Back in the 1950’s when television came in two versions – “black” and “white” and was promoted on only three portals, ABC, CBS and NBC – a program was broadcast, based on a Zane Grey novel. It was “The Lone Ranger,” starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as his faithful companion, Tonto. One of my favorite shows, I was allowed to take a break from homework to spend a half hour watching the program.
There was a bit of a ritual surrounding watching the show in my house. Five minutes before it was to air, my father would open the doors to the large sang de boeuf colored Chinoise cabinet, revealing the relatively small Dumont television it held. He would turn on the power and the hum of the tubes warming could be heard from behind the set as it got itself ready for this week’s episode. I remember holding my breath, hoping that the set would spring to life and that none of the vacuum tubes had failed. And then the set would spring to life (usually).
There was no doubt that we were about to see yet another riveting episode when the stirring theme song for the program, the final, allegro portion of Rossini’s “William Tell” overture blared forth in pure unfettered monophonic sound and the announcer pronounced the Lone Ranger’s iconic words as he sat astride his almost equally famous horse and said, “Hi-Yo, Silver!” And then they would dash off in a full gallop in pursuit of evil doers.
Back in those days it was always easy to tell who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” were because the good guys wore white and the bad ones wore black. (It was a simpler time and nobody thought this was racist – or at least we didn’t have umpteen million chat room participants discussing that possibility – but then our chat rooms back then were found either in our schools or at the supper table at home). Stick ball occupied a lot more of our time than discussions about surreptitious bigotry.
Television and media in general have evolved and now have the ability to represent our world in full panoramic colorization. There are probably few of us, even those of us who hold a certain nostalgia for the olden days, who would want to return to them – at least in respect to how we watch our entertainment. But the precision with which we could once identify good and bad, right and wrong has been blurred if not completely lost, perhaps because of our ability to see things in so many different shades. That might explain, at lest in part, our present philosophy of “relativism” which essentially bastardizes principle and finds countless arguments to mollify wrongdoing.
The good news is that there are still some fundamental truths in which we might find security – if we may call it that. One of those truths is as relevant today as when I heard my father promulgate it a half century ago. “It is your responsibility to vote in an informed manner – and because you have taken the time to weigh the merit of each person’s candidacy and background, to cast your ballot for the one who will steal the least.” And with that in mind, I will turn my attention to events that developed this week in my native state of New York.
New York’s Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver (D – NYC) was arrested and indicted on five separate federal charges of corruption. If convicted, each charge could carry a twenty year prison term. The charges allege that Silver used his position as Speaker to obtain payments from various law firms who benefited from his influence in directing public policy which directly benefited their practices. Silver was reported not to have performed any services yet was rewarded with paychecks from one of the firms which amounted to $800,000. In total, the federal government is alleging that Silver received a total of $3.8 Million over a period of several years and has seized the eight bank accounts in which the monies were deposited.
At his arraignment, Silver was released under a $200,000 personal recognizance bond but was required to surrender his passport. This might put a crimp in his upcoming plans to participate in the foreign “economic development” tour which he, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Senate Majority Leader were to take, presumably for the purpose of attracting more businesses to open their doors in the Empire State.
The arrest comes at a time when Gov. Cuomo is under a great deal of criticism from the Republicans in the state’s two houses over closing down the Moreland Commission, a body which was looking into what is reported as widespread corruption among state legislative members. Cuomo formed the commission in March, 2013 and abruptly closed it down eight months later which gave rise to the U. S. Attorney, Preet Bharara’s involvement. He further suggested that this investigation has not concluded and there may be other indictments in the offing.
Silver’s supporters including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio advised a “wait and see” attitude, the mayor rightfully pointing out that we have a judicial process which we should allow to play out and praising the Speaker as “a man of integrity.” Others have made comments about the culture to be found in the state’s capitol, suggesting that “no matter how virtuous a person is before election to the state legislature, there seems to be a corrupting influence which takes hold of even the most virtuous.” That might be supported by the number of state legislators who have been forced to resign after their convictions on varying corruption charges.
Speaker Silver, of course, maintains his innocence. But based on the scathing press conference which Bharara gave subsequent to the indictment, it would seem that he is confident that the facts he has uncovered will result in a conviction. Since this is a “white collar” crime and the defendant has a long history of “public service,” it is unlikely that he would receive anything akin to the maximum sentence should he be convicted. But it does seem likely that he would spend at least some time in the “Big House.” And as we did on the Lone Ranger, we might hear the judge cry out, “Hi-Yo, Silver – away.”