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Bloggingheads
03-11-2008, 09:13 PM

Wonderment
03-11-2008, 10:12 PM
Chris,

Please follow the Justice Dept. narrative to the bitter end. It is implausible that such relatively minor transactions would trigger an investigation of this magnitude. I have trouble buying the "we got very lucky" cover story from the Bush Justice Dept.

The IRS apparently receives millions of "suspicious transaction" reports from banks and investigates only a very small fraction of such reports. This is especially true in the post-Patriot Act era when banks are under pressure to err on the side of excessive reporting.

Is this selective and political prosecution? Let's find out. That's more important than psychoanalyzing Spitzer.

The Underground Man
03-11-2008, 10:52 PM
Yes, Chris, ROOT OUT THIS CONSPIRACY. PLEASE use Wonderment to help you. I'm sure you BOTH will uncover EVIL by this Administration. This prosecution was SELECTIVE and POLITICAL (you see, prosecutors are as rule NOT selective and political, but BU$H was involved, so you KNOW bad things are behind it all). I don't CARE about what Spitzer did AT ALL!!!!! All roads lead to BU$H-Darth Cheney-and the EVIL RePIGlicans!

Jack McCullough
03-11-2008, 10:58 PM
Here's what he said: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9381?in=00:50:13

Does he really think that what we liberals think is inequality is just a matter of different, equally valid, choices people make? That for some reason I like to live in a house that I own, and is warm in the winter, and has plenty of room for my family and any friend who want to come over, and my low-income clients for some reason that we might not understand, prefer to live in a falling-down house with broken windows, inadequate heat, with floors they can't keep clean and doors that don't provide either safety or security? That my preference is for a job that enables me to pay my bills and provides me with reliable health care, and that their preference is to live without health insurance, even though it means they can't get their diabetes supplies, their teeth are rotting out of their heads because they can't go to the dentist, and they can't read because their glasses broke and they can't afford a new pair?

I guess I'm glad I made those choices.

Sgt Schultz
03-11-2008, 11:28 PM
Reihan please read http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0811,374064,374064,1.html
I say in the best way - please grow up before you damage yourself.

jimM47
03-12-2008, 01:15 AM
Around 38 minutes, they ask about skill levels and different "tournaments" for prostitutes. My sense from observing and fighting prostitution while working in the hotel industry is that they are in different tournaments. The high end prostitutes are professional. Lots of low end prostitutes are there because they lack even the most basic level of human capital. They don't even have the work ethic, reliability, personal skills, etc. to really have a professional job. (I've seen prostitutes resumes). This bears on the feasibility of legalization of prostitution, because I seriously doubt that some of these women for whom black market prostitution is the best option would be able to participate well in white market prostitution.

razib
03-12-2008, 06:45 AM
...last 1/3, my heart was with Hayes, my head was with the bhai. Listening to Chris Hayes talk about intangibles like "place" made me recall the diavlog between Ross Douthat & Spencer "the Elf" Ackerman about porn. From what I remember Ross held to the traditionalist position that porn was just wrong in some deontological sense, damn the consequences or lack thereof. Before these public policy debates need to go forward we need to define what the Good Society is. Unfortunately I think our pluralism has pushed so far that it might be impossible, and we're going to have to work it out through mobocracy.

threep
03-12-2008, 09:23 AM
I retract my snark and call for clarification.

Thus Spoke Elvis
03-12-2008, 09:36 AM
Chris,


The IRS apparently receives millions of "suspicious transaction" reports from banks and investigates only a very small fraction of such reports. This is especially true in the post-Patriot Act era when banks are under pressure to err on the side of excessive reporting.


This may be true, but I'm betting that law enforcement authorities pay a bit more attention to suspicious transactions involving elected officials, given the heightened possibility that those transactions involve bribery, extortion, or other activities that corrupt the political system.

threep
03-12-2008, 09:52 AM
Come on man. A) In order to skew the investigation they would need some foreknowledge that there was something there. B) If they knew a major politician was corrupt (the prostitution makes him technically corrupt, the hypocrisy makes him thoroughly so) why on earth DOESN'T that take a higher priority?

As for the "political motivations" being some kind of terrible thing... maybe. But look--I really almost don't have the heart for this--setting people against each other is the fundamental mechanism our entire process works on.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-12-2008, 12:41 PM
I agree with your first point (which is also Elvis's). His being a high-level elected official rightly raises the standards of scrutiny.

I think I disagree with your second point. The law should be reasonably even-handed. Republican investigators and prosecutors may of course have a natural tendency to see Dem wrong-doing as worse than Rep wrong-doing, but they should do their best in their position to minimize this bias, and they certainly shouldn't exacerbate the tendency.

That's just a general point. We have no reason to assume selective enforcement or prosecution in this case so far. The only reason it arises at all is the US Attorneys scandal. Even if the investigators turned out to be too partisan, I don't think that really gets Spitzer off the hook. It doesn't look like he was framed or anything.

I'm sorry to see this happen, because I liked the way Spitzer went after Wall Street when the Feds were giving them a pass, and I hardly think this vindicates the crooks on Wall Street. But I'm afraid Spitzer is responsible for the plight he finds himself in.

bjkeefe
03-12-2008, 01:22 PM
razib:

Before these public policy debates need to go forward we need to define what the Good Society is. Unfortunately I think our pluralism has pushed so far that it might be impossible, and we're going to have to work it out through mobocracy.

I think you're right to reject the possibility of defining "Good Society," but for the wrong reason.

First, setting aside for the moment the explanation of why it might be impossible, I want to note that we can't even define tiny elements of it. For example, what language is acceptable on TV? (I'm still mystified that Jon Stewart gets bleeped for saying "shit" but "goddamn" passes.) For another, what books or web sites or movies are inappropriate for children to view, and why? What is porn? What weapons should private citizens be allowed to possess? For that matter, what constitutes acceptable body contact while playing defense in basketball? And on and on.

I don't agree with your implication that I read in "our pluralism has pushed so far." It seems to me that any degree of pluralism at all is going to raise some disputes about what is or is not acceptable, and even in a society that seems completely homogeneous, there are invariably people straining at interpretations of their guiding principles. If you've ever read accounts of Orthodox Jewish boys in rabbinical training, you probably know what I'm talking about, for example.

I also don't like the implication of "mobocracy." Do the teeming masses sometimes rule the day on some issue? Of course. But there are also plenty of cases, and especially over the longer term, where small groups of people who spend lots of time thinking about one issue have a lot of clout, effect some changes, and then the herd mostly shrugs and goes along with the new thinking. For example, it seems to me that most instances of movement regarding group-based inequality have come about exactly through this process -- a few people pushed for better treatment of blacks or women or handicapped people or whomever, and eventually, society as a whole came to embrace (or at least accept) the new thinking.

This'll probably provoke BlogginNoggin, who believes in a concept of moral absolutes more than I do, but I think the idea of "Good Society" is a fantasy. Even if I stipulate to its possible existence at one moment in time, it's an ever-changing target. The only thing to do is to keep having the public policy debates. We can't table the discussions on specific issues until we come up with some grandiose definition, because one doesn't exist.

bjkeefe
03-12-2008, 01:29 PM
I think this is the blog post Reihan referred to a couple of times: Virginia Postrel, "College Daze" (http://www.dynamist.com/weblog/archives/000083.html)

threep
03-12-2008, 02:27 PM
Sure, but if you agree that it's valid to go after a governor rather than any number of other clients of high-end prostitution rings (all assuming prostitution should be illegal, especially at the high-end) then the only problem is whether that governor is being treated more harshly because of the (D) or the (R). A) What are you going to do to prove that negative? Somehow find an indentically-situated Republican committing the same crime? B) Isn't it kind of a binary issue... you're committing the crime or you're not?

Basically, the only situation in which it makes sense for not only this event but this sort of event to be a partisan-fairness issue is if there's a governor who ISN'T being prosecuted--for political reasons. You can't really claim bias when everything is happening the way it should.

Wonderment
03-12-2008, 02:50 PM
The way I understand it, it was not the Justice Dept. that initiated the investigation but rather some low-level IRS agent who "profiled" Spitzer. Among the "millions" of "suspicious transaction" reports received by the IRS (annually? monthly?), Spitzer was red-flagged because he was Spitzer. Because the IRS agent was a Republican?

Then it started climbing the ladder to prosecutors and FBI who because E.S. was a public figure had to "clear" the investigation with superiors (NY Republican Mukassey?)

I am not a fan of Spitzer. But a) I don't trust the prosecution and b) I don't think careers need to be ruined over sex. Among the "offenders" of most recent memory (Spitzer, Craig and Vitter) , no one committed a real crime. It's just bogus harrassment and snooping and people's sex lives. Craig SHOULD have been able to keep his ticket private, Vitter should have been left alone, and Spitzer shouldn't have been forced to resign. This isn't Salem, Massachusetts and it isn't the 17th century.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-12-2008, 03:06 PM
I definitely don't claim bias. I just differed with what sounded like the suggestion that partisan motivations were perfectly fine in prosecutions. I don't think so. Proving that after the fact may sometimes be difficult, but the record of the investigation could reveal it. But how provable it is is beside the point (or beside my point anyway) -- which has to do with whether law enforcement should be expected and expect itself to try to be above politics as far as possible.

They do seem to have the goods on Spitzer, so even if partisan motives came into it, I don't think that would let him off the hook.

Let me say though that I don't disagree with Matt Y here (http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/03/snaring_spitzer.php) And if that was your point, I agree with you too.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-12-2008, 03:38 PM
I do think politicians should have a zone of privacy that permits them to screw up their personal lives and relationships without having the voting public and the media poking around in the bed sheets. Not sure how to ensure that in the internet age, but it would be a good thing if a politician's adultery were simply kept out of the news (good even for those poor political wives who are always being trotted out to stand beside their husbands at the press conference). On the whole, I think the public would be happy to keep such things at the level of gossip. We are highly irrational about sex -- just hearing that a public figure likes perfectly legal but kinky sex with his wife still makes people think of the politician in a way that makes leadership difficult for him. Separating gossip from news is difficult in the internet age, but maybe reporters could recognize that, until they raise the issue and start asking questions, the issue remains gossip -- and perhaps they can keep from giving it a promotion to "genuine news".

I agree that prostitution shouldn't be illegal. But as a matter of fact, it is illegal. It does seem hard to maintain that illegal behavior is mere gossip about the private life of a politician. While it is illegal, and given that Spitzer himself prosecuted such cases, it's hard to maintain that this is entirely private behavior with no relevance to his public stance.

Wonderment
03-12-2008, 04:31 PM
Diplozo÷n paradoxum (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-barash12mar12,0,7173677.story)

Thus Spoke Elvis
03-12-2008, 05:29 PM
The way I understand it, it was not the Justice Dept. that initiated the investigation but rather some low-level IRS agent who "profiled" Spitzer. Among the "millions" of "suspicious transaction" reports received by the IRS (annually? monthly?), Spitzer was red-flagged because he was Spitzer. Because the IRS agent was a Republican?

Then it started climbing the ladder to prosecutors and FBI who because E.S. was a public figure had to "clear" the investigation with superiors (NY Republican Mukassey?)

I am not a fan of Spitzer. But a) I don't trust the prosecution and b) I don't think careers need to be ruined over sex. Among the "offenders" of most recent memory (Spitzer, Craig and Vitter) , no one committed a real crime. It's just bogus harrassment and snooping and people's sex lives. Craig SHOULD have been able to keep his ticket private, Vitter should have been left alone, and Spitzer shouldn't have been forced to resign. This isn't Salem, Massachusetts and it isn't the 17th century.


As I said earlier in the thread, it doesn't seem at all surprising that suspicious bank transactions by an elected official would receive more attention from the IRS and law enforcement agencies than transactions by private parties, due to the possibility that such transactions involve corruption, bribery, etc.

It's possible that this investigation was politically-motivated, but I doubt that was the case. First, while the highest-level officers in the executive branch are political appointments, everyone else are simply government employees. Just because the IRS agent who profiled Spitzer is working in the executive branch does not mean he or she is a Republican (in fact, most government agency personnel are probably Democrats). The same goes for law enforcement agencies.

And while it's always possible that some high-level political appointee has pushed this thing along, it seems unlikely that it would be someone with the reputation of Attorney General Mukassey. Senator Chuck Schumer, who hasn't shied away from accusations of partisanship in the past, has referred to Mukassey as having "earned a reputation for efficiency, fairness and integrity." (http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20071018/NATION/110180071/1002) Besides, there are a lot of people further up on the Bush Administration's hit list than an unpopular New York governor.

I understand and share your concerns about the privacy of political officials, but I not sure that's a sufficient reason not to investigate potential criminal activity that might easily result in extortion of an elected official, or which might be a form of bribery. Republican Congressman Duke Cunnigham received bribes from defense contractors partially in the form of hookers, and was rightly prosecuted for bribery and mail fraud (during a Republican administration, by the way). Should investigators have ignored his sexcapades because they were a "private matter"? I don't think so.

It strikes me that a state governor who spends tens of thousands of dollars on call girls, and whose political career has been built upon his tough approach to lawbreakers, is begging to get blackmailed. What if the IRS investigation of Spitzer revealed that his suspicious financial transactions were not payments for sex, but rather hush money payments to prostitutes that were blackmailing him?

alwsdad
03-12-2008, 06:17 PM
Pretty interesting pairing. Both say "kind of" a LOT, especially Reihan. Reihan's opinions are so all over the place, it's hard to get a real sense of what he thinks. But he's interesting to listen to.

Wonderment
03-12-2008, 06:35 PM
As I said earlier in the thread, it doesn't seem at all surprising that suspicious bank transactions by an elected official would receive more attention from the IRS and law enforcement agencies than transactions by private parties, due to the possibility that such transactions involve corruption, bribery, etc.

But that's not what the government said, at least according to the media reports. The discovery was described as incredibly lucky, a needle suddenly stumbled upon in the haystack of "millions" of routine bank reports of potentially "suspicious transactions", i.e., cash deposits.

In any case, the underlying "crime" that destroyed Spitzer is paying for sex.

There is no allegation that he was corrupt, took bribes, evaded taxes, committed perjury or did anything else the IRS or FBI should be investigating.

He paid a hooker for sex. Big deal.

piscivorous
03-12-2008, 06:44 PM
Senator Craig waved his hand in bathroom booth big deal!

bjkeefe
03-12-2008, 09:36 PM
Senator Craig waved his hand in bathroom booth big deal!

While I agree with you that there was something a little dubious about the way that Craig got bagged, the fact remains that he did plead guilty to a crime.

I'll also remind you that Spitzer had the decency to resign once his peccadillos came to light. This is another way in which Craig looks worse, if you insist on comparing the two.

piscivorous
03-12-2008, 09:55 PM
Wasn't necessarily comparing the two but the hue and cry associated with their respective party affiliation.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-12-2008, 10:18 PM
But apparently that one thing can be quite different depending on whether one writes for the Nation or governs New York State:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9381?in=00:35:21&out=00:35:29

I think if I have to have a one-track mind, I might prefer Spitzer's track to Chris's.

bjkeefe
03-13-2008, 12:26 AM
Wasn't necessarily comparing the two but the hue and cry associated with their respective party affiliation.

I haven't looked around the rightosphere in a few days, but I'd be willing to bet there is no shortage of (faux) outrage over there. There certainly was more than enough in the opinion section of the New York Times alone.

Keep in mind that much of the hue and cry over Larry Craig was due to his decision to stay in office, and hence, drag things out. Keep in mind, also, that much of the hubbub came from other members of his own party. I'd even go so far as to say that once the schadenfreude and finger-wagging over hypocrisy had had its moment in the leftosphere, the bulk of the continued noise came from the right.

bjkeefe
03-13-2008, 12:28 AM
BN:

ROFL! Do you think Chris thinks about inequality every six seconds?

JIM3CH
03-13-2008, 05:42 AM
I liked the pairing also. Both were current, enthusiastic, and interesting. Reihan did equivocate a bit, but on the core issue his opinion was very clear: he thinks Spitzer is a "scuzzbucket", and his sexual indiscretions are merely the tip of an iceberg.

JIM3CH
03-13-2008, 06:05 AM
I agree that prostitution shouldn't be illegal.

I'm curious, in light of the Bradford Plummer blog aurguments (at least as summarized by Reihan here: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9381?in=00:24:47&out=00:26:15 ), how would you defend legalized prostitution?

Bloggin' Noggin
03-13-2008, 12:06 PM
Scott Horton makes the case in TNR (http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=c5005f31-237e-4f9d-bca1-891c7aa2b7b2).

Thus Spoke Elvis
03-13-2008, 02:30 PM
Thanks for the link. It's an interesting read, but ultimately I find it unpersausive. First, even if Horton is correct in suggesting that Spitzer was the primary focus of this investigation on account of his public position, that doesn't prove political motivation. Government investigators will likely place a greater focus on investigations that implicate government officials than private parties because of the possibility of corruption. Wrongdoing by a government official charged with enforcing the laws may seem particularly egregious to law enforcement agencies.

Secondly, even Horton admits that Spitzer's request that his name be removed from financial transactions "could have been a legitimate trigger" for reporting his activities to IRS officials. However, Horton goes on to say that Spitzer's "channeling of payments at the level suggested can hardly be viewed as something that raises legitimate suspicion" justifying further investigation by the IRS and Department of Justice.

Really? Horton argues that government officials had no reason to suspect that Spitzer was engaged in bribery (he was making, not receiving the money transfers) or money-laundering ($80,000 is chump change to a guy in Spitzer's position). But what about the possibility that Spitzer was being extorted or blackmailed? Horton doesn't even discuss this issue. That's strange, because a series of $10,000 transactions to shell corporations, in which Spitzer requested his name be taken off the money wires, seems to me to be very suspicious activity warranting further investigation. Blackmail is no less a threat to public integrity than bribery.

samuelsd
03-14-2008, 04:28 PM
Hmmm, let's see...Reihan is at a world-famous indie music festival in a famously libertine college town, writing late night glowing encomiums to little-known bands (http://theamericanscene.com/2008/03/13/ra-ra-riot-in-the-streets), blathering endlessly about how cute all the members are, being unusally emotive (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9381?in=00:22:59&out=00:23:33), even for Reihan, and claiming dehydration (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9381?in=00:00:03&out=00:00:07), a well-known side-effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methylenedioxymethamphetamine#Subjective_effects) of certain mood-altering substances?

Two plus two equals what now?

Cross-posted to theconsistentfool.blogspot.com (http://theconsistentfool.blogspot.com)