Blood, Sweat (Matt) and Tears

A few gun shots and it was over. Richard Matt was dead. Two days later, David Sweat was in custody. The end of a mystery that captured the country’s attention after an elaborate escape that left politicians and the police shaking their heads.

For three weeks, we were captivated by the prison break. What was it about Sweat and Matt that so intrigued? The romance of it all. A brilliant escape. A charming and disarming Matt with a surprising penchant for the palette. Flirting with guards. Skirting the rules. The Post-Its. The perfect crime.

“Hear anything?” the manager of the local wine shop would ask during my weekly visit. We agreed most people didn’t want the pair to get caught.

On Friday, as news of Matt’s death unfolded, I paused. I felt a twinge of loss.

Then, on Sunday, when my phone pinged with a push from the Times about Sweat, I sighed. It’s over.

Again, I felt a twinge. Not grief. Hardly. I don’t know them. They’re killers. They caused much pain and suffering. They cost us a lot of money and diverted critical resources. Quiet upstate communities — neighbors minding their business — were looking over their collective shoulder.

But it wasn’t about the men, the murderers. They became symbols of something else. Adventure. Intrigue. They fought the law.

In the end, the law won. But for three weeks, they evaded us. Dined on peanut butter and grape gin.

Many thought they’d made it to Canada, or Mexico. Sipping tequila with their toes in the sand and their heads in the clouds. It was not to be.

An ignominious end for two enigmatic men.

A Silver Lining for Albany?

As Democrats in Albany get set to elect a successor to embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is supposed to resign tonight at 11:59 amid federal charges of corruption, red flags already appear to be popping up.

The murky state of Albany politics.

News that longtime speaker Silver – who tightly held the reins two decades – was being investigated by the feds for allegedly taking millions in kickbacks sent a shock through the political machine. In a remarkable turn, Democrats known for shielding their speaker began talking about his replacement.

Suddenly, a gust of fresh air. Hopes began to build for a better day in Albany. It was short-lived. Initially, lawmakers said they’d wait for two weeks to select a replacement. Then, a handful decided to back Carl Heastie, chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party. Some members event want to move up the election from its scheduled date of Feb. 10.

Why so hasty for Heastie? The public was promised a more open and deliberative selection process.

Assemblyman Heastie is vowing more transparency in Albany but he himself was being investigated by the now shuttered Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption over his use of campaign funds.

And while his actions are not unique – nor may they even be illegal – it’s not the fresh start needed to spur real reform.

There’s a growing fear it’s just going to be more of the same. The people deserve better – much better.

‘Tis the season for posturing and pandering

It’s the eve of elections and it’s a struggle to recall a significant take-away or a key issue from the campaign trail – on the local, state or national levels.

There has been plenty of finger-pointing, posturing and name-calling. Yet, little mention of the economy, jobs, national security and other issues important to the average American.

It’s unusual during political season, but it just seems much more desperate. Really, six months ago who would have thought Ebola would be a dominant issue in the debates?

As pundits and pollsters are betting on whether Republicans will take control of the Senate Tuesday, others are wondering whether it will matter.

The public’s regard for electeds – Democrats and Republicans alike – and Washington in general is shamefully low. The malaise, the distrust, the disgust. Pathetic indeed.

After all is said and done – and with all the billions spent – Wednesday will just be Wednesday. It likely will take a few days to tally all the results, but will we be better off than we are today, on the eve of elections, if Republicans take the Senate or if Dems hold on? Will it make a difference?

It does make for good debates, of course, and the mudslinging for good headlines.

As Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said, “These are good times for reporters.”

Perhaps. But not good times for America.



Jobs reports misleading


The latest unemployment report would seem to indicate a steady improvement in the nation’s job market. It’s a naïve assessment, at best.

While an uptick in hiring, even a marginal one, bodes well for the economy, and a drop in the unemployment rate sounds encouraging, the fact is many of the unemployed have simply given up the hunt.

That skews the numbers, as the government does not count the jobless unless they are actively seeking work.

It seems counter-intuitive.

And why are so many people giving up the search? Frustration is likely one reason. Even for the most optimistic, how many rejections can you digest?

Pride is another culprit. Many of the displaced have taken the fall and their egos have suffered the slings. With confidence shaken, dare you put yourself back out there?

You’re stale, like a house aging on the market with nary a nibble.

And then there’s the “screw it” mentality. Fed up with the establishment and hell-bent on defying reality.

And for those of us so removed from “them,” why should we care? Our work lives go on – with or without them.

Why do they matter?

We’ll see.


The other ones we left behind

The “growing divide” between the haves and have-nots is gaining new appeal for Democrats and has become the ammo of choice for potshots across both sides of the aisle.

No doubts, trumpeting inequality as an issue of national importance will intensify as we head into the mid-term elections.

Yet for all the campaign rhetoric the fact is the divide exists, it is widening, it is troubling and is a worthy cause for attention. (more…)