Monday, March 10, 2008

Spitzer’s Crimes?

Are all crimes created equal? Certainly, few would advocate that a public official should resign for the offense of jay-walking, or talking on a cell phone while driving. Obviously, Spitzer’s involvement in a prostitution ring is a little more serious. But does it rise to the level of a political capital offense? To me prostitution is not really a crime. First of all, I believe prostitution should be legalized, and in fact, it is legal in parts of the State of Nevada. Furthermore, prostitution, like other imagined crimes (drug use for example) is a product of an antiquated morality that no longer seems to make any sense in a society that is (slowly) evolving and maturing on matters of sex and recreational drug use.

In many states and countries around the world, marijuana has been essentially decriminalized, or made equivalent to a minor traffic infraction for all intents and purposes. And though the public is often scandalized by stories involving their leaders’ sexual improprieties, prostitution has similarly been essentially decriminalized, with most johns getting let off with a warning.

The bottom line here being, these are victimless crimes. They are non-crimes. These are laws that are relics from a bygone age. This does not mean that citizens or politicians can flout them with impunity. But it does mean that we should accord our politicians the same amount of leniency that we would accord the average Joe who gets little more than a slap on the wrist for being caught with a little pot or for soliciting a prostitute.

The activities in which Governor Spitzer has engaged make him fair game for criticism, especially considering the hypocritical nature of his involvement. Critics may take shots at him and they may be right. He may be a jerk and a hypocrite. But in my view, these are not compelling reasons for him to abandon his governorship.

Spitzer’s behavior while clearly a violation of the law and morally reprobate to some do not indicate an impaired fitness to serve as governor, even a great governor. What’s more, a Spitzer resignation would be a political windfall to Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (who is currently under federal investigation for serious crimes and corruption) bumping him up closer to serving as governor as a contingency. To see Spitzer go down while bolstering Bruno would be a travesty.

Anyone of us could find ourselves in the position of having made a mistake that could potentially derail our careers that we have worked so long and hard to build. In Spitzer’s situation we would be hoping for a second chance, and many of us (provided it is not a repeat offense) would probably get it.

Why shouldn’t Spitzer?


Anonymous said...

It appears that Sheriff Smug paid to transport a woman across state lines for illegal purposes. Just a few years ago, his highness the Prince of Arrogance had a grand time in front of the camera when he shut down a major prostitution ring. And you would give this forked-tongue rogue a second chance!

Victimless crime? How many of those working girls are brought in through drug dependency?

You liberal Democrats demand leniency for the guilty among you while still blathering about Joe Bruno. Can't you see, they are nearly all crooks? Does not Sheriff Smug's adding to that perception damage the very few honest people still in government?

Now, why don't you go out and investigate the local member of Eliot's "Clean Team," Jimmy Barber down in Middleburgh, an undersecretary of agriculture who was appointed by the sheriff himself. Jimmy's pop was secretary of agriculture in the Cuomo administration and Jimmy sought to reclaim the chair, but only got a seat on the second string. I'll bet he's happy he didn't make the first team!
By the way, where have you been the past few weeks?
-- A Nana Mouse

Anonymous said...


You once wrote "I can barely stomach the thought of Spitzer throwing him to the wolves to further bolster his own image when he himself would shit all over it by snooping on Bruno a year later.

If Spitzer wasn't such a talented headline-grabber we'd probably have Hevesi as our governor right now and we'd be a lot better off for it, but I digress."

Are these the type of headlines you are talking about?? Now you defend Spitzer?? Twisted.

Sean Thomaston said...

Criticizing Spitzer for his hypocrisy and performance is one thing, and he certainly deserves to be criticized.

But I won't call for his resignation. Not for this. This is nothing but a glorified sex scandal. While his actions probably do constitute a crime, not all crimes are equal and this crime in my opinion does not rise to the level of resignation OR impeachment as some Republicans are threatening.

The first response reflects a common sentiment that Spitzer's malfeasances are made worse by his history of self-righteousness. But what politician doesn't claim to stand for higher virtues and ethics? Does one have to be an openly professed scum bag to be forgiven for a mistake?

"forked tongue rogue"?

No, just another man who got caught patronizing the so-called oldest profession, which shouldn't even be illegal in the first place.

Certainly this is a bad moment for Spitzer's family and for the State. But I believe we can be sophisticated enough to separate our leaders' private lives from their public lives. This behavior is certainly not in keeping with the letter of the law, but its not exactly the crime of the century either.

"You liberal Democrats demand leniency for the guilty among you while still blathering about Joe Bruno. Can't you see, they are nearly all crooks?"

Bruno is under federal investigation for his employment with an investment firm that received investments from unions that had legislative business before the Senate.

soliciting a prostitute is not even near that level of corruption if the allegations are correct.

At the very least, let's wait for the details of this case to shake out.

He hasn't been convicted or even charged with anything.

Anonymous said...

True, he has not been convicted. They just took his pants down, pulled out a ruler, took the measure of the man, and found he came up a few inches short.

Oh, by the way, Bruno is in the investigation stage, no?

Oh, by the way, who paid for Sheriff Smug's plane trip to Washington?

Oh, by the way, a felony is a felony is a felony and there ain't no double standard about that.

--A Nana Mouse

Sean Thomaston said...

Oh well, I guess it doesn't matter now...

But this just shows that compared to the rest of the world, America has the collective maturity level of an 8 year old when it comes to sex.

The only reason we've even heard about this is because we are a nation of idiots obsessed with sex scandals and lusting after personal destruction.

Oh and by the way, how many people have actually been prosecuted for a felony for doing what Spitzer did?

I hope the Governor's critics are pleased with themselves today...meanwhile everyone else in the world just continues to look at Americans like were nuts.

Cuz we are.

Anonymous said...

“Over the course of my public life, I have insisted — I believe correctly — that people regardless of their position or power take responsibility for their conduct,” he added. “I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor.”

Come on, Sean, even Eliot admits he was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Word out today is the Luv Gov was constantly on the lookout/sought out/pressured/his "pros" for unsafe sexcapades. If true, he urgently needs 2B checked out for syphilis and its effects upon the brain...could plausibly explain his erratic behavior in Albany during his reign.

Anonymous said...

Come on Sean this is not about sex. People do not care about that. Here you had a person that burned others and called it wrong for doing the very thing he was out doing. If he had not been acting superior to everyone else he could have stayed on. Bill Clinton hung on because everybody knew he liked the ladies and he did not put others down for the same activity. Spitzer's downfall was not living up to the same standards that he set and expected from everyone else. He resigned because he built up a fake image that was shattered and the lost major respect means he would be totally ineffective. Maybe he'll continue to solicit prostitutes and maybe his wife could care less - that is not the issue.

Anonymous said...

Power, baby. It's all about power. The power to buy a $3,000 woman to get the same thing you can get free elsewhere. You got it, you flaunt it. And you flout the law. Get caught with the naked truth and suddenly, you have no power. Not a hide to hide behind. Not even a fig leaf.

Walter F. Wouk said...

Elliot Spitzer's romp with a prostitute is much more than a "a glorified sex scandal."

While Spitzer was utilizing the services of the "Emperors Club VIP" -- for 6 or more years -- he was actively prosecuting other prostitution rings to the full extent of the law.

There was no mercy to be had from Elliot
-- and he deserves none.

Anonymous said...

all the pundits say that powerful men have powerful wants. Ergo the sexual escapades. what do all these powerful women do to satisfy their wants. don't tell me they shop. that answer has been already offered.

Sean Thomaston said...

I am very much aware that Spitzer prosecuted prostitution rings while attorney general. Yet I don't find this to be a compelling reason to be forced from office.

First of all, he was prosecuting the higher ups, not the Johns and and sex workers. Thus it may be unseamly for him to be using such a service. But to call it hypocrisy is a bit of a stretch.

At the end of the day, each of you is entitled to hold Spitzer to any standard you deem fit. Me personally, I wouldn't hold him to a standard I wouldn't hold for myself.

If you want to take pleasure in the downfall of a man you've judged to be self-righteous and arrogant, go ahead. Enjoy yourself.

But remember, now the real whores and criminals on Wall Street are gonna sleep a lot better.

Anonymous said...

There you go again -- this time its unconvicted Wall Street execs you're profiling. Earlier it was unconvicted Joe Bruno. But Eliot is still a saint in your book. Boy, you are some piece of work. Democrats and liberals are just as thieving and morally corrupt as Republicans and conservatives. Wake up and smell the shit, Sean. It's all around and it's oozing from your keyboard.

Sean Thomaston said...

"Democrats and liberals are just as thieving and morally corrupt as Republicans and conservatives"

What an intellectually lazy way of copping out of your civic duty to fairly and honestly assess the political landscape.

It's oh so easy to simply say "they're all crooks" and just not care.

But the truth is, such apathy (even if it is for seemingly good reasons) has dangerous consequences.

Cynicism has its place in politics, but if it becomes a crutch or an excuse, it's holding you back.

Truth is, I don't care if Spitzer is convicted or not because what he did was a BS crime.

And the idea of Joe Bruno and all the thieves on Wall Street getting the last laugh because of Spitzer's scandal is a complete travesty.

Anonymous said...

Nobody in the media on blogs or the newspaper seems to get it. When a man in his posistion of power commits these illicit acts it leaves him open to many other influences..first of all would be blackmail and bribery by criminal elements..secondly would be his or his families personal safety.. how easy it would be for a prostitute to set him up..drug him and have him kidnapped...people need to wake up this would paralize the state government.

Anonymous said...

"...people need to wake up this would paralize the state government..."
Wow...The Government of The State of New York has been paralyzed, in many ways, since Mario Cuomo was the Governor. Ask anyone who has tried to survive in business in the private sector.
In 2005 the New York State legislative process was identified as the most dysfunctional among all fifty states in a widely disseminated study compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. I have lived here my entire life, (since 1951), and have seen "The Empire State" slowly collapse. Businesses move out, long-time residents move out, anyone that does not directly or indirectly receive revenue from the "The State" has realized that here is NOT the place to live. Eliot was going to make it better. How? 1, illegal campaign contribution from his father to help him get into office. 2. Illegal use of the NYS Police to defeat a political rival. 3. LIE directly to the public about his actions. His sexual escapades are the least relevant, however, how many felonies did he actually commit because he didn't know when to keep his pants zipped? Yes, he was a real asset to the people of NY State...
--The Mayor--

Anonymous said...

Saw a great bumper sticker in Albany last week. It said I voted for the other "John" in 2006 NY Gubernatorial election.

Sean Thomaston said...

to --the mayor--

In light of the Soares investigation re "troopergate", I must concede that Spitzer had indeed been quite a bad boy while in office and you are also right, his sexual transgressions were hardly relevant.

Basically, this has been my only defense of Spitzer in this scandal: that seeing a prostitute is a dumb reason to send a guy packin'.

Hopefully, I don't give the impression that I'm some kind of overzealous Spitzer holdout. Although, I do believe in a lot of the things that he claimed to believe in (accountability on Wall Street, reforming state politics).

However, I think many on the left have this messianic tendency, and invest so much hope in one particular politician, that it becomes virtually impossible for that mere mortal to live up to.

Supporters of Obama I believe are similarly setting themselves up for a huge disappointment.

Whether it's Obama, Howard Dean, Ralph Nader or any other figures that have served as lodestars for the left, nothing will change unless the focus shifts from finding standard-bearers to finding and solidifying good ideas.

The conservatives found this out a long time ago and it served them well, but today, no Republican can open their mouth without paying homage to lord and savior Ronald Reagan.

Let the Republicans chase their messiah, while we on the left start pushing for specific ideas and policies.

Let Spitzer have his whores.

As for the state of Albany politics, yes, our state government is dysfunctional, but let's be careful not to lay everything that goes wrong in NY on the doorstep of the state capital building.

Even if the the "three-men-in-a-room" triumvirate system where scrapped tomorrow we'd still be left with a crumbling rustbelt state with jobs and businesses flowing to the third world.

We can make reforming the system an issue, but reform will only go so far. However, even that's not going to happen when we can't get our minds off Ashley Dupre.

Unfortunately, all this wouldn't fit on a bumper sticker...

Anonymous said...

“…As for the state of Albany politics, yes, our state government is dysfunctional, but let's be careful not to lay everything that goes wrong in NY on the doorstep of the state capital building…”
Granted, not “everything”, but unfortunately, MOST of the blame belongs there. This “crumbling rustbelt state with jobs and businesses flowing to the third world” is, at least partly a product of a State Government that was for decades more focused on growing itself than it was focused on the economy of the state. This was for a time understandable because this USED to actually BE the “Empire State.” Somewhere along the line, the world changed, the economy changed and the dynamics of most everything within this state changed. Unfortunately, not only did the government Not change, it had in fact become so insulated and self-perpetuating that it failed to even recognize the changes that were going on around it. The situation is recognized now, but it is very much too late to recover in any meaningful fashion. We as voters have had the opportunity to make a fundamental change several times but failed to do so. Electing Thomas Golisano as Governor would have been one good place to start.
Listen to Joe Bruno, Chuck Schumer and the like. They would have you now believe that building an AMD plant in the Luther Forest is going to be the beginning of a great resurgence of business and prosperity in the state. What a bunch of BS. AMD is only interested in the billions of your and my dollars that have been dangled in front of them. If they really ever do move here, they will be facing all the same problems, the same high taxes and the same dysfunctional state government that pushed out the businesses and industries that were once here. What's more, take a close look at AMD, their daughter company ATI, and see where their products (and their profit) have been for the last several years. They are not really even close to where their primary competitors, Intel and Nvidia are today. I would be very cautious about looking toward them for the beginning of our salvation as “The Empire State.” I don’t know what the ultimate answer will be to this State’s dilemma, but I can still see well enough to know that I haven’t seen a glimmer of it yet.
--The Mayor--

Sean Thomaston said...

okay but...

You point to our present predicament as being "a product of a State Government that was for decades more focused on GROWING ITSELF (my emphasis) than it was focused on the economy of the state".

I will concede that there is a degree of truth to this. However, if the government did not respond to the state's mounting social and environmental challenges throughout the decades (in the form of an admittedly cumbersome regulatory framework), we would be a lot worse off. In many ways NY's regulations allow for a more efficient functioning of the market.

However, when the State does make some effort to attract and promote economic development, say attracting a major chip processor like AMD, you scoff and imply we're throwing away tax dollars.

But back to the Spitzer issue; the scandal only empowers Bruno and the Republican majority in the Senate, who have NO desire to reform the state. Perhaps a growing Spitzer backlash will lead to a general anti-incumbent backlash in this years state elections. Who knows, maybe Paterson will surprise?

Other than that, there really is no glimmer to be seen.

Anonymous said...

You said: “…In many ways NY's regulations allow for a more efficient functioning of the market…” I got a chuckle out of that. I don’t suppose you could give a couple examples of how this is?? I certainly can not think of any.

As for my implying we're throwing away tax dollars with AMD, that is not an implication, it is a prediction, and one about which I feel quite certain. I won’t go into all details, but go to Yahoo Finance or somewhere and look at a 2 year chart for AMD, then tell me you would invest billions in that company. Their share price dropped 60% last year, and profit-wise, they lost 3.3 Billion dollars last year…gulp…. Only time will tell, and I do hope I am proven wrong.

As for Bruno, and the Republican majority having no desire to reform the state, I think a few of them may have the “desire”, but it is obvious that they have shown no ABILITY to do so. It does indeed look grim.
--The Mayor--

Anonymous said...

Those of you who believe in AMD and Luther Forest might recall the federal money (millions) that Sherwood Boehlert gave Bruno Hofmann to open the Cobleskill Industrial Park, more recently known as Guilford Mills.

Anonymous said... mean all those huge buildings off South Grand that were built with tax dollars and that have been virtually vacant for several years? The place that used to be the single largest employer in Schoharie County?...are those the ones?
...Good Point...
--The Mayor--

Sean Thomaston said...

First off, you can't compare the textiles industry to chip fab/hi-tech manufacturing. Hopefully, the rest of the potential AMD labor pool CAN tell the difference. ;)

Next subject, you want examples of how governmental regulations make it easier for businesses? Yes it seems counterintuitive, I'll grant you that. Here are some examples

-In general welfare programs + regulations relieve some costs on businesses by providing food stamps and access to healthcare (Medicaid) thus subsidizing businesses who then do not have to provide these services and can pay lower wages. I don't think this is fair to taxpayers, but it does benefit businesses.

-Environmental regulations that allow businesses to pass the costs of cleaning up environmental damage on to taxpayers. Again, not fair for taxpayers, but it certainly benefits polluters.

The point is not to argue that these regulations should be relaxed to benefit businesses, but that there are numerous interrelated consequences or 'hidden subsidies' embedded in regulations. Any attempt to tighten or relax regulations is going to have both positive and negative effects for both those who are pro-business and pro-regulation. It's a very delicate balance.

Moving on, is AMD a good investment? I believe that the number of jobs and the amount of economic development that could be created make it worth the subsidies. Is it a sure thing? What do you think...?

Anonymous said...

So, Sean, does that mean that AMD can survive in Saratoga County but could not in Schoharie County, where it must be the labor force is less skilled? You absolutely CAN compare the two situations. The fact is, if New York State had an economic climate more favorable to businesses, and didn’t tax and fee and regulate them to death in the first place, they would not have to be “bribed” to build here, and they would have a much better chance of surviving for the long term.
As for your next point, you have that exactly backwards. Who do you think pays for welfare and Medicaid? I can’t believe you are that ignorant. Since when is it the responsibility of “Business” to provide welfare, or healthcare either, for that matter? Healthcare costs have been increasingly pushed onto the backs of American business over the last 30 or 40 years, which is EXACTLY why these businesses are less able to survive in a global marketplace, and exactly why the American Healthcare system is “Broken”. Ask Hillary, she says it is broken, but to fix it, she will simply make a bad thing worse! Look at the struggle of American Automakers. They can’t compete on equal ground with the Japanese automakers, precisely because, in Japan, the manufacturers DO NOT pay directly for healthcare. Have you not studied economics? You think lower expenses means businesses can pay LOWER wages? That whole premise is stupid.
Your next point is also backwards. I KNOW about environmental clean-ups because I have been involved in several, including one currently have one in progress that will cost 2 to 3 hundred thousand dollars before it is complete, and I didn’t cause the problem, I just happen to own the property where it exists. The polluter usually pays for the cleanup. If the polluter cannot be found, or is no longer in existence, the landowner must pay, or fight it out in court. The “Superfund” simply will pay where no one else can be found to “stick it to”, or will pay until someone is brought into court.
Your viewpoints in your last post are seriously flawed and simply do not reflect the facts.
I periodically come back to your Blog because it does at least provide a vehicle for discourse, but from the very beginning, it was clear that you “make stuff up” because it seems to fit your point. Whatever…It is, after all, your Blog…
--The Mayor--

Anonymous said...

Sean, look. I know that you are an intelligent guy. It seems to me that the whole thing here amounts to you standing by big government, blaming societies woes on big business, and believing that the solutions to our problems are going to come from more regulations, more taxes and more government programs. Hopefully, some day, you will realize that will simply never happen. In the history of mankind, it has NEVER happened. When that day of realization comes you can actually begin to use your talents to do some good. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later.
--The Mayor--

Sean Thomaston said...

Hey come on, after all this time you're not willing to give me the benefit of the doubt when you think I'm "making something up"?

Early on I made a factual error or two and readers were quick to sniff them out. Subsequently, I've taken considerable care to make sure what I write is factually accurate.

Fact is, we're not debating facts here. We're debating political economic perspectives (as your second post makes clear). In fact, I have studied economics and happen to agree with Keynes more than Smith, Hayek, Friedman and other market ideologues.

I think if anything, big business is under-regulated. Externalities that arise from pollution really aren't being "stuck to" anyone. Your particular hardship is not untypical. However, many people want to develop land that has been polluted long ago and there is no hope of finding the responsible parties, usually corporations that have been disbanded and individuals who have long since died. Yes it is unfair that a new developer should have to bear those costs. There are only two ways out of this situation. A market-based solution in which the properties in question are never cleaned up unless developing them becomes lucrative enough, in which case, it may never happen. The second solution, is for more regulation in the form of increased Superfund spending to pay for small remediations such as in your case. Oh wait, wouldn't the hardline pro-market decision be to develop the contaminated site for affordable housing as only poor people would be willing to pay to live there?

The other point about Japanese workers not paying directly for healthcare seems to contradict your overall argument. It seems to suggest that American automakers would be better off if we adopted a single payer healthcare system and these huge companies didn't have to worry about providing health insurance. That would be one big government program that would benefit business.

On a large-scale level, there is no question that government provision of welfare services benefits the private sector. If the government did not provide those services people would be going hungry, rioting, striking and demanding higher wages and benefits.

It's not that I don't understand economics, I just understand it differently than you and all the market ideologues out there.

And please don't talk to me like I'm 5 years old. Though I am young, I've heard the "grow up" argument enough to want to puke. Fact is, there are plenty of old people who share my views on political economy.

Keep in mind these are opinion NOT facts for the most part. If we want to solve problems we have to be willing to accept that there's a little bit of truth on both sides. For some problems unfettered markets work well, and for others regulations and state control are needed. Thus it truly takes all kinds.

As you are not sold on the benefits of the welfare state, I am not sold on the ability of some abstraction called "the market" to "correct" all social problems in a way that benefits a large number of people. This is never going to happen either.