Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chickens: Home. Roosting.

By Cornelia

So are you all sick of talking about Spitzer and the hookers yet? Tough.

I just want to point out a few things that have been really pissing me off in most of the news coverage since the story broke. They're things that HAVEN'T been mentioned, for the most part. Or not mentioned nearly seriously enough.

Sure, there's been a ton of coverage about the different reactions of male and female talking heads, and thousands of inches of copy generated on whether or not his wife should have stood next to him during his initial statement, and how tired and drawn she looked, and whether or not women have sympathy for her based on whether or not they've weathered infidelity in their own marriages.

Can we just stop with all the touchy-feely blathering about what this means to his wife, already? She's a grown woman. She can stay married to the man or she can dump his ferretty ass. I don't care, because THAT, folks, is truly a private matter.

(Plus, by the way, it's NOT comparable to Bill Clinton's dalliance with an intern, no matter how long Rush Limbaugh wheezes and huffs and guffaws about same, on air--but that's a whole 'nother blog post.)

But how about the PUBLIC matters this whole thing has dragged out into the limelight--public matters that to my mind are not getting nearly enough air-time and serious consideration.

Let's start out with the biggie: it's against the goddamn law to pay for sex in this country, barring strange outposts in Nevada. Doesn't matter whether you're in New York or DC, it's against the law. As in illegal. Just ask this guy:

It's illegal if you're picking up an ill made-up tranny in a PVC micro-mini and leopard thigh boots in the meatpacking district from the window of your primer-splotched Camaro JUST AS MUCH as if you're paying $5000 an hour for some nookie delivered to your Washington hotel room. In fact, if it's delivery from NYC to DC via Amtrak, as Spitzer's nookie was, you're also violating the Mann Act and the whole thing goes federal and pear-shaped on you. Or it should.

As the BBC recently pointed out:

Mr Spitzer may well reply that he was acting out of state pride when he reportedly bought what court documents describe as a 5ft 5in brunette called "Kristen" a train ticket to Washington.

In his surreal post-scandal press conference he did, after all, refer to the "importance of ideas in politics" and his desire to keep building New York's future.

Unfortunately, outsourcing hookers to a rival state is not just an insult to the local guild. It also happens to be a federal crime, written into law in 1910 to prevent forced prostitution and protect women from being trafficked across state lines....

Funny how we're not seeing any mug shots of Spitzer, unlike those of Hugh Grant. Nope, Spitzer stood up and made a 64-second statement for the cameras, during which he characterized getting caught patronizing a prostitution ring as "a private matter," then going on to say:

"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better."
And let me just say right here "private matter MY ASS." You broke the law, dude. In a big bad hardcore way. This is not a broken promise, this is criminal activity.

But of course, as the New York Times put it rather nicely in a recent edtiorial:

...Few clients of prostitutes face criminal charges, law-enforcement affidavits raise at least the possibility of criminal charges based on transporting a woman across state lines for prostitution. Mr. Spitzer’s own record of prosecuting such cases gives him scant breathing room. As state attorney general, he prosecuted prostitution rings with enthusiasm — pointing out that they are often involved in human trafficking, drug trafficking and money laundering. In 2004 on Staten Island, Mr. Spitzer was vehement in his outrage over 16 people arrested in a high-end prostitution ring.

And Spitzer was right to be vehement in that outrage, even if he was being a big fat hypocrite at the time.

Prostitution is not, nor ever has been, a "victimless crime." The only ones who aren't routinely victimized are the johns, and it's about goddamn time law enforcement stopped treating them with a wink and a nudge and a slap on the back.

Let's face it, sometimes these guys get way more than your basic snigering "attaboy!" Take Republican Congressman David Vitter, for example, who was greeted upon his return to Congress after being exposed as a man who frequented prostitutes with a STANDING OVATION from his Republican colleaques.

Here are some stats from the Prostitutes Education Network :

-- Average prostitution arrests include 70% females, 20% percent male prostitutes and 10% customers.(2) In the 1990's some cities initiated client arrest programs which raised the percentage of client arrests.... 85-90% of those arrested work on the street though street work accounts for approximately 20% of prostitutes. (Figures vary from city to city.)

-- Violence is one of the major problems for women and prostitutes. Figures vary, one report citing 60% of the abuse against street prostitutes perpetrated by clients, 20% by police and 20% in domestic relationships.(9) According to one massage parlor owner, over 90% of abuse against prostitutes (she has known) takes place within domestic relationships.(10) Between 35 and 85% of prostitutes are survivors of incest or early sexual abuse. (Figures vary widely for different populations.)(11) In a sample of clients from St. James Infirmary, a sex worker clinic in San Francisco 53% of their sample experienced "past or current occupational violence" including 32% by customers, 20% from employers and 15% by police. Only 3% reported incidents to the police.... Some prostitutes are raped between 8 and 10 times a year or more. 7% seek help (e.g.., from a rape crisis center), and only 4% report the rape to the police.(14) A study in Toronto showed that, in cases of (non-domestic) rape and abuse, 5% of the perpetrators identified themselves as police officers, often producing badges and police identification. (This does not include actual cases of police misconduct and rape.)(15)

(see website for citations)

Here's what a renowned legal authority had to say on the subject:

“The only thing that forces [these johns] to change their bad behavior is shame, and by this I mean, the shame of a perp walk in front of the cameras….seeing their picture on the front page of the papers.”
That renowned legal authority? Then New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

This is the guy who went after Martha Stewart for a $45,000 stock trade, in which no wrongdoing was ever proved.

Yes, Martha did jail time...

...For insider trading, right? Nope, not at all, as Michael McMennin wrote in Reason, back in 2004:

The Securities and Exchange Commission's civil insider trading charges against Stewart are flimsy, and [as such] the Justice Department has decided against pursuing criminal charges of insider trading....

Ms. Stewart has been charged with criminal securities fraud because she and her lawyers publicly declared her innocence in connection with her private sale, in December, 2002 of a small amount of stock in another company, Imclone. This exercise of pure free speech, [the] Justice Department contends, was a "material false statement" made to influence the stock price of her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, in violation of SEC Rule 10b-5.
So Martha did fifteen months for proclaiming her own innocence.

The Empire Club VIP 's Client #9, on the other hand, who, according to Slate:

...was caught on a federal wiretap last month... may have violated any number of federal laws. If prosecutors do go after him, they're most likely to focus on the Mann Act (18 U.S.C. § 2422), federal structuring laws (31 U.S.C. § 5324), and federal money-laundering statutes (18 U.S.C. § 1956).
is in all likelihood never going to have the experience of wearing a state-issued orange jumpsuit, much less the fed version.

In that, Spitzer will no doubt prove the truth of his favorite Club's VIP motto. Yeah, he's not the governor any more, but when it comes to the possibility of jail time:

"Every Client is an Emperor."

And does that go for the employees, as well? Not so much.

As a final note on all of this, author Eric Stone is working with an NGO to help stop child prostitution in Cambodia. Click on the banner below for more information:



  1. I'll agree that Spitzer needs to face exactly the punishments he advocated for as a prosecutor. I'll also agree that Martha Stewart got railroaded...I fail to see how you can go to jail for proclaiming your innocence of a crime for which you were never convicted.

    I wouldn't go deploring the fact that Spitzer "walked away" just yet. The Feds sometimes take a while to move, but when they do, oh mamma.

    The arguments in the second part of this post, however, beg the question as to whether many of the evils of prostitution which you describe, particularly crimes of violence, would be as widespread if prostitution was legal and regulated. If a prostitute felt free to go to the police if she was raped or robbed without the risk of being (a) mocked, (b) ignored, or (c) victimized again, would it be so easy for the predators to do? Anyone have any figures on violence against sex workers in, say, Amsterdam?

  2. I would imagine the rates of violence against prostitutes in Amsterdam are much, much lower than they are here. Same thing with rates of violent crime having to do with the drug trade there.

    Violence against prostitutes in Thailand--where prostitution is nominaly legal--is pretty horrible, however. A lot depends upon the attitude and corruptibility of the police force, in any given locale.

    Still, the percentages of those going into the trade as adults who were sexually and or physically abused as children is sad to contemplate. And the number forced into the trade itself as children, around the world, is truly horrific.

    Eric Stone, whom I got to meet at LCC in Denver, has a lot of great information on how to help fight child prostitution in Cambodia. He's connected with a charity that rescues children from prostitution and gets them into school. Sponsoring one girl costs a mere $120 a year.

    What's really sad about Spitzer's debacle is that he worked really diligently to close down sex tourism businesses operating out of New York by busting the men who patronized them--many of whom were interested in going abroad for the purpose of having sex with children.

  3. Check out the info on Stone's website here:

  4. I agree with Dusty. I don't think Spitzer's troubles are over. There are multiple charges associated with this case. From what I've read, he was caught because of the suspicious financial transactions he employed to cover up payment for his high-priced hookers. I assume the investigation is in full swing, after which the evidence will be presented to a Grand Jury that will indict Spitzer. That's when the chickens will really come home to roost...or roast, whichever the case may be. Great post Ms. C!

  5. Intriguing post, Miss C. Lots to think about....

  6. I agree that Spitzer should not get off the hook on this. But his treatment does beg a couple of questions:

    1. Why is Spitzer being treated the way he is when the average John gets a ticket? ( I know that is not fair) Is it because he was being groomed to run the White House at another date?

    2. He was being investigated because he was moving large sums of money around, which was later found that he was using to hire hookers....question is, whoes money was it? If it was his money then he should be treated like any other john. If it was gov. money, well that is a different story. (I live in Michigan and the mayor of Detroit doesn't seem to be able to seperate those two)

    3. Why is everyone so worried about how his wife it taking this? Supposedly she told him not to resign. Spitzer did not get where he is without her help and to assume that she is any less ambitious then he is, is kidding ourselves. Hence the term "power couple."

    Regarding Martha Stewart, she was jailed for perjury, not declaring her innocence....there is a suttle is called lying under oath. (Something else the mayor of Detroit is having a current problem with.

    As for the prostitution situation in Amsterdam, it is pretty bad. According to a recent NY Times article, prostitution in Amsterdam is not the mom and pop operation that it used to be, but now a multimillon dollar organised crime problem run by former Soviet-blok gangsters involved in sex slavery and drug running. Violence is very high, both against the women working in the red light district and customers. The situation is so bad, that the goverment is looking and changing the laws, and closing things down from a "legal" aspect. (The article ran with in the last month or so and should be available online)

    Please do not take any of this as excusing Spitzer behavior. I am the first person to say that if you choose to put yourself in the public eye and to reap those benefits, don't complain when that same public eye is turned to your stumbles.

  7. Doug, thank you for the very thoughtful response. Especially interesting to hear about the developments in Amsterdam...

    And as far as I know, Martha did go down for stating her innocence--pre-trial--rather than for perjury during her testimony, but I probably wouldn't wager $20 on my certainty.

  8. In defense of Martha.....If one of my best friends was also my broker, and he didn't tell me a head of time that the stocks he sold me were about to go in the toliet...well, lets just say the sentence wouldn't have been for

  9. After reading today's post, on the heals of yesterday's gloomy blog, perhaps we should all purchase one of "Effexor Paul's" Pharmaceutical Pez Dispensers [patent pending]..... comes in Prozac Purple, Lithium Lime and Effexor Ecru.


  10. Spitzer’s sin was that of any politician. His public discourse about prostitution—or anything else—was pragmatic. The guy honestly thought that most people believed prostitution to be a bad thing and talked and acted accordingly. That’s what a good ‘public man’ does.

    The human Spitzer, however, felt otherwise about ‘public women.’ A night out with a young girl is pleasant for a middle age man. It gets even better if he’s retired and a widower—but that’s a diversion. What was Sisyphus thinking when he went down the hill to push the rock up the mountain once again? “Life sucks!”

    Ashley is cashing in on the story. Instinctively she’s awakened to an old and deeply ingrained tradition. In Mesopotamia, women earned their dowries practicing as prostitutes in the temples. They have to make it in the world today too. Perhaps a diner and a movie just aren’t enough. Most women would rather snatch a doctor than a carpenter. But this is the land of the free: anybody can be an idealist or a moralist too.

    It’s difficult to attack prostitution on moral grounds when our liberal society encourages teenagers to reap early the joys of sex. But our hypocrisy knows no bounds and we become judges easily.

    This is just another scandal exploited for its entertainment value. The Spitzers, and everyone else, will move on and it’ll be soon forgotten.

  11. It's probably something like 1683rd on the list of shameful things about this situation, but I was pretty disturbed by the statement the prostitute's mother made to the press, something like "she's just a nice girl who got caught up in something bigger than her" (meaning the scandal, not the whoring).

    Listen, lady, your daughter's a hooker. That's pretty much the definition of "failed parenting."

    (See what I did with the quotes there? I'm learning!)

  12. Daisy, nice with the quotes!

    And Jack, aside from your observations about women wanting to snag a doctor rather than a carpenter--and I speak I think with some authority on this, having left "society" to marry a farmer--the carpenters in this life are often a lot more interesting, and less pompous, than the doctors.

    Also, I think the main difference between the temple prostitutes and the "working girls" of our era is that the Mesopotamians were treated with respect, and their sexuality considered sacred. Not a lot of THAT going around these days.

  13. Cornelia:

    I’m glad you found happiness in the farm. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is said to have liked that type of life too. Nobody in his right mind should blame either you or the others for a sound choice that works--for them.

    Other females, however, look for the more glamorous moneyman. It started with the cave woman, lured by the protection afforded by the stronger animal and that nice chunk of meat to dine on. At first, she wanted to be able to breastfeed her baby… then she wanted more.

    If you watch television, say channel seven, you’ll see that sexuality is considered sacred in there too. Si libet licet .The mindset hasn’t changed in more than 5000 years. Scrambling morality with Eastern religions in the West has created much confusion. But we’re better today at finessing the facts with hypocrisy because we have more words.

    Bottom line of the juicy scandal: the guy was embarrassed and his career redirected, the wife had her feelings hurt, the young prostitute grabbed the moment... and America loved the news.

  14. Is it true that Mr. Spitzer is coming out with an attention-grabbing novel titled Ashley?

  15. C--
    As ever, you bring up important points. As a female who worked on Wall Street, I feel particularly strongly about so many of the issues this situation touches-- the guys "entertaining" customers on the company dime and time at high-end strip clubs, hookers being provided as client entertainment (read The Predators' Ball), and scummy behaviour encouraged all around. BTW, Martha was convicted of lying about an alleged crime FOR WHICH SHE WAS NEVER charged. Do you suppose any of the Bear Stearns guys or Hedge Fund boys or any of the other boys will go to jail or have to give back the lucre? Same old same old. mbh

  16. PS -- the source of the money Spitzer used isn't overwhelmingly relevant-- he is an attorney and officer of the court. He should be disbarred as well as prosecuted criminally for effectively funding an on-going criminal enterprise.
    The fact that he may have used his own money rather than public funds is only relevant should he need to be prosecuted for misappropriation of public funds. Even his salary may be spent as he wishes, as long as he didn't redirect funds that did not belong to him or take bribes from the vowel brothers.

  17. Jack, the farm was annoying. I just married the farmboy. Turned him into yuppie scum, as a matter of fact--introduced him to Szechuan food, Brooks Bros., etc.

    Just brought it up to say that all women aren't gold-digging scumbags, just as all men aren't skeevy patrons of hookers. Maybe the ratio's about equal?

    MBH--I'm totally with you on all points.

  18. Right on - on all points, Ms. Read.

    Another issue that makes me so angry I could lunge across a copper-coated table and strangle someone.

  19. Cornelia:

    Mon Dieu que tu as raison! You hit the nail right on the head. All women aren't gold-digging scumbags. My wife certainly isn’t or she’d be with someone else.

    But what about those women who wantthe opportunity to make it on their own doing their natural thing? We object in strong and obtuse terms to their endeavors on moral grounds. However, now that Ashley got some respect—that’s a word we tend to associate with success—we don’t feel very offended. In my view, that either speaks volumes of our hypocrisy or we know intuitively that we can live with the trade.

  20. Jack, I hope you're using that "we" in the editorial or royal sense. I have a feeling this is one we're not going to see eye to eye on, but hey, as my sainted mother used to say, "everybody think like me, everybody want my squaw." Which is guess is even more apropos than usual.

    Alex, right on.

  21. Right. “We” as in those who pay their taxes but don’t like the way the money’s squandered.

  22. Well, THAT "we" I'm totally on board with!