The expulsion of Hiram Monserrate from the state Senate capped another hallucinogenic week in Albany.
There were tabloid headlines trumpeting rumors of adultery and drug use by Gov. David Paterson. Nobody felt the need to verify, since the stories were built on another rumor: that the New York Times was preparing an article that would presumably provide all the needed documentation. When the rumors evaporated, Paterson weirdly blamed the Times for failing to clear his name.
Paterson also blasted the New York Post for reporting that a state trooper had chanced upon the governor and a woman who was not his wife in a utility closet at the Executive Mansion. A simple denial would have sufficed, but instead, Paterson seemed bizarrely obsessed with proving that none of the closets in the building are utility closets.
On the real-world side of public affairs, there was Paterson's role in a shady-looking deal to give a lucrative slot machine contract to a group that includes the Rev. Floyd Flake, an influential ex-Congressman whose support Paterson has been courting.
Over at the legislature, all the focus was on Monserrate's expulsion. The Queens Democrat, you'll recall, was charged with slashing his girlfriend's face with a broken drinking glass during a quarrel at his apartment and dragging her bleeding from the building. He then drove the love of his life to a hospital 13 miles away when there was another medical facility just down the street. Girlfriend Karla Giraldo told hospital personnel that the senator had assaulted her in a drunken rage.
Things, I suppose, could have been worse. Giraldo did wind up in a medical facility. Monserrate is a big-time admirer of that foe of conventional medicine, L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. (As a New York City Councilman, Monserrate sponsored a proclamation honoring L. Ron.)
Monserrate's defense - which Giraldo echoed at the trial - was that it was all an accident. Hiram was bringing a glass of water to his bedridden gal pal when he slipped and oops! slashed her across the face. The judge still convicted him of a misdemeanor assault.
Women in the senate wanted him out. Monserrate countered with a busload of female supporters who rolled into the capital in Albany. Some carried signs that read, "Since Day One, It's Been an Accident."
The senator slipped into the role of persecuted minority. He compared himself to slain civil rights workers of the 1960s and to Jesus Christ turning over the tables of "merchants" in the temple.
"If it costs my election one day because I decided to turn over a table or two and say business gotta be done different, then so be it," Monserrate said.
Good grief. What drives these people?
"It's hard to really explain what goes on in Albany," said state Sen. Diane Savino, the Staten Island Democrat who played a leading role in deep-sixing Monserrate.
But let's take a stab. Here are three theories that might explain the madness we call Albany:
Albany's Drinking Water Is Spiked
Albany Water Comissioner Robert Cross put the kibosh on this promising theory quicker than you can say Joe Bruno.
"In 2007, we were honored to be awarded First Prize as the best tasting drinking water in New York State. We are very proud of Albany drinking water," Cross tells visitors to the city's Web site.
Secret Alien Control of Albany
According to the extremely authoritative UFO Casebook, a "very bizarre" object was seen streaking across the sky in broad daylight near the Albany airport about eight years ago. The UFO was caught on tape by a cameraman, but thanks to an apparent FBI cover up detailed by Casebook, nothing much came of the startling sighting. While this certainly meets the standard of proof established by the Paterson sex-and-drugs stories, we are not ready (as yet) to declare that Monserrate, Paterson, et al are Cylons.
Politics, Politics, Politics
Albany has always been corrupt, but recent events have intensified its dark side. The narrow 32-30 Democratic majority in the Senate has thrust unwarranted power into the hands of a few grasping or erratic politicians, like Monserrate and his friends.
Meanwhile, ill will between the two parties is toxic. "The level of acrimony between Democrats and Republicans at the national and state level is unprecedented," says Sen. Savino.
Redistricting is on the table for 2010. If the Democrats retain control of the Senate, they will draw the legislative districts to suit themselves and the GOP can kiss every shred of influence good-bye.
Plus we have a governor who's weaker than Barney Fife in the old Andy Griffin Show reruns. But that's because of the Eliot Spitzer debacle. Which was definitely the work of space aliens.