at least he (and Shelly) were voted in. Have you ever asked yourself who this dude is?
    The political theatre, though, was something to behold!

    Just my two cents.

    1. Buzzfeed article this morning said Bloomberg is looking to push Bharara for mayor in 2017.

      I think you are being very, very prescient here, NYCDOEnuts, when you write: "I think he's the real enemy here as he's working his own agenda."

      Matt Taibbi had a little insight about Bharara in "Why Isn't Wall Street I Jail?"

      God help us all.

  3. I agree with you 100%. This whole thing may blow up in some unexpected ways - to our benefit.

    1. Ooooo that's a VERY good point! We are, after all, the 500 gorilla in the room.

  4. I wish I could share your views but I cannot. Andrew Cuomo is the most cunning and ruthless politician I've ever seen and I have no doubt he will try to exploit Silver's arrest to destroy us. My only hope is that Bharara will go after Cuomo or Silver will deal some dirt in exchange for leniency. But I pray I am wrong and you are right.

    1. Ah!! You're right on so many levels here.
      The most cunning politian NY ever had was probably FDR. Whenever he would make a deal, people would ask for it in writing becaus no one believed anything he had to say. A close second for me may be Rockefeller. Bankers brother. He built the WTC and established the MTA with taxpayer money. Yuk.
      Silver more reminds me of a Robert Moses in that he's always around and always in charge and super corrupt, but always always has support and always gets the job done. Cuomo scares me too, no question, but I think for this legislative session, Silver isn't going anywhere. That still means a real fight another Edwar and next year thee will be no Silver (my opinion) so it'll be worse, but i don't think the roof will cave in this year. Of course I think Cuomo will get most of what he wants, but that's becaue (I think) the uft wants most of those things too.

      Although that's a whole other story!

  5. I'll let you pick the odds and I'll take the other side. The Assemblymembers you quote on Friday were not going to do anything until the dust settled a little and they heard from Shelly, tomorrow.

    Between the magnitude of the indictment, which goes a little farther than sitting on his butt at a law firm, the fact that I don't see Bharara as quite the Doofus that you do, Cuomo's personal animus against Silver, the egos of at least ten of those Assemblymembers who all want to be Speaker and the pressure that will build on Silver to resign, I'll wager he's gone in six weeks. As I said, you name the odds and I'll take the other side of the deal.

    1. In the middle of negotiating a budget? I can't see that happening. After it's done, sure of course. But during it? Hmmm... Let's jut take even money and please keep in my mind I'm working off of a teachers salary as we negotiate the amount. That said, I'm In -100%.

      And anyone who would put the regular New Yorkers who depend on a stable government to produce a budget that provides the services we all need into the type of peril that the type of instability thy arresting one of the chief negotiators at the very beginning of negotiations brings is an absolute doofus. Putting people at risk to excercise your agenda is really really stupid.