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  As someone who is stuck living and working in the Empire State, watching the Eliot Spitzer meltdown over the last 48+ hours has been instructive, if only because of the media frenzy. Even while Spitzer was holed up in his Manhattan apartment, the state capital building in Albany, NY  was ringed by several dozen satellite news trucks. Sure it makes a dramatic background for breathless reporters - but 24/7? I ran into someone who said her son in Beijing was seeing the story on the news over there. WTF?!??

 Okay, let me say upfront that Spitzer's resignation and apologies are good for the people of the state, state government, and the state Democratic party. His judgment has been shown to be so fatally deficient, it is a good thing he has been removed from power over other people.

He may have been a rising star, but  his governing style hadn't really been all that effective to date at much besides pissing people off. Further, Arthur Silber has a pretty telling take down of Spitzer's reputation as a progressive. No,  the real lesson from Spitzer is largely unrecognized. (more)

    Much talk has been thrown around of Hypocrisy and Double Standards - but let's get right to the nubbin here: anything Spitzer did pales in comparison with the media and government treatment of him. Let's contrast and compare Spitzer's treatment with another notable.

    The speed with which the media frenzy developed following the NY Times initial story is amazing - when compared some other stories. Remember Rudy Giuliani, "America's Mayor"? Another NY politician with a reputation for being tough on bad guys, strong moral values, and all that. Also with a troubling sexual history. While Spitzer was at least playing games with his own money, Giuliani was actually sticking NYC with the tab for his trysts. Further, he also has a history of surrounding himself with people who play fast and loose with the law.

  So, where were all the satellite news trucks when these stories broke? Where was the rush to dig up everything possible on the people and places in these stories. How is it Giuliani was able to keep running as a  contender for the presidency with all of this right out in the open? Where were the expectant 'death watch' stories, and the interviews with political figures all calling for Giuliani to remove himself? Where were the Republicans shocked and saddened by Rudy's trangressions? (Besides those who thought he was too liberal, that is?) Where were the heartfelt apologies? Why wasn't this on the news 24/7 around the globe?

How is it he is still in public life, and still getting reverential treatment from all of his good friends in the 'Librul Media'?

Let's consider another aspect of all this too. Spitzer engaged in personal and private misconduct, on his own dime. The full weight of the Federal Government came down on him - and it was amazing how quickly his name came out, even before any charges were filed. (Compare and contrast with still sitting Senator David Vitter) Same crime, married man pays prostitute ring for sex - but the name didn't come out from the government at all. Vitter's views on marriage and morality are were a principal part of his political persona - but he's still in the Senate and nobody in the press bats an eye since the initial scandal faded away.

Again with Giuliani, in his case he used/abused the powers of his office to facilitate and finance his dalliances. Misuse of public funds is considered corruption in some circles, yet the FBI and the Department of Justice seem strangely uninterested in following up what is a very public story - and the press doesn't seem interested either. Spitzer on the other hand got targeted because his banks became concerned he was moving money around in a way that suggested some sort of corruption possibilities. Not because they knew he had, but because it looked like he might be. Boom- the government swung into action and the rest is history. (h/t to TPM muckraker for the timeline)

Going back the the NY Times again. It looks like they broke this story almost as soon as they had it down. Isn't this the same paper of record that held off on reporting Bush had been wiretapping illegally until after the 2004 elections? Isn't this the same paper that has been an administration stenographer more than once? Isn't it odd that this story came out just as the state was about to go into the annual battle of the budget, Spitzer was talking up some idea to make the banks take some responsibility for the sub-prime mortgage mess, and it was looking more and more likely the state Republicans would lose their decades-old control of the state senate?

  And, for the bigger picture, have any of the national media even mentioned Don Siegelman? Siegelman was another popular Democratic governor whom it now seems clear is sitting in prison because the Department of Justice conspired to put him there. You'd think anyone reporting on Spitzer might at least wonder at motivations behind the energy and resources the DOJ put into his case considering the nature of the crime.

You  might also wonder at the relative absence of concern by the press over the ability of the government to gather information in a case not involving any terrorists, from banks, the phone companies, etc. at a time when Congress is negotiating terms of surrender with the White House over No Oversight, No Accountability domestic spying, anywhere, anytime. NPR had a scary story on just how easy it is for the banks to track everything we do with money - and how quickly that info gets turned over to the government.

The old saw that "As long as you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about" is no longer in effect. These days, you're only safe if nothing looks suspicious to people paid to be paranoid, people you don't know, people who don't report to anyone you can find, people who can derail your life with a phone call or a click of a mouse. And, you have no idea what they know about you, or how much of it is correct - or just what their political agenda might be.

One final note. The local paper, the Albany Times Union, has many letters to the editor in the Wednesday  March 12 edition about the Spitzer situation. Roughly half of them make the point that the real scandal is that Spitzer has been brought down for trivialities compared to the actions of George W. Bush - and Bush is still sitting in the White House unscathed and planning more of the same.

No apologies for Spitzer; if anyone should have known the risks he was taking and the unethical behavior it constituted, he was the guy. What happened to him was harsh, but it's the way the system is supposed to work we're told. Break the law, talk one way but act another, and there should be consequences. Should...

The real story is that the Press and the System of Justice in this country are broken. What happened to Spitzer can only be called fair if the same standard is applied to everyone, rich-poor, man-woman, Republican-Democrat, etc.  It isn't, it hasn't been for a long time, and maybe it never was, but dammit we used to be able to pretend it was, even aspired to make it so.

There is an anger rising in this country. Will it fuel the fires that power the engines of change - or the engines of destruction?

Originally posted to xaxnar on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 07:44 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (14+ / 0-)

    Remember when crisis management was about ending them, instead of creating them?

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 07:46:09 PM PDT

  •  John McCain (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unterhausen, neroden, xaxnar

    The trad media loves nothing more than an 'escapade', especially when it's got a 'D' in there.

    Vitter. Still serving in Senate.
    Craig. Still serving in Senate.
    9u11iani, where's the outrage, as you ask.

    And sex or no sex, there was clearly quid pro quo with McCain and his 'lady friend'. Maybe he couldn't score Bob Dole's Viagra stash, but he is filthy dirty with pay for telecomm play.

    The trad media response?

    Yawn.

  •  The lesson is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    burrow owl

    don't use prostitutes when you're the governor of New York.

  •  If there weren't any Senate pages or sheep (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    realalaskan, ManOverBoard

    involved, let's move on.

  •  The Rudy scandal was old news. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    Scandals are like bad chinese food: they don't reheat well.  Re: banking privacy: I'm not sure there ever has been such a thing.  No one has a constitutional right to privacy, since one cedes that right when one entrusts one's property to a third party.

    "[G]lobalization is...increasing the efficiency of resource allocation through stronger capital markets" - Barack Obama

    by burrow owl on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 07:57:05 PM PDT

    •  Privacy? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden

      Looseheadprop at Firedoglake has a post on money laundering, banking, reporting that you should take a look at. The default these days is not that you can't expect privacy - it's you can actually expect higher levels of scrutiny depending on who you are and what you do. Also....

      Under section (a) (3) the same thing applies to a person who promotes illegal activity, which someone here will no doubt argue means that it could apply to Spitzer giving the money to promote his hiring of a prostitute, but the plain language of omnibus first paragraph clearly states that the defendant must know that the money is the "proceeds of some form of illegal activity."

      I have seen no news report that the money Spitzer used was the proceeds of illegal activity. Spitzer is a wealthy individual and, until I see something in the press that tells me otherwise, I assume he used his own money to do these transactions. Assuming it's his own legitimate money, there would be no way the government could make out the first 2 elements of this crime, viz 1) that the money is in fact the proceeds of some specified unlawful activity, and 2) that Spitzer knew the money was the proceeds of unlawful activity.

      So the mere fact that he may have met the other elements of the crime such as structuring his transactions to obscure the source of the funds or to avoid transaction reporting requirements, becomes moot.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 08:25:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think that's the last time I look at FDL. (0+ / 0-)

        Hamsher's CT-mongering idiocy the other day ("why did the bank go the feds?  Why didn't they tell Spitzer first that they suspected him of illegal activity?") was one of the stupidest I've seen on a major blog.  Even when they try to get serious, they're either too stupid or too ideological to read a simple statute (looseheadprop's thesis that the elements of subsection (a) of the BSA apply to the wholly unrelated subsection (c) is, again, idiocy).  If s/he went to law school - or even just college - s/he's entitled to a refund.

        "[G]lobalization is...increasing the efficiency of resource allocation through stronger capital markets" - Barack Obama

        by burrow owl on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 04:10:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The real lessons ... (0+ / 0-)
    1. Transgressions by political allies are minimized or rationalized
    1. Transgressions by political allies cannot be simply condemned; condemnations of actions by political allies must be accompanied by a "but" clause referencing purportedly similar or worse transgressions by poltical opponents
    •  Um, it's the hypocrisy, stupid. (0+ / 0-)

      The diarist agreed that Spitzer should resign.

      But seriously, it's hypocritical and immoral to say "Spitzer Must Resign for his misdemeanor!  But Vitter should Stay In The Senate, and Giuliani should run for President, and Bush and Cheney shouldn't be prosecuted for any of their myriad capital crimes."

      "purportedly similar or worse"?  You discredit yourself with that phrase.  Proven far, far worse is the correct phrase.

      Your comment, taken to its logical conclusion, leads to this thinking:

      People should just condemn a city councilman for getting a parking ticket, and it's terribly inappropriate to mention that the mayor has been shooting innocent people down in the street and getting away scot free.

      Get a god-damned clue.  There are bigger issues than Spitzer's crimes or Vitter's crimes, like the corruption of our entire justice system and the massive bias of the media, and that's what this diary is about.

      -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

      by neroden on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 09:36:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does anyone else find it chilling that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unterhausen, xaxnar, arcana

    the bank actually reported amounts UNDER the $10,000 limit, and that the case is being built on what seems to be a new crime--"structuring?"-- when smaller amounts, like little smurfs, by the number of transactions sum up to more than $10,000.
      Yet the federal government does nothing to prosecute tax cheats, who happen to owe hundreds of millions of tax dollars? And in fact will pass special legislation to make sure that the uber-rich can shelter their money way more than the average american, and in fact, by maintaining an Estate tax break, would in fact create a new aristocracy--undoing the democratic ideals sought as public policy so that there would be an even playing field for all?
      Let's see the little black book from "Bandar Bush" ... now there's a VIP club .....

    •  Nice observation there... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jfdunphy, xaxnar
    •  Get real (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unterhausen

      The total payment was over $10,000 and the bank got suspicious when he tried to break it up into multiple payments. As they should. He was obviously trying to hide something and the sensible inference that the investigators made was that he might be involved in some sort of blackmail or bribery issue.

    •  New law? It's been around since 1986 (0+ / 0-)

      The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 criminalized structuring and money laundering on stand-alone basis.

      In Ratzlaf v US, decided at Supreme Coourt in 1994, Ruth Ginsburg, writing for the majority, ruled that to establish that a defendant "willfully violat[ed]" the antistructuring law, the Government must prove that the defendant acted with knowledge that his conduct was unlawful.

      •  Doing wire transfers of large amounts of cash (0+ / 0-)

        to an escort service is dumb, dumb, dumb.  It was traced back to his account and that's how he got caught.  I am amazed that a smart lawyer would do such a stupid thing.

        If he had withdrawn the money and used cash to pay, there would have been no traceable link from him to the service.

    •  no I don't (0+ / 0-)

      I find it a little galling that he may be prosecuted for it, and Rush Limbaugh wasn't.  Apparently, lots of people take $9xxx out of the bank so they don't get reported.  Rush was doing that repeatedly.

      Spitzer asked the bank to take his name off the transfer, and asked to have it split up -- after it had been sent.  That's crooked, I don't care who you are.  If it's legit, send the full amount at once, much less likely to be a problem.

  •  Why yes (4+ / 0-)

    What happened to Spitzer can only be called fair if the same standard is applied to everyone, rich-poor, man-woman, Republican-Democrat, etc.

    I have to agree with you here. I would be disbarred and jailed or fined, if I broke a law. Spitzer deserves no less.

    Frankly, I'm a little embarassed to see Kossacks defending this guy. I thought he had a ton of potential as a leader. But he (and we) should know that the rule of law is a paramount value (in all areas, not just when Bush is involved) and the laws apply to Spitzer too. Whether you think prostitution should be illegal or not, it is and our elected officials should at minimum not be committing crimes while in office. That seems like an awfully low ethical threshhold to meet.  

    •  It's not as low as you think. (0+ / 0-)

      Ever gotten a parking ticket?  That's a crime!

      Our elected officials should not be intentionally committing crimes.  That's the correct ethical threshold.

      -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

      by neroden on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 09:30:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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