Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Carlin and Bruno

So much New York State news to opine upon. First, let us note with sadness the passing of George Carlin. Much has been said in the past day or so about his role as the comedian of the counterculture, and one of the first stand up comedians to have a real political edge to his work. Not enough has been said about Carlin as a New Yorker. Rob could say more than I could about Carlin as a product of the post-war Irish culture of upper Manhattan, its passions, and above all, its rages. I would say this, there are no anti-clericals like ex-Catholic anti-clericals, and Carlin’s rage against organized religion was at the core of his worldview. Carlin was one of a long line of Irish rebels against suffocating conformity, starting with religion and extending to every facet of society. He will be missed.

And what about the decision on Joe Bruno to step down? It some ways it is even more important a change than the replacement of Pataki with a Democrat (first, Spitzer, now Paterson.) No one has been more powerful in New York State politics in the past decade. Governors come and go, sway in the tempests of public opinion. Majority leaders of the two houses are made of solider stuff. They don’t care what the public thinks, since they know they will be re-elected regardless of whatever they do, legislative stonewalls that will stand their ground against any odds. Bruno has had the longest tenure of any Senate majority leader in the history of the legislature (I think.) Certainly he has been a remarkably powerful politician, and the tandem of Bruno and Silver have been the two foci of state government for over a decade.

What is most remarkable about Bruno's career is that he has managed to maintain, through gerrymandering, a Republican majority in a body that has, looking at voting and demographic patterns, no business having a Republican majority . The Republican majority is down to one seat, and perhaps his retirement will finally loosen the Republicans hold on the Senate, and perhaps, we might actually, at some time in the near future, a modicum of real democracy in this state. He will not be missed.

1 comment:

Rob Snyder said...

Peter's post on George Carlin calls to mind the experience of my late friend Frank Carvill, who grew up Irish and Catholic in New Jersey during the Sixties and was killed in action in Iraq with the New Jersey National Guard.

As Frank used to tell it, when he was in Catholic high school his teacher told the class that "if the communists come to power, they'll take your religion away from you."

Frank cheered and clapped. Then the rest of the class joined in. That got them a stern reprimand, and Frank a special tongue lashing from a monsignor.

Frank remained culturally Catholic all his life. He took the church seriously even if he did not attend regularly. But his moment of high school rebellion is one of the stories about him that I most cherish.